BANGKOK, THAILAND – 8 – 10 October, 2014: Workshop Examines Climate Change and Development Implications for Protected Areas and Species in the Mekong Region

Written by Robert Mather, Head, Southeast Asia Group, IUCN Asia

Over 60 participants from the 6 countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)  came together in a workshop that examined ‘Mekong Protected Areas and Climate Change – Implications for Livelihoods and Development” The workshop was held from 8-10 October 2014, in Bangkok, Thailand, and was organized by the International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) GMS Environment Operations Center (GMS-EOC). Environmental policy makers, international and national conservation organizations and protected area managers attended the event.

In kicking off the event,  ICEM’s Jeremy Carew-Reid said that “We are members of the protected area family, a family with a Mission. We are starting on a journey and the destination of that journey  is to put protected areas and biodiversity back where they belong – centre stage in the discussions on sustainable development”

Protected areas in the Mekong Region are still largely set within landscapes and seascapes of small-scale fishers and farmers although over the last 20 years the GMS Region has developed rapidly, regional integration of transport infrastructure and markets has progressed significantly, and large-scale commercial agriculture and industrial-scale plantations have grown in importance. With the imminent arrival of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 this transformation of the region is set to continue.

“Now more than ever, protected areas are vitally important, not just for biodiversity conservation, but for the water food and energy security underpinning all of this economic activity” said Robert Mather, Head of IUCN Southeast Asia group, adding that “ The role of PAs in recreation and tourism, providing benefits to both physical and mental health and well-being will also be increasingly important in this  ever more urbanised region” 

The meeting discussed concepts including shifts in climate, ecology, farming systems and “comfort zones” of different species that can be expected based on downscaled climate change scenarios. Case studies covered a range of terrestrial, freshwater and coastal/marine habitats and a selection of species including elephants, gibbons, langurs, sarus crane, giant ibis, rufous-knecked hornbill, Siamese crocodile, freshwater turtles and corals, as well as Malva nut and lychee tree species.

ICEM, IUCN and partners will review all draft case study reports over the coming weeks and will subsequently publish a  case study volume in early 2015. Summary briefs on our key findings and recommendations for safeguarding biodiversity and livelihoods collected at the workshop will be available for use in events at the WPC, Sydney. These will also be fed into the Natural Capital Dialogues  and other activities and events leading up to the fourth GMS Environment Ministers’ Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw in January 2015

An event page which contains all workshop materials is now up on the  GMS-EOC website: Protected Area and Climate Change Regional Workshop