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A review of the drivers of 200 years of wetland degradation in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam


This paper examines the anthropogenic factors that have contributed to wetland loss and degradation in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam from 1816 AD to present. Our analysis is framed over five historical periods and highlights the role that seven drivers of wetland degradation have played in the Mekong Delta, including: resettlement and economic development policies; population growth and urbanization; demand for food and reclaiming wetland for agriculture; construction of canals construction of dykes flood protection systems; expansion of travel systems (waterway and roads); and exploitation of wetland natural resources. Of these, government policies for resettlement and economic development seem to have had the greatest impact on wetland loss and degradation in the Mekong Delta throughout the course of history. As a result of these factors, only 0.068 million hectares of the original 4.0 million hectares of the Mekong Delta currently remains as primary swamp forest ecosystem. History suggests that future management of the Mekong Delta should take a holistic approach that includes a better understanding of the implications of past decisions on wetland loss.

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The authors thank Dr. Peter Storer for his editorial help. We also thank the Australian Development Scholarships (ADS) for funding the first author’s Ph.D. study. We particularly thank the three external reviewers and the subject editor for their helpful suggestions and comments which substantially strengthened the paper.

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Correspondence to Hoang Huu Nguyen.

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Huu Nguyen, H., Dargusch, P., Moss, P. et al. A review of the drivers of 200 years of wetland degradation in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Reg Environ Change 16, 2303–2315 (2016).

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  • Wetland
  • Mekong Delta
  • Drivers of degradation