Ecological Research

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 73–86 | Cite as

Basin-wide impacts of climate change on ecosystem services in the Lower Mekong Basin

  • Yongyut Trisurat
  • Aekkapol Aekakkararungroj
  • Hwan-ok Ma
  • John M. Johnston
Special Feature: Original Article Biodiversity and Its Ecological Functions in East-Asia and Pacific Region: Status and Challenges


Water resources support more than 60 million people in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) and are important for food security—especially rice production—and economic security. This study aims to quantify water yield under near- and long-term climate scenarios and assess the potential impacts on rice cultivation. The InVEST model (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) forecasted water yield, and land evaluation was used to delineate suitability classes. Pattern-downscaled climate data were specially generated for the LMB. Predicted annual water yields for 2030 and 2060, derived from a drier overall scenario in combination with medium and high greenhouse gas emissions, indicated a reduction of 9–24% from baseline (average 1986–2005) runoff. In contrast, increased seasonality and wetter rainfall scenarios increased annual runoff by 6–26%. Extreme drought decreased suitability of transplanted rice cultivation by 3%, and rice production would be reduced by 4.2 and 4%, with and without irrigation projects, relative to baseline. Greatest rice reduction was predicted for Thailand, followed by Lao PDR and Cambodia, and was stable for Vietnam. Rice production in the LMB appears sufficient to feed the LMB population in 2030, while rice production in Lao PDR and Cambodia are not expected to be sufficient for domestic consumption, largely due to steep topography and sandy soils as well as drought. Four adaptation measures to minimize climate impacts (i.e., irrigation, changing the planting calendar, new rice varieties, and alternative crops) are discussed.


Lower Mekong Basin Climate change Water yield Rice cultivation Adaptation 



The authors express sincere thanks to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI) for funding this research and providing GIS and climate data. The US State Department Embassy Science Fellows Program is acknowledged for sponsoring John M. Johnston to collaborate with the MRC on this study. We also acknowledge the Land Development Department and the Royal Irrigation Department of Thailand for the provision of the land evaluation guideline and observed water yield data. The authors would like to thank Masahiro Nakaoka, Associate Editor-in-Chief of Ecological Research, and to two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive comments to improve this manuscript. Special thanks are given to scientists and representatives of member countries for valuable comments and suggestions. Fran Rauschenberg (Senior Environmental Employee) is thanked for technical editing. This paper has been reviewed in accordance with US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) policy and approved for publication. The constructive comments of Muluken Muche (USEPA) and anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. The opinions expressed or statements made herein are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agencies mentioned above. Trade names or commercial products cited do not represent an endorsement or recommendation for use.

Supplementary material

11284_2017_1510_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (181 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 182 kb)
11284_2017_1510_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (22 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 23 kb)
11284_2017_1510_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (92 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 93 kb)


  1. Aggarwal PK, Mall RK (2002) Climate change and rice yields in diverse agro-environments of India: II. Effect of uncertainties in scenarios and crop models on impact assessment. Clim Chang 52:331–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen RG, Pereira LS, Raes D, Smith M (1998) Crop evapotranspiration guidelines for computing crop water requirements. FAO Irrigation and drainage paper 56. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), RomeGoogle Scholar
  3. Bagstad KJ, Semmens DJ, Waage S, Winthrop R (2013) A comparative assessment of decision-support tools for ecosystem services quantification and valuation. Ecosyst Serv 5:27–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bastakoti RC, Gupta J, Babel MS, van Dijk MP (2014) Climate risks and adaptation strategies in the Lower Mekong River basin. Reg Environ Chang 14:207–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benaman J, Christine AS, Douglas AH (2005) Calibration and validation of soil and water assessment tool on an agricultural watershed in upstate New York. J Hydrol Eng 10(5):363–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Canadell J, Jackson RB, Mooney H (1996) Maximum rooting depth of vegetation types at the global scale. Oecologia 108:583–595CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. CCAI (Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative) (2015). Review of approaches for developing climate change scenarios and addressing scenario uncertainties in adaptation planning for the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB)—Final Draft. Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative, Mekong River Commission, Lao PDRGoogle Scholar
  8. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1976) A framework for land evaluation. Soils Bulletin 32. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  9. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2011) Irrigation in Southern and Eastern Asia in figures. AQUASTAT Survey, RomeGoogle Scholar
  10. FAO/IIASA/ISRIC/ISSCAS/JRC (2012) Harmonized world soil database (version 1.2). FAO, Rome, Italy and IIASA, Laxenburg, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  11. Fukai S, Sittisuang P, Chanphengsay M (1998) Production of rainfed lowland rice in drought prone environments: a case study in Thailand and Laos. Plant Prod Sci 1(1):75–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Furuya J, Kobayashi S, Yamauchi K (2014) Impacts of climate change on rice market and production capacity in the Lower Mekong Basin. Paddy Water Environ 12(Supp. 2):S255–S274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guardiola-Claramonte M, Troch PA, Ziegler AD, Giambelluca TW, Durcik M, Vogler JB, Nullet MA (2010) Hydrologic effects of the expansion of rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) in a tropical catchment. Ecohydrology 3:306–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hasegawa T, Sawano S, Goto S, Konghakote P, Polthanee A, Ishigooka Y, Kuwagata T, Toritani H, Furuya J (2008) A model driven by crop water use and nitrogen supply for simulating changes in the regional yield of rain-fed lowland rice in Northeast Thailand. Paddy Water Environ 6(1):73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hean S (2014) Cardamom landscape management to sustain biodiversity and economic returns in Cambodia. PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, MinnesotaGoogle Scholar
  16. IPBES (2016) Summary for policymakers of the methodological assessment of scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem ServicesGoogle Scholar
  17. Jalota SK, Kaur H, Ray SS, Tripathi R, Vashisht BB, Bal SK (2012) Mitigating future climate change effects by shifting planting dates of crops in rice–wheat cropping system. Reg Environ Chang 12(4):913–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kareiva P, Tallis H, Yaylor H, Ricjetta H, Dailu GC, Polosky S (2011) Natural capital: theory and practice of mapping ecosystem services. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Katzfey J, Jiao X, Suppiah R, Hoffmann P, Nguyen KC, Poun S (2013) Climate change impacts and vulnerability assessments for Mondulkiri and Koh Kong Provinces in Cambodia. Technical Assistance Consultant’s Report. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia (CSIRO), Melbourne, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  20. Keskinen M, Chinvanno S, Kummu M, Nuorteva P, Snidvongs A, Varies O, Vastila K (2010) Climate change and water resources in the Lower Mekong River Basin: putting adaptation into the context. J Water Clim Chang 1(2):103–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kubiszewski I, Costanza R, Paquet P, Halimi S (2013) Hydropower development in the lower Mekong basin: alternative approaches to deal with uncertainty. Reg Environ Chang 13(1):3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kumar A, Dixit S, Ram T, Yadaw RB, Mishra KK, Mandal MP (2014) Breeding high-yielding drought-tolerant rice: genetic variations and conventional and molecular approaches. J Exp Bot 65(21):6265–6278CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Linke P (2014) On the development of strategies for water and energy management in the context of the water–energy–food nexus. Comput Aided Chem Eng 34:196–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mainuddin M, Kirby M (2009) Spatial and temporal trends of water productivity in the lower Mekong river basin. Agric Water Manag 96:1567–1578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mainuddin M, Kirby M, Hoanh CH (2011) Adaptation to climate change for food security in the Lower Mekong Basin. Food Secur 3:433–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mainuddin M, Kirby M, Hoanh CH (2013) Impact of climate change on rainfed rice and options for adaptation in the Lower Mekong Basin. Nat Hazards 66:905–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (2013) Operational framework for ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change for Viet Nam: a policy support document. Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ha NoiGoogle Scholar
  28. Moriasi DN, Arnold JG, Van Liew MW, Bingner RL, Harmel RD, Veith TL (2007) Model evaluation guidelines for systematic quantification of accuracy in watershed simulations. Am Soc Agric Biol Eng 50(3):885–900Google Scholar
  29. MRC (2011a) Assessment of basin-wide development scenarios: main report. Mekong River Commission, VientianeGoogle Scholar
  30. MRC (2011b) Planning atlas of the Lower Mekong River Basin. Basin Development Plan Programme. Mekong River Commission, VientianeGoogle Scholar
  31. MRC (2011c) Climate change adaptation initiative: 2011–2015 programme document. Mekong River Commission, VientianeGoogle Scholar
  32. MRC (2012) The impact and management of floods and droughts in the Lower Mekong Basin and the implications of possible climate change. Flood Management and Mitigation Programme, Mekong River Comission, VientianeGoogle Scholar
  33. MRC (2015) Vulnerability report volume 2: basin-wide climate change impact and vulnerability assessment for wetland dependent livelihoods and eco-services. Mekong River Commission/ICEM, Vientiane/MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  34. Office of Agricultural Economics (2015) Agricultural statistics of Thailand 2015. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  35. Parajuli K, Kang K (2014) Application of statistical downscaling in GCMs at constructing the map of precipitation. Russ Meteorol Hydrol 39(4):271–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Phengphaengsy F, Okudaira H (2008) Assessment of irrigation efficiencies and water productivity in paddy fields in the lower Mekong River Basin. Paddy Water Environ 6:105–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pukngam S (2001) The comparative studies on evapotranspiration of paddy field and different forest types in the northern Thailand based on Bowen ratio method. Kasetsart University, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  38. Raes D, Steduto P, Hsiao T, Fereres E (2009) AquaCrop version 3.0: reference manual. FAO, Land and Water Division, RomeGoogle Scholar
  39. Räsänen TA, Lindgren V, Guillaume JHA, Buckley BM, Kummu M (2016) On the spatial and temporal variability of ENSO precipitation and drought teleconnection in mainland Southeast Asia. Clim Past 12:1889–1905CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sawano S, Hasegawa T, Goto S, Konghakote P, Polthanee A, Ishigooka Y, Kuwagata T, Toritani H (2008) Modelling the dependence of the crop calendar for rainfed rice on precipitation in Northeast Thailand. Paddy Water Environ 6:83–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sawatdikarn S, Kansomtob K (2012) Selection for drought tolerance in fifteen rice varieties. Agric Sci J 43(2)(Suppl):581–584Google Scholar
  42. Saxton KE, Rawls WJ (2006) Soil water characteristic estimates by texture and organic matter for hydrologic solutions. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:1569–1578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schipper L, Liu W, Krawanchid D, Chanthy S (2010) Review of climate change adaptation methods and tools. MRC Technical Paper No. 34, Mekong River Commission, VientianeGoogle Scholar
  44. Subburayan S, Murugappan A, Mohan S (2011) Modified Hargreaves equation for estimation of ET0 in a hot and humid location in Tamilnadu State, India. Int J Eng Sci Technol 3(1):592–600Google Scholar
  45. Suif Z, Yoshimura C, Valeriano OCS, Seingkemg H (2013) Spatially distributed model for soil erosion and sediment transport in the Mekong River Basin. In: Proceedings of the seventeenth international water technology conference, IWTC17, Istanbul, TurkeyGoogle Scholar
  46. Tallis HT, Ricketts T, Guerry AD,Wood SA, Sharp R, Nelson E, Ennaanay D,Wolny S, Olwero N, Vigerstol K, Pennington D, Mendoza G, Aukema J, Foster J, Forrest J, Cameron D, Arkema K, Lonsdorf E, Kennedy C, Verutes G, Kim CK, Guannel G, Papenfus M, Toft J, Marsik M, Bernhardt J, Griffin R, Glowinski K, Chaumont N, Perelman A, Lacayo M, Mandle L, Griffin R, Hamel P, Chaplin-Kramer R (2013) InVEST 3.0.0 user’s guide. The Natural Capital Project, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  47. Tanaka N, Kume T, Yoshifuji N, Tanaka K, Takizawa H, Shiraki K, Tantasirin C, Tangtham N, Suzuki M (2008) A review of evapotranspiration estimates from tropical forests in Thailand and adjacent regions. Agric Fort Meteorol 148:807–819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tansiri B, Saifak K (1999) Land suitability evaluation for economic crops. Land Development Department, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  49. Trisurat Y (2013) Assessing ecosystem services at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station, Nakhon Ratchasima Province (in Thai). J For Manag 6:1–17Google Scholar
  50. Trisurat Y, Eiwpanich P, Kalliola R (2016) Integrating land use and climate change scenarios and models into assessment of forested watershed services in Southern Thailand. Environ Res 147:611–620CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Tue NT, Dung LV, Nhuan MT, Omoru K (2014) Carbon storage of a tropical mangrove forest in Mui Ca Mau national park, Viet Nam. CATENA 121:119–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Warrick RA (2009) Using SimCLIM for modelling the impacts of climate extremes in a changing climate: a preliminary case study of household water harvesting in Southeast Queensland. In: 18th World IMACS/MODSIM Congress, Cairns, Australia, pp 2583–2589Google Scholar
  53. Yamauchi K (2014) Climate change impacts on agriculture and irrigation in the Lower Mekong Basin. Paddy Water Environ 12(Suppl):S227–S240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhang L, Dawes WR, Walker GR (2001) Response of mean annual evapotranspiration to vegetation changes at catchment scale. Water Resour Res 37:701–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yongyut Trisurat
    • 1
  • Aekkapol Aekakkararungroj
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hwan-ok Ma
    • 4
  • John M. Johnston
    • 5
  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryKasetsart UniversityBangkokThailand
  2. 2.Mekong River Commission, Climate Change and Adaptation InitiativeVientianeLao PDR
  3. 3.ADPC SERVIR-MekongBangkokThailand
  4. 4.Division of Forest ManagementInternational Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)YokohamaJapan
  5. 5.USEPA/ORD/NERL Computational Exposure DivisionAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations