Downstream Mekong River Wetlands Ecosystem Assessment

Vietnam (Mekong River)

Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment Sub-national
Country or countries covered Vietnam
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

Downstream Mekong River, Vietnam, Southeast Asia

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

To conduct an integrated assessment on consequences of changes of ecosystems and their services to human wellbeing in the Cuu Long river Delta, then to identify responses to strengthen the conservation and development of ecosystems to promote their sustainable and long-term contribution to human needs.

Mandate for the assessment

  • To assess the conditions and changing patterns of wetland ecosystems and the services that they provide in the Cuu Long river Delta.
  • To identify and analyze drivers that affect on the wetlands and their services.
  • To develop scenarios for ecosystems and design responses to ongoing and future change identified during scenario development.
  • To build the knowledge and skills of local officials in order to improve wetland management.
  • To develop a database about the ecosystems and their services in the Cuu Long river Delta.

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

Conceptual Framework

System(s) assessed

  • Marine
  • Coastal
  • Inland water
  • Forest and woodland
  • Cultivated/Agricultural land
  • Grassland
  • Mountain
  • Urban

Species groups assessed

• Ecosystems: - Animals: natural fishes and shrimps, mollusca in mangrove forest; water birds and fishes in inland Melaleuca cajuputi forests. - Plants: Rhizophora, Avicennia, Sonneratia, Buguiera, etc. in coastal mangrove forests and Melaleuca cajuputi, shrubs and Eleocharis atropurpurea inland areas. • Ecosystem services: - Animals: Penaeus monodon in coastal water, Machobrrachium rosenbergii in inland water - Plants: Rice and fruit trees • Invasive alien species: - Pomacea Canaliculata, oreochomis mossambicus - Mimosa sp., Mimosa pigra in Melaleuca cajuputi forests

Ecosystem services/functions assessed


  • Food
  • Water
  • Genetic resources
  • Medicinal resources


  • Climate regulation
  • Regulation of water flows
  • Waste treatment
  • Erosion prevention
  • Maintainence of soil fertility
  • Biological control

Supporting Services/Functions

  • Soil formation and fertility
  • Primary production
  • Life cycle maintenance
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity

Cultural Services

  • Recreation and tourism
  • Aesthetic Enjoyment
  • Inspiration for culture
  • Art and design

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started


Year assessment finished


If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish

Periodicity of assessment

One off

Assessment outputs

Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)


Journal publications

Paper Mai Trong Thong

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • Geospatial analysis
  • Indicators
  • Economic valuation
  • Social (non-monetary) valuation

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

Firstly we informed the stakeholders, who are mostly provincial authorities of the objective, tasks and contents of the assessment to get their ideas if the assessment was necessary, its contents were suitable for their areas and what did they expect from the assessment. During the implementation, we worked with authorities and people at district, commune and village levels to collect information on their benefits and livelihoods in relation to ecosystems by investigation of households using questionnaire and PRAs. Then we reported our assessment results based on data analysis and process to relevant stakeholders to get their comments on the results and recommendations on solutions on policies, credit for sustainable exploitation and conservation of ecosystems and their services. Finally, we synthesized our research results based on the comments and recommendation of local authorities and people. Besides developing a brochure for decision makers, we held workshops in relevant provinces and the whole area to report our final results to them.

Key stakeholder groups engaged

  • Local authorities at provincial, district and commune levels (People’s Committee, relevant departments)
  • Farmers’ Union, Agriculture Promotion Union
  • People living on different livelihoods

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process


Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

  • Resource experts (e.g. foresters etc)
  • Traditional/local knowledge

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

The assessment used documents on approaches to ecosystems, that were developed by parties to the Convention on biodiversity in May 2000. It allows integration of knowledge systems including scientific knowledge on ecology, natural resources and knowledge on management of natural resources. A management strategy was developed on the basis of integrating the knowledge systems to promote sustainable conservation and exploitation of natural resources in specific areas. The ecosystem approaches focus on human and their ways of exploitation of natural resources as main factors in developing development policies.

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

Primary data on ecosystems and their services was collected through field surveys and investigation in the study area. Secondary data was collected from reports on implementation of socio-economic development targets of people’s committees of the provinces, districts and communes, officially published yearbooks, relevant studies from Vietnam and other countries.

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

During and after the assessment process by direct discussions and meetings with decision makers to assess the assessment results, we proposed some responses relating to policies such as adjustment and development of new policies for sustainable exploitation. Many officials at different levels said that the assessment results helped them to raise their awareness of exploitation and use of ecosystems and their services in their areas and their impacts on the whole regions. They agreed that they should improve their policies on management of ecosystems and their services in their provinces and cooperate together to develop united policies and a common management process for the whole region.

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

• Exploitation of ecosystem services in the 12 provinces of the Cuu Long river Delta has only focused on provisioning services but almost not on regulating and supporting services, which has resulted in decline in current and future ecosystems. • The Cuu Long river Delta is a large region. However, management of ecosystems is inconsistent between provinces, leading to the consequence that the ecosystem exploitation has caused conflicts between ecosystem exploitation and conservation. • It is important to have right responses by management mechanisms and policies to exploit and conserve ecosystems for sustainable development.
• It is important to implement assessments of ecosystem services at local level and to establish networks for Sub-global assessment (regional and local scales) with the focus on capacity building for practitioners to undertake and use assessment at sub-regional scale, contributing to building massages supporting decision making at global level.

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

At the beginning of the assessment, the analytical framework and methodology of MA were new to Vietnamese researchers so they had to update information and knowledge on these. The researchers also learnt more about how to use ecosystem approaches in assessing natural resources and strengthening conservation and use of natural resources in sustainable ways. Besides that, they were required to improve their understanding of working with community and doing community-based research. Consequently, the assessment results were highly evaluated and used by local people and communities.

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

Access to funding, Sharing of data/repatriation of data, Workshops, Developing/promoting and providing access to support tools, Formal training, Communication and awareness raising

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Limited understanding on actual exploitation and use of ecosystems and their services is one of challenges the assessment faced. Therefore, we had many field trips to the emergent areas in the study areas to discuss with the local people and officials about their exploitation and use of ecosystems and their services and explore problems observed during the exploitation process. Based on the information obtained from the discussions we identified solutions for each areas as well as the whole region to exploit and use ecosystems and their services for sustainable development, protecting ecosystems and improving human well-being.

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

The researchers lacked indigenous knowledge on exploitation and conservation of ecosystems and their services. And their understanding of nature of ecosystems was poor, especially of functions of regulating and supporting services. This limited the assessment of these regulating and supporting services.

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

We discussed with local people and authorities to get their knowledge about these issues, for example the roles of mangrove and Melaleuca forests in regulating climate and preventing soil erosion and aluminization in the inland areas and food chains for natural aquatic species in mangrove and inland Melaleuca forests.

Additional relevant information

Following the 1st–phase assessment results, we have a proposal for the 2nd phase of the assessment titled “continuing assessment on climate change trends of ecosystems and their services in wetlands in Mekong Delta to build development scenarios and to propose sustainable management solutions” under the under the Follow-up to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which was approved in 2009 and we are waiting for funding to implement it.