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Assessing ecological risks of changing river management

Julian Thompson at Cambodia environmental flow workshop

Assessing ecological risks of changing river management

July 18th saw the first public release in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, of a new user-friendly version of software designed to assess the potential ecological risks of changes in river flows arising from a range of conditions, including climate change, dam construction, water abstractions or other water resource management activities.

The software, a development of the ERFA (Ecological Risk due to Flow Alteration) environmental flow method, has been created as part of the TEFRIC (Translation of Environmental Flow Research in Cambodia) project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) Innovation Follow-on Programme.

TEFRIC is led by UCL Geography’s Dr Julian Thompson in collaboration with Dr Cedric Laize at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) and the Tonle Sap Authority (TSA). It builds on the long-term collaboration between UCL and CEH in hydroecology and earlier UCL-based hydrological research in SE Asia, including Mekong-wide hydrological modelling and protected area management in the Mekong Delta.

The software (ERFA-TEFRIC) was launched at a workshop hosted by Drs Sarann Ly and Ratino Sith of ITC and attended by a wide range of representatives from the Cambodian Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Ministry of Environment, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Conservation International, Worldfish, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Battambang University and the Royal University of Agriculture.

Julian and Cedric ­introduced the concept of environmental flows and various approaches to their assessment. They demonstrated TEFRIC-ERFA using a variety of hydrological scenarios, with workshop participants fine-tuning the environmental flow calculations and identifying new metrics for possible inclusion in subsequent releases.

The workshop’s outcomes will be incorporated into ERFA-TEFRIC Version 2, to be launched in 2019 at a meeting of decision makers, scientists and water resource managers in Cambodia and other Mekong riparian states. The software has also been trialled in Europe and Africa, and this version will be freely available to the global hydro-ecological community.

Dr Cedric Laize: