Mekong River – Quick, Look Before it’s Gone

In pictures: Damming Laos’ Mekong River – In Pictures – Al Jazeera English.

A total of 11 large hydropower dams are planned by the governments of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, while China has already completed five dams on the Mekong’s upper reaches, with another three under construction. China is also the driving force behind a cascade of dams on the Nam Ou River, a tributary of the Mekong in northern Laos.

Environmentalists fear these dams’ impact on fish numbers may have a devastating effect on food security and biodiversity in the region.

These countries are under intense pressure to industrialize and provide jobs for the people flooding into their cities.  Since factories require electricity, these dams are part of the vicious cycle – more displaced people needing more jobs.

The river also supplies the livelihood of millions of people.  How will damming it affect them?  The people most directly affected by this had no voice in the decision – how just is that?  What will become of the species that coexist with the river?  How will the changes affect the ecosystem of Indochina?  What would happen if these governments decided not to build the dams?

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It’s All Connected

 

Absence of elephants and rhinoceroses reduces biodiversity in tropical forests.

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2012) — The progressive disappearance of seed-dispersing animals like elephants and rhinoceroses puts the structural integrity and biodiversity of the tropical forest of South-East Asia at risk.

Larges herbivores developed along with the forests, which rely on them to spread seeds.  Tropical rainforests have tall trees, and limited room and light at ground level.  These factors contribute to low germination rates for seeds.  Also missing from these forests is wind, which helps disperse seeds in other areas.

“Megaherbivores act as the ‘gardeners’ of humid tropical forests: They are vital to forest regeneration and maintain its structure and biodiversity,”  

 The disappearance of elephants and rhinos will irrevocably change the rainforest; some species will disappear, and the undergrowth will change.  There will be a loss of complexity that depends upon these large animals to maintain itself. 

How will this affect humans?  What plants might contain the cure for cancer that will disappear from the forest because it no longer has light to germinate?  What undergrowth will choke out weaker plants that hold the soil in place, leading to erosion of the thin soils?  Because its all connected, there’s no telling what future results our current actions will have on the natural world.  We just know that there are changes coming – the question is, can we continue to lose biodiversity and survive?

 

 

 

 

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