University Network Study of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Mekong River Basin – Now Published

 University researchers learn wetland sampling methods for the survey of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Southeast Asia.

Mekong River Basin
The Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. Click on the image to enlarge.

In July 2010, the International Crane Foundation (ICF) was contacted by the U.S. Department of State with a request to survey Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Mekong River Basin and to study the possible impact of POPs on human health and the environment. Within a year, and with the help of eight Southeast Asian Universities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the United States Geological Survey, 531 samples were collected and analyzed for 21 POPs from 450 wetlands across Southeast Asia. The overall results of the POPs study provide a strong baseline for future research and conservation efforts. The full report is now published and can be viewed here.

ICF, led by Field Ecology Director Jeb Barzen and Southeast Asia Program Director Dr. Tran Triet, has worked in the Mekong River Basin since 1988, coordinating community projects, long-term wetland restoration activities, and training a new generation of wetland managers. Working with eight founding institutions, ICF facilitated the establishment of a University Network in Southeast Asia to start a training program in wetland ecology and management for students and professionals in the Mekong Basin. Since its inception in 2002, researchers within the University Network have conducted ten wetland training courses with a total of 224 students from 18 member universities, five research institutions, and several protected areas in the Mekong Basin. Students from all six of the countries within the Mekong Basin, as well as from Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United States, have participated in these courses.

“Without the network it would have cost ten times the amount and taken twice as long to complete this important project,” Jeb Barzen, ICF Field Ecology Director said. “The cooperation and effort displayed by these students with such diverse backgrounds was inspiring.”

In no other study and in no other region has such an extensive survey been collected within such a short time period. Engaging the University Network to study and assess the magnitude and distribution of POPs across wetlands of the Mekong Basin will help form the basis for describing and mapping wetlands and their characteristics throughout the region. This work, in turn, will lead to a better ability to assess myriad changes this ecologically and culturally diverse region will face in the next few decades.

Founded in 1973, ICF is a 501(c)(3) organization that works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. ICF provides knowledge, leadership, and inspiration to engage people in resolving threats to cranes and their diverse landscapes. Learn more about our global conservation efforts at www.savingcranes.org.

Click here to read the United States Geological Survey’s press release announcing the publication of the final report (2/27/14)