Title of symposium:
Freshwater ecosystems and dams in Southeast Asia: Understanding human impacts and aligning science with decision making processes for conservation and sustainable development.

Principal organizer:
Belinda Lip
WWF Malaysia

Dr Alice C. Hughes,
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden

Prof. Christopher Gibbins
UNMC

Co-organizers:
Dr Holly Barclay
Monash University

Dr Alexandra Zieritz
UNMC

Symposium Summary
Freshwater systems cover only 1% of the global surface but support 10% of all known species. Despite their significance for global biodiversity, many species inhabiting freshwater environments are under greater threat than their marine or terrestrial counterparts. Threats come from a wide range of human activities which impact environmental conditions across a range of spatial and temporal scales. In Asia, dams are a particular and increasing cause for concern, with several major schemes becoming controversial, high profile cases. Asia has 59% of the world’s medium-large dams, with hundreds more planned across the region. While it is imperative that science and policy come together to help plan and manage dams in ways that limit ecological impacts, the knowledge base and approaches to help with this remain scarce.

This symposium will bring together aquatic scientists working to improve knowledge of the fundamental ecology of aquatic organisms and the threats they face as a result of environmental change... In particular, it will provide an avenue for researchers, policy makers and management authorities to discuss, understand and synthesize knowledge of the ecological consequences of dams; talks will outline novel approaches to monitoring and assessment of aquatic organisms and ecosystem processes and new holistic approaches designed to aid strategic decision-making.

The symposium will be organised around three themes:-

1. Overview of the current status/gaps and threats to freshwater biodiversity in the region
Most of Asia’s rivers are still poorly understood and freshwater ecosystems information still lags behind that of terrestrial or marine species. An update on current knowledge is required which collates and synthesis the latest studies. From this synthesis, priorities for biodiversity conservation will be identified.

2. Bridging science and decision making
It is essential that science is used effectively within decision making processes during the planning stage of riverine developments. Freshwater and biological sciences that aim to support the survival and sustainability of the systems need to better communicate and align with the day-to-day decision-making processes that govern development planning. This theme will stimulate discussion on the needs of ecological research and decision-making processes with the view of better integrating both for the benefit of biodiversity conservation.

3. Emerging approaches to drive a more sustainable development
Development planning should integrate environmental and social factors at the onset of project planning. There are emerging approaches e.g., system scale planning, which can help achieve this integration. This theme aims to showcase such approaches and stimulate further innovation within this field.

List of speakers and presentation titles:

Opening keynote
Prof David Dudgeon, University of Hong Kong

Overview of the current ecology/status and threats to freshwater biodiversity in the region
1. Dr. Alexandra Zieritz, UNMC
“The freshwater mussel fauna of Malaysia – extinctions, invasions and importance.”

2. Dr Gawsia Wahidunnessa Chowdhury, University of Dhaka (Bangladesh)
“Functional ecology of freshwater invertebrates in Bangladesh.”

3. Dr Lindsay Porter, School of Biology, University of St Andrews
“Dams and Dolphins: Investigating Impacts and Making Management Decisions.”

4. Dr Michael Kennedy, Uni Coventry, UK
“Environmental controls, niche width and latitudinal ranges of aquatic plants in tropical rivers.”

5. Dr. Yuichi Kano, Associate Professor, Kyushu University
”Modeling the impact of hydropower dams on fish biodiversity and its synergistic effect with global climate change.”

Bridging science and decision making
1. Josephine Dorin, Research and development, Inland Fisheries, Sarawak
“Management and conservation of fish species in the wild for inland aquaculture development.”

2. Karen Lee, Research & Development Unit, Sarawak Energy Berhad, Sarawak Malaysia
“Interlinking Science with Decision-making: Sustainable Development of Hydropower Dams in Sarawak.”

3. Tonny Ganyai, Research & Development Unit, Sarawak Energy Berhad, Sarawak, Malaysia
Feasibility study of fish movement using a radio telemetry: implication for the conservation of Malaysian Mahseer, Tor (Gray, 1834) Species.”

4. Dr. Hannah Baleta, Rivers in the Economy, WWF Myanmar
“Myanmar system scale planning in hydropower.”