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 Attapeu, Lao PDR
 
Main threats to wetland biodiversity in Attapeu Province, Lao PDR

A brief description of the threats to the wetland biodiversity of Attapeu is presented below in order of threats to systems, habitats, and species. An analysis of the root causes is presented in Table 1.
Change in hydrological patterns of the rivers supplying water to the wetlands. The greatest threat to wetlands in Attapeu Province is from current plans for the development of hydropower. One dam exists on the Xe Nam Noy. Operation of hydro-electric plants will alter the hydrological regime and functional integrity of downstream wetlands.
Development of irrigation systems. Proposals for the development of irrigation schemes threaten water supply to potentially important wetlands causing once permanent wetlands to dry out.
Conversion to agriculture. Pressure to increase the production of rice may result in the conversion of wetland to agricultural lands resulting in a loss of biodiversity values.
Increased pressure on wetlands due to increased population. A new main road is being constructed to the province’s capital, Attapeu town, which may encourage immigration to the province. New settlers are frequently attracted to wetland resources, and often grow subsistence crops in the wetlands and harvest wetland resources.
Fire. Fire is associated with swidden agriculture, which is commonly practiced close to wetlands in the Province. Fire modifies the vegetation structure of wetland habitats and may result in a loss of biodiversity values.
Grazing of water buffalo. Grazing of domestic water buffalo is common in the wetlands close to human populations during the dry season. This activity changes the habitat structure of the wetlands though selective grazing on herbaceous species and poaching of the soil.
Illegal hunting. Hunting occurs in many wetlands in Attapeu Province. Of particular concern is the hunting of globally rare and endangered species such as tiger, elephant and reptiles.
Unsustainable harvesting. Locals report that fish catches are declining and wildlife species are becoming rarer. While sustainable harvesting of wetland species is possible, there are currently no plans or policies in place to support this practice.

Table 1: Threats to wetlands in Attapeu Province, Lao PDR

ThreatImmediate causeRoot cause
Change in hydrological patterns of the rivers Infrastructure development – hydropower development• Unco-ordinated sectoral approaches to wetland planning at national and regional level
supplying water to the wetlands • Weak policy framework and unsupportive economic environment for wetland biodiversity conservation and sustainable use
Development of irrigation systemsIncreasing agricultural production, government policy to increase rice production
• Unco-ordinated sectoral approaches to wetland planning at national and regional level
• Inadequate information and awareness base on which to base wetland policy, planning and management decisions.
Conversion to agricultureIncreasing population• Unco-ordinated sectoral approaches to wetland planning at national and regional level
• Inadequate information and awareness base on which to base wetland policy, planning and management decisions.
Increased pressure on wetlands due to increased population Better access to province and better security in area• Unco-ordinated sectoral approaches to wetland planning at national and regional level
• Weak policy framework and unsupportive economic environment for wetland biodiversity conservation and sustainable use
• Inadequate information and awareness base on which to base wetland policy, planning and management decisions.
FireSwidden agriculture and fires escape into wetlands• Lack of information on values and benefits of wetlands
Grazing of water buffaloLocal people let buffalo free in the dry season• Inadequate information and awareness base on which to base wetland policy, planning and management decisions.
• Unco-ordinated sectoral approaches to wetland planning at national and regional level
Illegal huntingLack of enforcement• Inadequate information and awareness base on which to base wetland policy, planning and management decisions.
• Inadequate human and technical resources available for wetland biodiversity conservation
 High economic return • Weak policy framework and unsupportive economic environment for wetland biodiversity conservation and sustainable use
Unsustainable harvestingEconomic needs by local people• Lack of options over use of resources by local people