Promoting Upstream-downstream Linkages Through Integrated Ecosystem Management in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Posted on: 3 Mar 2015 / Submitted by: mrema
UNEP-IEMP Policy Series 2012

In the context of supporting biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and poverty reduction, this policy paper portrays the critical role that ecosystem management and ecosystem services can play in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Ecosystem management embraces an interdisciplinary approach that highlights connections between ecological, social-cultural, economic and institutional structures. Underlying the approach is the explicit goal to sustain ecosystem composition, structure, and function while providing for human needs (Grumbine, 1994, Layzer, 2008). Critical to this is ongoing research and monitoring of ecological interactions and processes, and a collaborative, adaptive approach to planning. This paper highlights the importance of integrating ecosystem management into national policy-making across the upstream and downstream regions of the Mekong River1. The GMS includes Yunnan and Guangxi provinces in Southwest China and the five countries of Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (Cao et al., 2001). It covers over 2.6 million square kilometres and is a growing economic powerhouse and rich in globally important biodiversity (ADB, 2005). The paper argues strongly that integrating ecosystem management into policy-making would expedite the process of ‘green economy’ development in the GMS. Both economic and ecosystem issues are increasingly transnational in the GMS and to be effective, new policies will need to be integrated across nation-state boundaries.

This paper evaluates the status of the ecosystem approach throughout the GMS by identifying challenges and opportunities to its implementation through transnational institutions. Links between ecosystem management and the development of a sustainable ‘Green Economy’ are developed. Finally, recommendations are offered to support the further development of the ecosystem approach in the GMS.


Key messages:

  • There is an urgent need to integrate an ecosystem management approach into national policy-making in the GMS.
  • There is a need to develop, integrate and coordinate ecosystem management policies within and between the different countries in the subregion.
  • In order to adopt an ecosystems approach to policy-making, institutional capacity in the GMS needs to be enhanced. Monitoring and evaluation of ecosystem processes and dynamics should be integrated to provide a sound scientific basis for policy-making.
  • Valuation of ecosystem services and its inclusion in policy-making needs to become a common goal across the GMS.


Dhanush A. Dinesh 
Edward Grumbine 
Linxiu Zhang 
Jianchu Xu 
Year of publication:
Type of publication:
Policy Brief
Cross Cutting:
Capacity building
Indigenous knowledge