Welcome to PHC Siam program

    Ecological Monitoring System of Bandon Bay’s coastal resources in Surat Thani Province (Thailand)

    1. International background, awareness and new directions in research

    Today, biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development have become central topics of research. Following the global development crisis, environmental
    concerns became an issue for mankind’s future. This has generated a major break in society-environment relationships at different levels: economic, social and political,
    particularly in regards to future management through governance.

    Natural and environmental resources alike are assets and common goods, whose degradation is an obstacle to human and economic development and therefore a
    threat to social stability: the global socio-environmental crisis is becoming increasingly acute. However, a lack of awareness of policy-makers, economists and the general
    public calls for action. In this context, scientific research concentrates on the analysis of sectors with a new development dynamic, emphasizing the role of enhanced
    environment and heritage, both tangible and intangible, in societal development combining human and territorial issues. Thus, protection of natural resources, including
    biodiversity, must go hand in hand with the development of sites remarkable for their ecological interest. Degradation of coastal resources represents a loss of
    biodiversity, often permanent, and the internal destruction of ecosystems is equally severe. Disappearance of endemic species, lack of regeneration and imbalance of
    populations all lead to major ecosystem malfunctions of which the dynamic ecological consequences are currently poorly understood. This results in a profound change
    in environmental quality preventing these latter from fully assuming their ecological role, which in turn eventually leads to destruction of natural heritage. In the quest for
    assessment and rehabilitation, the role of local knowledge is crucial, as well as the necessity to "create a space for dialogue and negotiation", in order to avoid a
    technocratic approach. Programming arrangements for the protection and rehabilitation of habitats, restocking of endemic species are necessarily linked with a public
    policy of ecological recovery. However, conservation is not synonymous with "efficiency", as its economic impact is only noticeable in the long run. It promotes both a strong
    argument to protect heritage "biodiversity" (natural and cultural) and to develop some components, in order to integrate this approach with the social and economic
    framework.

    This perspective induces significant changes in the objectives, forms and modalities of public intervention in land management. This new paradigm promotes the
    emergence of a "New Environmental and Territorial Deal". This deal must reflect shortcomings of both ecosystems and natural resources. The impact of human activity on
    the environment generates uncertainties and risks of all kinds (natural, health, social), including when humans are direct victims. To achieve the goal of reclaiming the
    land and its resources, as a social heritage, mankind has new capabilities for space observation, of information technologies that facilitate the dissemination and transfer
    of knowledge between scientists and local actors for an approach based on ethno-sciences. Thus it is possible to consider the use of governance principles related to
    sustainable development. As part of our project, our priority is to develop more environmentally friendly production systems, but also offer choice of farming practices best
    suited to local ecosystems. Thus, recovery of native species by obtaining a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) can activate levers that could promote economic
    approaches to land conservation and sustainability. This approach to labelling is in synergy with other ongoing processes: ecotourism, protection of ecosystems,
    landscapes and heritage sites.

    2. The Thai context: an alarming situation

    Thailand has a coastline that stretches over 2600 kilometres, with coastal resources including mangrove forests and resources in fish and coral reefs are regarded as the
    country's largest renewable natural resource. However, during the last thirty years, an uncontrolled use resulted in these resources deterioration and has greatly affected
    the local community’s business, disturbing an already fragile social and political balance. The coastal regions are now facing both environmental and social vulnerability
    due to multiple factors, singly or in combination, including: the erosion of biodiversity, depletion of some natural resources, tourism pressure and changing climatic
    conditions. Above all the vulnerability and marginalization of local communities have led to excessive withdrawals on all media. Confronted to this phenomenon of
    deregulation, there is a growing local and national awareness of a need, to preserve biodiversity while valuing local knowledge and quality of life of local populations.

    The slow degradation of the Surat Thani coastline and its ecosystems is causing significant decline in economic resources and environmental imbalance. These failures
    directly threaten the survival of aquaculture activities. Both natural heritage and local cultural traditions are affected. The local intensive aquaculture has led to the
    destruction of large areas where livestock have become unusable, a phenomenon amplified by continental water flows severely polluted by industrial and domestic
    effluents.

    Thailand, like many Asian countries, is confronted with impoverishment of rural and marginalised populations. In response to these challenges, tourism projects are
    emerging to make ecotourism a lever for local development in a sustainable development perspective, advocating "good" governance of shared resource management
    and biodiversity. However, if such projects would last it is important to ensure success and sustainability through individual and collective changes in social, institutional
    and environmental behaviour. The aim is to generate cash income to be equally redistributed within local economies. In addition, a link has to be established between
    aims of developing responsible tourism and promoting certified products from aquaculture. Our will to associate the application of a reasoned aquaculture and a
    responsible ecotourism will allow to answer the question of the conservation of the biodiversity and to promote an integrated territorial management.

    This link is expected to trigger innovative policies involving citizen, producers and tourists alike. On the basis of these results, Thai academics, in partnership with local
    decision-makers have chosen to collaborate with a team of French experts to develop a set of methodological tools and to share data relevant to these issues. The
    purpose is twofold: 1) to perform an analytical diagnosis of the degradation process and 2) propose alternatives to promote a harmonious and sustainable development
    of the study area.

    3. Scientific objectives of the Ecological Monitoring System (EMS) project

    First, the scientific project must address society’s concerns regarding the impact of ecological and environmental imbalances, with a focus on economic activity and social
    interaction. The aim is to promote sustainable natural resource management and through the territorial plan, support business activities with the preservation of coastal
    ecosystems.

    The first step of our research is to take stock of major malfunctions resulting from domestic pollution and current agricultural practices on coastal ecosystems. The project
    aims to identify then formalize partnerships with local actors.

    The second step is to seek innovation in action planning for participatory approaches in environmental protection. The goal is to integrate a smoother management of
    local resources within a new territorial project. To achieve this, it is necessary to establish a shared reflection to address common issues and propose a collective
    response based on the establishment of an appropriate public policy to the concept of eco-development. A Franco-Thai research team will be responsible for the
    implementation of diagnostics and impact studies as well as organizing scientific activities among all project stakeholders.

    The third step is to replace former planning with an economic policy more respectful of natural balance and social equity. Our goal is to establish an EMS facilitating
    decision support to help validating a policy based on rational aquaculture, eco-responsible tourism and proactive territorial planning.
    The main scientific topic will aim to provide a monitoring system (EMS). Due to over-exploitation of coastal resources and increasing population pressures in highly
    populated areas, such an EMS will allow to identify and select appropriate indicators of human pressure on coastal environments; to monitor/evaluate the proposed
    method and direction of economic growth models of aquaculture activities. This EMS will apply the techniques and models already tested in France (see annexes). Local
    businesses will be involved in sustainable development and benefit from the transfer of expertise. The project's participatory approach will involve multiple stakeholders
    such as territorial authorities, academics and local residents. The main objective of this project is to conduct a policy for managing land resources. This integrated
    planning of coastal resources is a process and a tool for governance and sustainable development of coastal areas. It validates the integrated management of space and
    resources taking into account challenges and seascapes from natural, economic and social perspectives, and building a coherent strategy.
    Following a recent filed trip in the district of Surat Thani, it was possible to identify an area of shoreline (Bay of Bandon) and a village aware of the urgency of action to
    address the issue of serious coastal and marine ecosystems disruption within its territory. Different research areas related to economic activity will be study: a shift
    towards aquaculture based on an environmental impact study of intensive farming systems and incentives to return to the breeding of endemic species; respecting a
    gradient of sustainability that should limit the serious problems known in this field, and promoting a more responsible tourism based on the appreciation and
    conservation of heritage and local culture. The ecotourism component will focus on identifying and promoting local products and services. The needs in training for various
    local tourism actors will be evaluated to develop appropriate curriculum and teaching.

    4. EMS and Information System

    With the ever increasing decline of marine species, habitat loss and damage to biological communities, the establishment of a monitoring system seems necessary to
    identify impacts on the ecosystems’ resilience. Counting, tracing, and sampling are methods of data collection that provide the basis for EMS. This will provide the
    systematic measurement of variables and processes over time. The Centre aims to enable local stakeholders to have a holistic approach to selected coastal zone (land
    and sea), taking into account the physical context (geomorphology, weather, tides, currents, etc.); the ecological and bio-geographical milieu; the socio-economic and
    public policy situation. Thus, the joined team will develop a state of the art system accommodating the various contexts of the intervention, using social and ecological data
    that influence dynamics of the case study. Then it will assess the dysfunctions of the focus area to be analyzed. This analysis will focus on issues of deregulation linking
    actors, their practices and local environmental conditions.

    The team will describe the methods and tools used for each situation encountered and formulate questions based on the analysis of the information system generated.
    This information system will establish the indicators useful for decision-making. The EMS will need to deliver simple, easy to use, operational and measurable indicators;
    they ought to be general to be exportable and adaptable to other situations. The EMS will encourage local actors to promote the long term, equitable management of a
    territory that is experiencing a strong, uncontrolled social dynamic, and heavily impinging on ecosystem imbalances. It is necessary to identify research themes focused
    on the principles of sustainable development: integrated planning and environmental public policy support, management of coastal resources in a rational practice of
    aquaculture, and ecotourism development within local resources service recovery.

    5. Expected Results

    Among the expected results, we will identify tools and models adapted to conduct eco-development processes to test and validate the proposed scientific approach. In this
    perspective, a top priority will be given to sharing and ownership of the methods developed by the project participants. The main goal is to meet local authorities’
    expectations on the type of environmental management of the area. The result of management research trends favoured by the researchers involved. The Monitoring of
    coastal environments will aim at "developing an ethical chart."
    During the first year, we will conduct an inventory of pollution sources, their nature (origin) and areas of study concerned, and develop a training programme for local actors
    and stakeholders on the functioning of coastal ecosystems and aquaculture techniques. The second year will be devoted to methodological choice and selections of tools
    for measuring human pressure in order to establish indicators and thresholds. Answers will take form of transfers of knowledge and technology projects.

    We will support our scientific approach to the various prospective studies of the Bandon Bay produced by AIT and FAO as well as sustainable management of coastal
    resources that mangrove ecosystems. However, the specificity of our project lies in the production of scientific and technological model that is reproducible and suitable
    for other sites in Southeast Asia (Ecosite concept). The approach by ethnosciences give direction to reverse the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and a
    proposal for a new ecological indicators in public policy. Innovation will also present throughout the assessment and compliance to obtain a PGI (Protected Geographical
    Indication) of a marine species such as oysters of  Surat Thani ensuring added value to business stakeholders the sector.

    6. National and international cooperation
  • Research in duo with the Franco-Thai fellows’ professors and searchers in French and Thailand’s laboratories, and study areas (collection and data processing);
  • Training seminars on selected themes and issues;
  • Identification and meetings with stakeholders and local decision makers;
  • Training of young French and Thai PhD students in institutions involved in the PHC SIAM program are: University of Montpellier (UM2, UM3), CIRAD, IRD, CNRS
    from France and Prince of Songkhla University (Thailand), Asian Institute of Technology (Thailand), Institute of Marine and Fisheries (Thailand), Network of
    Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific from Thailand.

    7. Background of existing cooperation and scientific relationships

    For several years, cooperation has developed between research units of the University of Montpellier 2 and Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai and Surat Thani, by
    hosting graduate students. Our project is a continuation of research on environmental pollution by specifying their characteristics in urban and coastal lagoons. The
    scientific and financial support of international research organizations such as AIT (Asian Institute of Technology) and NACA (Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-
    Pacific) exploits a partnership with a strong framework and high value-added expertise. The goal of these partnerships is to provide appropriate responses to local
    differences in the transfer of knowledge, skills and technologies. A mission of French academics in Thailand in February 2010 and April 2011 has identified themes,
    selected study sites, and partners, and formulated a research program to be developed by the project. Initial work plans have been drafted and a scientific committee is
    being formed.

    Expected results by year, distinguishing the French side and foreign side by 3 components: Research, Training, Valuation and Technology Transfer
    Research: The objective of this research is to develop a methodological and operational coherence of studies on the process of eco-development from a comparative
    approach, and to consolidate and assimilate the results. Development of shared concepts is a pooling of tools and teams that will be operating within the project.

    The aim is to meet the expectations of local authorities on public policy choices regarding the environmental management of the chosen site. This management should
    be based on scientific findings and will implement a proactive planning subject to a code of ethics.
    Training: Proposal development and implementing new research in the field of environment and sustainable development in French and Thai laboratories. The project
    should serve as a host laboratory and offer thematic ideas for future theses. French doctoral students will be involved with Thai doctoral students in pair mentoring, which
    academics and experts from AIT and NACA will supervise.

    Valuation: Organisation of three workshops: The first (June 2012) state of the art diagnostics and point on socio-environmental study area. It will begin by considering the
    range and choice of methodologies and tools to be developed in line with the eco-development approach. The second (June 2013) will deliver the first results from the
    application of methodologies and tools on the land. The answers take the form of knowledge transfer and technology projects and a third conference (November 2014?)
    can be programmed next year on the prospects of our expertise against the expectations of local and national actors: transfer and use of research. It could be used to
    consider a draft response to the introduction of appropriate technologies to the specific problems faced locally, including the search of financial partnerships. Joint
    publications of Thai and French teams writing articles, as part of the theses will be considered.

    Technology Transfer: A feasibility study will be conducted to create an experimental site that includes labs, a testing centre and public demonstrations to promote a
    territorial management policy of involving local actors and decision-makers in a sustainable and "eco-citizenship” approach.

    For more information: Coordinator@aarm-asialink.info.