As the transition area between land and sea, coastal zone is the most dynamic region for the interaction among land, ocean and atmosphere. It is rich in various resources and thus becomes an economically developed and densely populated area. However, due to the combined effect of climate change, sea level rise and human activities, the ecological environment of coastal zone is extremely fragile and coastal vulnerability has recently become a serious problem.
Thailand is facing the problem of coastline erosion caused by sea level rise, ground subsidence and natural disasters. The total length of Thailand’s coastline along the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand is about 2,600 kilometers, of which about 559 kilometers is eroded by 5 to 20 meters per year. Besides, frequent catastrophic weather also causes many parts of coastal zone to suffer from severe seawater encroachment, drought and flood disasters.
China and Thailand are both important coastal countries, whose coastal zones are greatly impacted by sea level rise and natural disasters like typhoons and floods. In recent years, the two countries have reached consensus in utilization and protection of marine resources, marine disaster prevention and mitigation, marine ecosystem conservation, marine sustainable development and many other fields. However, considering different geographical conditions and human activities of coastal zones in the two countries, further research on coastal vulnerability in Thailand is needed.
In June 2013, China-Thailand Joint Laboratory for Climate and Marine Ecosystem was established in Phuket, Thailand, with the aim to build an bilateral platform for marine cooperation between Thailand and China. As part of this cooperative project, the joint research on coastal vulnerability received great attention from the two countries.
Scientists from China and Thailand carried out field investigations on various coastal types, such as coastal plain, river delta, tidal flat, wetland, etc. Information about human exploitation and utilization in coastal area was collected to illustrate the impact of human activities on coastal vulnerability. Besides, surveys on coastal erosion and seawater encroachment were conducted to provide scientific basis for the protection of coastal zone.
Based on field investigation and data collection, a data management information system was established, containing information about coastal geology, topography, geomorphology, stratigraphy, hydrology, ecology and remote sensing image, which provides basic information for coastal vulnerability assessment in Thailand.
Besides, scientists also selected effective coastal vulnerability evaluation indexes and established a risk evaluation model to classify levels of coastal vulnerability by zone. Based on the evaluation results, corresponding measures were expected to be proposed for different vulnerability levels.
“The cooperative research on coastal vulnerability can improve Thailand’s response capacity for natural disasters and provide scientific basis for disaster prevention and reduction as well as sustainable development of coastal zone,” said Liu Shengfa, director of Thailand-China Joint Laboratory.
Through cooperative research, scientists conducted systematic surveys on the rivers, lakes and coastal zones in the area of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea for the first time and compiled a 1:1,000,000 map of sediment type of this area, which serves as the scientific evidence for further research of seafloor sediments.
The hospitality of Thai people impressed Liu Shengfa. During the field investigation, when researchers could not find a suitable place to sample river sediments, the owner of a nearby restaurant directly jumped into the water to help them collect sediment samples, soaking wet.
Though the pandemic of COVID-19 hindered Thai and Chinese researchers from on-site investigations and meetings, they managed to coordinate with each other through video conferencing. Researchers from Thailand received online training from Chinese scientists and were committed to carrying out field research, which could overcome the negative impact of the pandemic to acquire necessary samples and data.
With the support of China-Thailand Joint Laboratory, Liu Shengfa hopes to further enhance and deepen marine cooperation with Thailand. A new information center is to be established, which will play a crucial part in the release of data resources and research outputs. Besides, Liu also planned to organize training sessions and academic exchanges on marine science and technology for the next step.
“We hope our cooperation could enhance exchanges of young scientists, promote the cultivation of talents and finally improve the research on coastal vulnerability,” said Liu Shengfa.
Caption: Mangrove survey around the Gulf of Thailand in 2012