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MSEC / MultiScale Environmental Changes


Bassin versant de Houay Pano

Houay Pano catchment (northern Laos), slash and burn cultivation of upland rice, which is increasingly converted into teak plantations. (photo. C. Valentin).

Long term monitoring network of catchments in South-East Asia

MSEC is the network of three agricultural headwater catchments representative of the sloping lands of Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Vietnam). It was launched in 1998, and started collecting data on weather, land use, agricultural practices, stream discharge, suspended and bedload sediment yields since 2000. It uses a uniform set of equipments. Every catchment comprises several equipped sub-catchments.


  • Long term monitoring of the impacts of the rapid land use changes and the extreme events on water and sediment transfers within the catchment and at their outlet. Attention is increasingly focused on the quality of soil and water. 
  • Multiscale experimentation of the impacts of innovative agricultural practices on runoff generation and erosion processes under natural and simulated rainfalls.
  • The development and the parameterization of hydrological and erosion models in order to capitalize on the data basis and to provide a high genericity of the collected data.
  • Capacity building in the field of catchment hydrology and soil erosion, through on-the-job training, teaching, and student internships.
  • Information dissemination to the scientific and stakeholder communities.
  • Recommendations on land use policy to the national authorities.

Governance and scientists

  • Christian Valentin (iEES-Paris, IRD, France)
  • Oloth Sengtaheuanghoung (DALaM, Department of Agricultural Land Development, Laos)
  • Arthorn Boonsaner (NPD National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Thailand)
  • Pham Dinh Rinh (SFRI, Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute, Vietnam)

In March 2015, the IRD team includes 5 permanent IRD posted in the three countries, 5 permanent Laotian assistants, and 8 scientists based in France operating through frequent field missions.

Few figures (March 2015) :

  • 84 scientific papers in international journals (38 Laos - 41 Vietnam - 5 Thailand)
  • 29 scientific papers in national journals
  • 2 books
  • 3 books chapters
  • 13 PhD
  • >100 MSc, BSc and Agric. Eng. degrees

Historical Background

In 1998, the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) formed the Management of Soil Erosion Consortium (MSEC) to assess the causes and extent of soil erosion in Southeast Asia. During this first phase 1998-2002, MSEC sought to (i) quantify erosion in small catchments cultivated according to local practices that were representative of those areas, excluding modern industrial faming, and (ii) test alternative farming practices that would combat land degradation and improve household livelihoods for communities inhabiting sloping lands and mountainous regions.

A second phase (2003-2010) of MSEC, supported by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), operated in Indonesia (until 2005), Lao PDR, the Philippines (until 2005), Thailand and Vietnam with national partners. The ultimate goal of this phase was to achieve sustainable development of watersheds by addressing the twin objectives of conserving resources and underpinning food security.  IWMI, due to new rules of funding had to leave the consortium late 2010.

The IRD and its partners have initiated a third phase (2011-2015). MSEC joined the French Catchment Network (SOERE RBV ) and the International Critical Zone Observatory (CZEN ). The Management of Soil Erosion Consortium was renamed Multiscale Environmental  Changes in order to underline the multiscale environmental approach of processes impacted by global changes. After evaluation of the SOERE RBV and MSEC in 2015, a fourth phase (2016-2020) is being planned.

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