11.04.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Managing Vietnam Biosphere Reserves: experimenting and learning from new approaches

© Nguyen Thanh DungU Minh Ha National Park.

Biosphere reserves are like system models; their management are based on the principle “System thinking, Landscape planning, Inter-sector coordination and Quality economy” (SLIQ)

System thinking

From the perspective of systematic thinking, biosphere reserves consist of various components which reflect complex relationships between natural and socio-economic components, between physical structures and humanity values, between cultural space and natural landscapes, political ecology and creative ecology, etc. System thinking is an overall approach prior to in-depth analysis of relationships between components. System thinking is an efficient tool for managers and policy makers to outline appropriate solutions to practical problems which always vary according to time and space.

Landscape planning

In recent years, landscape planning has been applied in many areas, especially in area of using land, modeling and forecasting changes in landscapes and the environment in the future. One area of concern for landscape ecology researchers is the impact of fragmentation as a result of industrial and agricultural development on biodiversity conservation. Territorial division due to human activities has resulted in reduced natural habitat for plants and animals and isolated remaining areas. The reconnection of these remainders is in urgent need of landscape ecological study. So is the conservation of biodiversity in terms of variety and abundance, genetic sources, and species components. A typical example is the solution of establishing a corridor area of Hai Hau lying between the two buffer zones - namely Nghia Hung in Nam Dinh Province and Kim Son in Ninh Binh Province - of the Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve which will create a more favourable condition for the effective conservation of migratory birds.

Inter-sectoral coodination

Biosphere reserves have lead to a new approach to conservation which requires not only consideration of the relationship between humans and nature within the protected areas ant their surrounding areas but also a balance to ensure sustainable socio-economic development demands.

Biosphere reserves often cover large areas which encompass national parks, nature reserves, protected areas, and in some cases Ramsar sites (Ramsar Convention on the conservation of migratory birds of international significance) as well as world heritage areas. Consequently, a biosphere reserve is subject to the influence of numerous legal international, national and local treaties and documents, which suggests that the management of biosphere reserves is in fact the coordination and maximised use of locally available legal texts, human and financial resources.

Biosphere reserves assume far more functions than regluar protected areas or nature reserves: they require an inter-sector coordination, the sharing of benefits and responsibilities in natural resources management of agriculture, forestry, fishery, science, local and national authorities and the international community.

Biosphere reserves are models that have been seeking to resolve conflicts in land use and biodiversity conservation, thus creating opportunities for education, entertainment and tourism, and international collaboration in conserving the biosphere, our common house.

Quality economy

The more international recognition is gained, the more opportunities are created for investment in conservation and development. Regions with international designations always have advantages over those without. In Vietnam, Cat Tien and Xuan Thuy are national parks, biosphere reserves and Ramsar sites, Cat Ba is a national park, a biosphere reserve and marine protected area. Cat Ba biosphere reserve was selected by UNESCO’s MAB Programme to conduct a pilot project in South East Asia. More and more, the world is “using biosphere reserves as learning laboratories for education towards sustainable development” with the participation of associations, private businesses and authorities at different levels.

Some activities toward quality-based economic development include registering products’ brand names, controlling pollution, and restricting the number of tourists, with a four sector – based model (science, management, business and local people.

Principles of sustainable management of biosphere reserves have been widely applied worldwide. Despite its fairly recent participation in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, Vietnam has adopted novel ideas, and an effective approach to build Vietnam’s biosphere reserves as models for sustainable development in the future. 

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