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Abstract

Developing nations often overlook the environmental effects of industrialization. However, these nations need healthy, sustainable resources in order to become prosperous and stable countries. Additionally, developed nations depend upon the natural resources of developing nations as raw materials. Loss of natural resources in developing nations therefore has effects at both national and global levels. A key challenge across the globe is balancing the human need for development with the necessity of the sustainable use and protection of natural resources. In the process of finding this balance, developing nations are revising both their national definition of conservation as well as the global definition.

The purpose of my study is to use the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as a microcosm of the global relationship between natural resource use for development and natural resource preservation. Can Gio is also a unique space in which to analyze the evolving concepts of environment and conservation in Vietnam. The site spans gradients that are both natural and cultural: from the marine ecosystem to the terrestrial ecosystem, from urban space to rural space, and from local to global conservation efforts. The history of Can Gio has been shaped by war, by the demands of economic development, and by modern Ideas about environmental conservation. The efforts to balance development while maintaining a productive environment in Can Gio are a reflection of the worldwide efforts to conserve natural resources and foster development. I will begin with a general discussion of the recent changes in conservation management from an exclusionary protected model to one rooted in community based conservation, and follow this with a short discussion of the goals of the Biosphere Reserve Program and the conservation approach the program promotes. I will then provide an introduction to mangrove ecology, including the adaptations that allow mangroves to persist in high stress environments as well as the ecological services that mangrove forests provide to organisms and to surrounding environments. Next I will discuss the history of what is now the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere, from the time of the Vietnam-American War to the creation of the biosphere in 2000. Finally, I will review the current state of the biosphere, describing the tensions that arise in a space that is at the same time a threatened environment, the source of economic stability for hundreds of people, an attractive tourist site, and a part of a global network committed to conservation.

 

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