Applying the SLIQ approach for the integrated management of Nature and Culture in Cù Lao Chàm-Hôi An Biosphere Reserve, Vietnam

Dang Ke Duc
Published: 05 October 2020
Last edited: 16 October 2020
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Cù Lao Chàm-Hôi An (CBR) was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2009, with the Marine Protected Area of Cù Lao Chàm archipelago as the core zone and Hôi An Ancient Town, inscribed as World Heritage under criteria (ii) and (v) in 1999, as the transition zone. Riverside, natural wetlands, mangrove forest in estuary and the beaches of Hôi An city form the buffer zone connecting both areas. The archipelago is valued for its marine species with the islands containing mountainous areas and rainforest ecosystems. Hôi An, an ancient trading port, bears witness to the fusion of Vietnamese and European cultures. In order to develop an integrated management, MAB (Man and the Biosphere) Vietnam has designed the “Systemic thinking - Land/seascape planning - Intersectoral coordination with Involvement of Stakeholders - Quality economy Model” (SLIQ model) allowing policy makers, managers, local people and researchers to collaborate and address complex problems in a systemic way.


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Buildings and facilities
Coastal forest
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Coral reef
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Tropical evergreen forest
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Coastal and marine spatial management
Ecosystem services
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Sustainable livelihoods
World Heritage
Increasing temperatures
Ocean warming and acidification
Sea level rise
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Changes in socio-cultural context
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas


Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam


The Biosphere Reserve includes protected areas as well as urban areas, which are interdependent. To align the objectives for the protection of cultural and natural heritage, considering sustainable development and benefits for the local population is the main challenge. The marine ecosystem of the Cù Lao Cham archipelago is very sensitive to climate change. Sediments and pollution from the mainland following the Thu Bon river basin are attacking coral reefs and sea-grass beds in the vicinity of the islands. Islands and estuary are facing hazards impacts from socio-economic activities along river basins and beaches along the coast. Typhoons and related flooding are directly impacting Hôi An ancient town. Fishing boats, tourist speed boats and ship movement jeopardize marine habitats and aquatic ecosystems in the Marine Protected Area. Infrastructure developments along the rivers, on sand dunes and on the beaches is modifying the morphology having impacts on habitats and lifecycles.


All stakeholders, governing bodies, and local communities

How do the building blocks interact?

To address the interdependency of natural and cultural systems is a requirement for designing and managing a biosphere reserve (BB2). In the case of CBR, the World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage designations enabled a strong partnership between national and local cultural  heritage and nature conservation agencies. By using the multi-designation scheme, the CBR management board coordinates with different levels and different legal instruments to conserve the CBR as a whole (BB1). The SLIQ model is applied in the design and management of the CBR considering zoning (BB3), the governance system and intersectoral management (BB4), and including concerns towards the benefits that local communities need to receive from these international designations, generating sustainable livelihoods (BB5).


Addressing the systemic values of the CBR is challenging, because even if CBR owns very rich natural and cultural resources, their linkages are almost invisible to common eyes. Using the SLIQ approach not only shows the values of nature and human cultures but also clarifies their outstanding interlinkages. Some impacts of the application of the SLIQ model in CBR are:

  1. Increased awareness of stakeholders (including government, scientists, the private sector and local communities) and change on their behavior, now focusing on protecting the linkages between natural and cultural resources. 
  2. SLIQ supports the effective coordination of CBR activities, balancing between development and conservation.
  3. Use of SLIQ approach to lead all investments in CBR towards a sustainable development.
  4. Projects based on SLIQ model application such as the "Establishment the Fishery Refugia pilot model in two different habitats (coral reef and mangrove forest) in Cù Lao Chàm-Hôi An Biosphere Reserve" and the “Community-based conservation and sustainable harvesting of land crab of Cù Lao Chàm, Quang Nam”


Thao Le Ngoc

Land crabs, Gecarcoidea lalandii, native to forest and tidal areas, are considered a tropic factor sustaining the food chain and food web in the marine-mountain ecosystem in the Cham Islands, core zone of the CBR. Land crab population is used as indicator of forest and marine ecosystems health and linkages.

Since 2009, the number of tourists increased quickly thereby increasing the land crab demand. Land crab has been under great pressure on population decline, the size of crab caught getting smaller. The city of Hoi An quickly issued a ban on exploitation and consumption activities of land crabs on Cham Islands from 2009. Since then, I think about applying the SLIQ model in all decision-making. It helped me understand that CBR's resources must be preserved, but they must also be properly exploited for local livelihoods. 

From that thought, a set of criteria for land crab exploitation has been applied including: Catch, sale, and use time restrictions; land crab catch quota; land crab catch size restrictions; ban to catch female crabs carrying eggs; fixed price; and eco-labeling. The results of this model are based on the SLIQ model as follows:

  • System thinking: The exploitation of land crab is not only merely for sale but also it relates to many issues such as ecology, environment, market, community and stakeholders, law enforcement, international conventions and others. 
  • Landscape planning: The exploitation and consumption of land crab in the islands are controlled by the local coalition enforcement team following the criteria. This process controls impacts on the environment and supports landscape planning and the sustainable development strategy of Hoi An Ancient Town.
  • Intersectoral coordination: This model can only operate with the participation of all the four forces Government – Scientists – Private sector – and Local community. Each force will have its own role, tasks and benefits but all towards the common goal of balancing between conservation and sustainable exploitation of the land crab in CBR. 
  • Quality Economy: Before the model was applied, rock crabs were exploited in any size, any time. Crab populations in the wild are in danger of extinction but people's income is still low due to price (2 USD per 1 kilogram). The price was raised up to 20 USD when starting the model and reached currently 40 USD. This model has shown that livelihood development based on resource conservation increases the value of the product. (Thao Le Ngoc, Head of Secretariat)

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Thao Le Ngoc World Biosphere Reserve

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ICCROM-IUCN World Heritage Leadership