What are Biosphere Reserves?

UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme is an intergovernmental scientific programme striving for the improvement of the relationship between people and their environment. The Biosphere Reserve concept started by a Task Force of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program in 1974 while the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) was launched in 1976. Biosphere Reserves (BR) are terrestrial and/or marine areas that encompass valuable ecosystems and social communities that wish to combine the conservation of ecosystems with their sustainable use. They are established to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere.

Biosphere Reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located, but become internationally recognized by UNESCO. This recognition is governed by two important documents: the Statutory Framework of Biosphere Reserves and the Seville Strategy of Biosphere Reserves (UNESCO 1996). Biosphere Rerserves form a World Network under the protection of UNESCO. Within this network, exchange of information, experience and personnel are facilitated. At present, 669 Biosphere Reserve exist in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites. UNESCO likes to view Biosphere Reserve as a vast natural global laboratory, where nature conservation is combined with environmental monitoring, training, demonstration, local participation, and sustainable development.

Every Biosphere Reserve follows a zoning scheme according to local land use and protection status. Three zones are distinguished: a core area which strictly conserves minimally disturbed ecosystems, a buffer zone which surrounds the core and finally a transition zone which allows socio-economic utilization of ecosystems like tourism or agriculture, as long as they follow sustainable pathways.

For further information visit: UNSECO Man and Biosphere Programme