Biosphere Reserves as Observatories for Climate Change Adaptation in Southern Africa

Project name :

Biosphere Reserves as Observatories for Climate Change Adaptation in Southern Africa

Budget :

500K$ - 1M$

Project duration :



Climate change impacts are being observed across the Southern African region, with water-related hazards causing massive flooding, landslides and severe droughts, significantly affecting natural resources and posing a direct threat to human security. While climate change is driven by global processes, the solutions to offset the negative effects of climate risks are particularly dependent on local conditions. In this respect, UNESCO biosphere reserves have the potential to become global observatories for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The BE-RESILIENT project aims to strengthen biosphere reserves and their communities to address climate change challenges and associated water-related hazards. The project will engage a set of established and proposed biosphere reserves in the region to pilot effective pathways towards climate change adaptation, using a multidisciplinary approach around four main components.

Project Objective

The project objective is to strengthen the role of biosphere reserves in Southern Africa as observatories for climate change adaptation and to act as drivers of change and demonstration learning sites for sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. The project is funded through the Flanders UNESCO Science Trust Fund (FUST), which is supported by the Government of Flanders, Belgium.

Lines of Action

Climate Change Impact Assessment

A climate change impact assessment will be developed in a two-tiered approach. In the first step, a global analysis will be performed on the impacts of climate change on the Southern African region, with a focus on the identification of vulnerable biosphere reserves.  In the second step, the selected biosphere reserves will be used to run a full Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA). A second activity will focus on identifying one or more climate change indicators for each biosphere reserve in the region. This will allow to effectively use the biosphere reserves as global change observatories, while recognizing the variability of their environmental functions. This will combine biodiversity monitoring and identification of species present in the BRs as well as the information obtained from remote sensing by satellites and the environmental parameters measured.


Tool development for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

This component of the project focuses on the development and application of innovative climate services, through applied research and technology transfer, and adjustments from recent, successfully developed services in other parts of the world. The first one addresses the link between drought risk and food security, providing pathways for local farmer communities to benefit from the foresight of climate science and remote sensing products to reduce their vulnerability to water scarcity and unexpected crop failure. The second line of work addresses the lack of a fully operational flood monitoring and early warning system (MEWS) that can provide crucial information on potential risks in the short term. The third line of work focuses on the threat of landslides that have generated significant damage and loss of life in Biosphere Reserves.


Education for Sustainable Development and Citizen Science

To ensure that the lessons learnt from the Biosphere Reserves find their ways into the classroom for further dissemination, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) will be further strengthened. The project will also focus on an active engagement of communities in the biosphere reserves to bring the Citizen Science concept into maturity. The approach taken by the project is to build further on the educational component of the project, to engage school communities as drivers of Citizen Science. By engaging local communities through their school environment, more localized information can be collected that benefits the accuracy of forecasts for disaster risk reduction. This will allow to pilot the blending of Citizen Science information with regular meteorological station networks and remote sensing data into calibrated, bias-corrected input fields for drought and flood monitoring and early warning applications.


A strengthened Man and Biosphere Programme

The project activities are expected to strengthen the role of biosphere reserves in Southern Africa, using potential biosphere reserves sites to provide pathways for expansion of the project impact as well as upscaling of the project in later phases. The project will organize dedicated activities to allow the exchange of experiences and lessons learnt between stakeholders in the potential transboundary biosphere reserves in order to facilitate their creation.

Contact Person

Koen Verbist
Programme Specialist