Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges. Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere Reserves are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO following the decisions of the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB ICC). Their status is internationally recognized. Member States can submit sites through the designation process.
In order to assist the stakeholders with the designation process, as well as periodic reviews, Technical Guidelines are being progressively created by the MAB International Co-ordinating Council.
What is the World Network of Biosphere Reserves?
The WNBR consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence. It promotes North-South, South-South and South-North-South collaboration and represents a unique tool for international cooperation through the exchange of experiences and know-how, capacity-building and the promotion of best practices among Biosphere Reserves.
Biosphere Reserves involve local communities and all interested stakeholders in planning and management. They integrate three main "functions":
- Conservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity
- Economic development that is socio-culturally and environmentally sustainable
- Logistic support, underpinning development through research, monitoring, education and training
These three functions are pursued through the Biosphere Reserves' three main zones
It comprises a strictly protected zone that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation
It surrounds or adjoins the core area(s), and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
The transition area is where communities foster socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable economic and human activities.
- The World Network of Biosphere Reserves covers all major representative natural and semi-natural ecosystems
- It spans over a surface of more than 7,442,000 km² in 134 countries. It's almost the size of Australia.
- There are about 275 million people living in Biosphere Reserves worldwide.