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Biosphere Reserves



Designation and Review Process

Designation Process

Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized. 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).

UNESCO’s General Conference approved the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves and the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1995; the latter functions as the “soft legal framework” for the development and formal recognition of Biosphere Reserves. Sites can be proposed by all 195 Member States and nine Associate Members of UNESCO.

Article 5 of the 1995 Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, states the designation procedure for biosphere reserves. It reads as follows:

Article 5- Designation procedure

1. Biosphere reserves are designated for inclusion in the Network by the International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the MAB programme in accordance with the following procedure:

a) States, through National MAB Committees where appropriate, forward nominations with supporting documentation to the secretariat after having reviewed potential sites, taking into account the criteria as defined in Article 4;

b) the secretariat verifies the content and supporting documentation: in the case of incomplete nomination, the secretariat requests the missing information from the nominating State;

c) nominations will be considered by the Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves for recommendation to ICC;

d) ICC of the MAB programme takes a decision on nominations for designation.

The Director-General of UNESCO notifies the State concerned of the decision of ICC .

2. States are encouraged to examine and improve the adequacy of any existing biosphere reserve, and to propose extension as appropriate, to enable it to function fully within the Network. Proposals for extension follow the same procedure as described above for new designations.

3. Biosphere reserves which have been designated before the adoption of the present Statutory Framework are considered to be already part of the Network. The provisions of the Statutory Framework therefore apply to them.

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Periodic Review Process

The periodic review is an important event in the life of a biosphere reserve. It enables a review, every ten years, of the functioning, zoning, scale of the biosphere reserve as well as the involvement of the populations living in the site. The periodic review represents an opportunity to carry out a qualitative survey of the actions implemented, their results. It’s a time to take stock of progress made by the biosphere reserve, especially as concerns the updating of knowledge, skills and expertise in resource and ecosystem management. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the updating of the zonation system and assess its relevance, question the objectives and means of management policies and examine the issues and problems tied to implementation. It is also a time to discuss weak points. Its objective is to improve the quality of the biosphere reserves and their functioning as sites for testing and demonstrating approaches to sustainable development.

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Withdrawal of Biosphere Reserves

Should a State wish to remove a Biosphere Reserve under its jurisdiction from the network, it notifies the International MAB Secretariat. This notification shall be transmitted to the MAB-ICC. The area will then no longer be referred to as a Biosphere Reserve within the World Network. Some countries have withdrawn Biosphere Reserves which were designated in the 1970s and 1980s as it was not possible for these sites to comply with the new requirements of the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves which, for example, stipulates the occurrence of resident communities in the Biosphere Reserve’s transition area. As a number of Biosphere Reserves (especially those that were designated in the earlier days of the MAB Programme) cannot, for various reasons, comply with the criteria of the Seville Strategy, the MAB Council at its 26th session (Sweden, 2014) adopted a so-called “exit strategy”. According to this exit strategy, the MAB Council can decide to withdraw sites from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves if such sites do not, or no longer, function as a Biosphere Reserve.

45 sites withdrawn from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by 9 countries

Last update: July 2018

Country Year of designation Year of withdrawal
Southwest 1977 2002
Macquarie Island 1977 2011
Prince Regent 1977 2018
Yathong 1977 2018
Hattah-Kulkyne & Murray-Kulkyne 1981 2018
Wilson's Promontory 1981 2018
Barkindji 2005 2018
Uluru Ayers Rock-Mount Olga 1977 2020
Croajingalong 1977 2020
Riverland (formerly Bookmark) 1977 2020
Kosciuszko 1977 2020
Unnamed (Mamungari) 1977 2020
Gossenköllersee 1977 2014
Gurgler Kamm 1977 2014
Unter Lobau 1977 2016
Neusiedler See 1977 2016
Maritchini Ezera 1977 2002
Doupkata 1977 2017
Kamtchia 1977 2017
Koupena 1977 2017
Ali Botouch 1977 2020
Doupki-Djindjiritza 1977 2020
Mantaritza 1977 2020
Parangalitsa 1977 2020
Democratic Republic of Congo    
Lufira 1982 2020
Bayerischer Wald 1981 2007
Islas del Golfo de California 1995 2020
the Netherlands    
Waddensea Area 1986 2018
Northeast Svalbard 1976 1997
Lake Torne Area 1986 2010
United Kingdom    
Caerlaverock 1976 2002
Isle of Rhum 1976 2002
St. Kilda 1976 2002
Claish Moss 1977 2002
Taynish 1977 2010
Moor House Upper Teesdale 1976 2012
Loch Druidibeg 1976 2013
North Norfolk Coast 1976 2014
United States of America    
Aleutian Islands 1976 2017
Beaver Creek 1976 2017
California Coast Ranges 1983 2017
Carolinian South Atlantic 1986 2017
Central Plains 1976 2017
Coram 1976 2017
Desert 1976 2017
Fraser 1976 2017
H.J. Andrews 1976 2017
Hubbard Brook 1976 2017
Konza Prairie 1978 2017
Land Between the Lakes 1991 2017
Niwot Ridge 1979 2017
Noatak 1976 2017
Stanislas-Tuolumne 1976 2017
Three Sisters 1976 2017
Virgin Islands 1976 2017
San Dimas 1976 2018