20 sites added to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves
Lima, 19 March—The International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO added 20 sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves during its meeting in the capital of Peru on 18 and 19 March. The newly adopted sites include 18 national site and one transboundary site shared between Spain and Portugal. The Council also approved 10 extensions to existing Biosphere Reserves. Following the withdrawal of two sites at the request of Austria, this brings the total number of biosphere reserves to 669 sites in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites.
The Man and the Biosphere Programme was created by UNESCO in the early 1970s as an intergovernmental scientific endeavour to improve relations between people around the world and their natural environment. Biosphere reserves are places for learning about sustainable development aiming to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources. New reserves are designated each year by the International Co-ordinating Council of the Programme, which brings together elected representatives of 34 UNESCO Member States.
The following site joined the network this year:
Monts de Tlemcen (Algeria)—The 98,532 ha reserve is situated in the Province of Tlemcen, an area of great biodiversity, which also has major archaeological sites, cultural landscapes and caves and covers the same area as the Tlemcen National Park.
Beaver Hills (Canada)—Located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, this morainic landscape developed its characteristic Boreal-zone features of abundant wetlands, shallow lakes and rock formations during the progressive retreat of glaciers some 12,000 years ago. Today, the reserve comprises a mixture of lands modified by agricultural activity, mixed wood forests, grasslands and wetlands. The diversity of forest and upland habitats provided optimal conditions for bison, deer, elk and moose, as well as diverse and abundant waterfowl, and an abundant beaver population. Thirty-six plants and six plant communities within the moraine are considered sensitive due to low distribution within the province. Agriculture provides a livelihood to most of the biosphere’s 12,000 permanent inhabitants
Tsá Tué (Canada)—Located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the area is the homeland of the Sahtúto’ine (The Bear Lake People). It includes Great Bear Lake, the last pristine arctic lake, and part of its watershed. The Taiga that covers much of the site is important to wildlife species including the muskox, general moose and caribou. The only human residents in the site are the traditional First Nation Dene Déline (whose name means “where the water flows”). Their community of 600 is established on the western shore of the lake, where they live off harvesting and limited tourism activity.
Lake Bosomtwe (Ghana)—Situated in the Ashanti region of Ghana, Bosomtwe comprises one of six meteoritic lakes in the world. The southernmost section of the site overlaps with the northern section of the Bosomtwe Range Forest Reserve creating a combination of forest, wetland and mountain ecosystems. The biosphere reserve sustains 35 tree species, including some used for timber. The site is also home to a great diversity of wildlife and to a human population of over 50,000 inhabitants whose main economic activities are farming, fishing and tourism as the lake is a major national tourist destination. The area is widely used for research focusing primarily on climate change, as well as environmental education for schools and universities.
La Hotte (Haiti)—Located in the south-east of the country the biosphere reserve encompasses both terrestrial and marine areas. The region is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its wide climate range: from humid to subtropical dry. The reserve covers six mountain peaks culminating at 2,347m, as well as a coastal and marine ecosystem in the north (Iles Cayemites) and south (Ile-à-Vache). It is home to more than 850,000 inhabitants, whose main economic activities are farming, agroforestry, fishing, commerce, and handcrafts.
Agasthyamala (India)—Located in the Western Ghats, in the south of the country, the biosphere reserve includes peaks reaching 1,868m above sea level. Consisting mostly of tropical forests, the site is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic. It is also a unique genetic reservoir of cultivated plants especially cardamom, jamune, nutmeg, pepper and plantain. Three wildlife sanctuaries, Shendurney, Peppara, Neyyar and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve are included in the site. A number of tribal settlements with a total population of 3,000 are located in the biosphere reserve. They largely rely on biological resources for their sustenance and recent projects have been set up successfully to reduce their dependence on the forests.
Balambangan (Indonesia)—The biosphere reserve in the province of East Java encompasses three national parks (Alas Purwo, Baluran and Meru) and one nature reserve (Kawah Ijen) with terrestrial and marine ecosystems featuring karst landscapes, savannah, and forests that are alpine/subalpine, upper, dry and lower montane (mountain), lowland, coastal and mangrove. The site also features seagrass beds, and coral reefs. Food crops and horticultural are among the main economic activities of the biosphere reserve alongside agroforestry (teak and mahogany).
Hamoun (Iran)—Located in the southeast of the country, the biosphere reserve includes terrestrial and wetland ecosystems with a total of seven habitat types, including desert and semi-desert areas, as well as Hamoun Lake, with its marshlands and watersheds. The three wetlands of the biosphere reserve are the most important in the region. The area is a hot spot for migratory birds (183 species) and home to 30 mammal species, and 55 plant species. The site is also valuable culturally due to the presence of important historical monuments and ancient temples such as Mount Kooh Khajeh and Shahr-e-Soukhteh.
Collina Po (Italy)—The biosphere reserve is located in the north Italian Piedmont Region and covers the whole Turin stretch of the River Po with its main tributaries and the Collina Torinese hillside. The river Po is the main reservoir of biodiversity in the Turin plain, partly due to the numerous wetlands along its course. Its physical and geological characteristics have led to the formation of numerous gravelly shores, oxbows and riparian woods hosting various species. These natural features are particularly valuable in a densely populated environment close to the city of Turin with its 900,000 inhabitants and other towns nearby.
Barsakelmes (Kazakhstan)—The biosphere reserve is situated in the Sahara-Gobi Desert zone of the Aral Sea basin. The Aral Sea region is a priority area for wetland conservation and several bird migration routes converge over the region. The territory of the proposed biosphere reserve is a valuable site to preserve the biodiversity of the Aral Sea. It numbers approximately 2,000 species of invertebrates, 30 mammal species, 178 bird species, and 20 reptile species. The reserve also includes four nomadic Kazakhs medieval archaeological sites that were part of the Silk Roads.
Belo-sur-Mer—Kirindy-Mitea (Madagascar)—Situated on the western coast of the island, the site includes watershed upstream and marine and coastal ecosystems downstream. It presents a mosaic of rich but fragile ecosystems such as dry forests, thickets, thorn forests, savannahs, salty swampy depressions known as “tannes”, mangroves and coral reefs. The reef is a feeding area of spectacular marine megafauna of whales (humpback), dolphins, dugongs and marine turtles. People in the area rely on these natural resources for their livelihood and income. The site’s marine biodiversity, islands and two sacred salted lakes that are home to the Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor), are valuable assets for tourism. Aquaculture, pelagic fishing and salt production complement the development potential of the biosphere reserve.
Isla Cozumel (Mexico)—Situated off the south-eastern coast of the country, Cozumel Island encompasses diverse marine and terrestrial ecosystems rich in amphibian and reptile species. The main terrestrial ecosystems are medium semi-deciduous forests and mangroves. The biosphere reserve forms part of the second largest reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef, which is home to 1,192 marine species. Nearly 80,000 people live in the biosphere reserve, mainly in the city of San Miguel. Tourism is the most developed sector on the island, which numbers close to 40 Mayan archaeological sites.
Atlas Cedar (Morocco)—Situated in the central Atlas Mountains, the biosphere reserve is home to 75% of the world’s majestic Atlas cedar tree population. This part of the Atlas Mountains is rich in ecosystems and its peaks, reaching up to 3,700 metres, provide the region with critically important water resources. Fruit plantations, modern agriculture and tourist activities, which have replaced semi-nomadic pastoral traditions, are taking their toll on scarce water resources. The rich local Berber culture is particularly strong in this area.
Gran Pajatén (Peru)—Located in the Central Cordillera, the biosphere reserve is characterized by high altitudes and a pristine ecosystem. It encompasses the National Park del Río Abiseo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The reserve is home to fauna and flora of rainforests characteristic of this part of the Andes and has a high level of endemism. It is the only place on earth where the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, previously thought extinct, is to be found. Gran Pajatén also lends its name to an archaeological site in the Andean cloud forests of Peru, which provides insight into pre-Inca society. More than 170,000 people live in the biosphere reserve whose main economic activities are agriculture (cacao, coffee), livestock and mining.
Albay (Philippines)—Located at the southern end of the Luzon Island, the biosphere covers some 250,000 hectares. The terrestrial elevation of the site culminates at 2,462 metres and its marine part reaches a depth of 223 metres below sea level. The site’s high conservation value is constituted notably by its 182 terrestrial plant species, 46 of which are endemic. Its marine and coastal ecosystems number 12 species of mangrove, 40 species of seaweed or macro-algae, and 10 species of sea grass. Five of the world’s seven species of marine turtles are to be found in Albay. Agriculture is the main source of income in this area.
Fajãs de São Jorge (Portugal)—The biosphere reserve covers the entire Island of São Jorge, the fourth largest in the Azores Archipelago. At 1,053m, the Pico da Esperança is island’s highest elevation. The site’s rugged coastal cliffs form a unique landscape of highland meadows, peat bogs and scrubs. The combination of high altitude and coastal ecosystems has resulted in a wealth of endemic terrestrial flora. It is also the habitat of diverse invertebrate, terrestrial arthropod, mollusc and bird species. Close to 9,000 people live on the Island.
Tejo/Tajo (Portugal and Spain)—The biosphere reserve is located in the western part of the Iberian Peninsula shared between Spain and Portugal with the Tajo River as its main axis. It is characterized by low altitude and sharp relief. Vegetation in the site consists largely of cork oak formations and patches of scrub, as well as cultivated areas and pastures. The fauna is typically Mediterranean and includes many rare species. Most important among them are the European imperial eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, the black stork, the black vulture and the otter. Livestock and forestry are the main sources of income for the Island’s small population.
Jozani-Chwaka Bay (Tanzania)—The biosphere reserve encompasses the only national park on the island of Zanzibar. Its landscape consists of mosaics of mangroves, tropical forests and coral rug forests as well as groundwater, salt marshes, and both agricultural and residential areas. The site is a biodiversity hotspot area including inter alia reef fish species, dolphins, the Zanzibar leopard (Panther pardus adersi), 168 species of birds including 30 of global and regional relevance. The site’s 291 known plant species include 21 considered to be threatened. Inhabitants mainly live from activities relating to tourism, fishing, bee keeping, butterfly rearing and crab fattening
Isle of Man (United Kingdom)—Located in the Irish Sea, the Island is home to more than 80,000 people. Its coastline features cliffs, stacks, islets, and long beaches. The hills hold important peat reserves and are deeply cut by wooded glens in the east. The coastal plain in the north is covered by grasslands, pools and wetlands. The site’s marine environment is rich in biodiversity and harbours important populations of European eel, Atlantic cod and basking sharks, among others. In the countryside, farming activities centre on sheep and cattle livestock, as well as arable areas. The sea is harvested for shellfish. The Island has been a popular tourist destination since the late 19th century and has experienced a notable development in its services and manufacturing sectors over recent decades.
Extensions to existing biosphere reserves:
Trifinio Fraternidad (Honduras)—The extension concerns the Honduran part of the Tri-national Trifinio Fraternidad Biosphere Reserve between El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. It contains an important water catchment shared by the three countries and covers a surface area of 278,762ha including six national protected areas.
Toscana (Italy)—Designated in 2004 as the Selve Pisana Biosphere Reserve, the site is situated along the Mediterranean coast of Italy, west of Pisa. The addition of more than 43,000ha, comprises two plain zones, a hilly area and lands in Monte Pisani. The extension should pave the way for the implementation of sustainable activities in agriculture, sylviculture and tourism.
Mount Hakusan (Japan)—The extension represents a four-fold increase of the site, which was designated as a biosphere reserve in 1980 and comprises alpine, subalpine, and montane zones around the 2,700 metre-high Mount Hakusan. The extended reserve now includes the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama World Heritage site. Seventeen-thousand people live in the biosphere reserve.
Yakushima and Kuchinoerabu Jima (Japan)—Designated in 1980 under the name of Yakushima, the biosphere reserve, 60km south of the Island of Kyushu, is known for its Yaku cedar primeval forest. It encompasses the area inscribed on the World Heritage List, also under the name of Yakushima, and now covers the entire island, as well as the island of Kuchinoerabu and the marine area surrounding both.
Mount Odaigahara, Mount Omine and Osugidani Biosphere Reserve (Japan)—Designated as Mount Odaigahara and Mount Omine Biosphere Reserve in 1980, the site in the Kii Peninsula of Honshu Island is a mountainous area in which forestry is more developed than agriculture. The extension increases the surface area of the site to 120,000 ha, compared to its initial 36,000ha.
Noroeste Amotapes – Manglares (Peru)—The biosphere reserve, off the northern coast of Peru was designated in 1977 under the name of Noroeste Bisophere Reserve. It now includes the Cerros de Amotape National Park, Coto El Angolo and Tumbes Mangroves Protected Area. The extension covers a surface area of 1,115,947ha.
Masurian Lakes (Poland)—Designated in 1976 as Lake Luknajno Biosphere Reserve, the surface area of the site, in the northeast of Poland, is now increased by more than 57,000ha, including Poland’s largest lake, Lake Sniardway, and one of the largest forest complexes in the country, consisting of both marshy pine coniferous forest and Boreal spruce forest.
Mont Sorak (Republic of Korea)—Designated in 1982, the reserve is located in the centre of the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range, which includes the highest peak in the country. With its extension, the biosphere reserve covers an area of 76,000ha and now encompasses inhabited areas, forests, and agricultural lands around Mount Sorak National Park.
Shinan Dadohae (Republic of Korea)—One thousand islands have been added to the archipelago biosphere reserve, situated in the south west of the country, which was designated in 2009. The extension comprises tidal flats and other natural protected areas.
Wester Ross (United Kingdom)—Formerly known as Beinn Eighe, the site, situated in the northwest of Scotland, was designated in 1976. With the addition of 530,000ha, the site now includes Loch Maree, which is of international importance due to its black-throated diver population.