Integrated Management, Sustainable Tourism and Promotion of Biosphere Reserves

13 - Climate Action

The next edition of the Biosphere Reserve Summer University will be held in central Bulgaria on 21-28 July 2019 and is organized by UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and other partners. Through training sessions, the programme seeks to stimulate discussions and create opportunities for individuals working in biosphere reserves. Participants come from varying backgrounds, including postgraduate students, young scientists and practitioners from biosphere reserves of Europe and the Mediterranean area.

This year’s Summer University will take place in a biosphere reserve and national park nestled in the central and higher portions of the Balkan Mountains. The Central Balkan National Park is the third largest protected territory in Bulgaria. The area, which comprises 5 municipalities and 7 nature reserves, covering over 580 km of tourist trails, is an ideal location for the study of natural centres protecting biodiversity and wildlife in Europe.

Fifth in a series, previous editions were held in Greece - respectively in Amfissa (2014), Samothraki (2016) and the Peloponnese (2018) – and Italy, Sardinia (2017). The choice this year fell on the Central Balkan region, remarkable for its extraordinary natural and cultural heritage.

The Central Balkan biosphere reserve includes mountain massif of exceptional natural beauty and impressive landscapes. There are ancient forests, charming mountain top pastures, rocky peaks, deep gorges and high waterfalls. The territory possesses specific natural beauty and has superlative aesthetic value during all 4 seasons.

The biosphere reserve is also unique because of the genetic exchange and the high diversity of plants and animals. Outstanding patches of ancient beech forests reach 240 years old. The impressive plant species diversity and the high level of endemism are among its unique characteristics.

Naturally, beautiful landscapes such as these are key to offering opportunities for sustainable tourism in the area and have enormous potential for promotion. For this reason, the 2019 Summer University will focus on “Integrated Management, Sustainable Tourism and Promotion of Biosphere Reserves”.  The summer university will engage participants in collaborative and active learning processes to further advance biosphere reserves around the world, opening up potential future collaborations and positive connections among participating countries.

“Our objective in supporting this intensive, multidisciplinary and hands-on experience is primarily that of developing knowledge and competences on the multiple values of biosphere reserves as laboratories and catalysts for sustainable development.”, emphasizes Jonathan Baker, head of Science unit at our UNESCO Regional Bureau.

“The training will deepen the understanding of and offer insights on integrated management approaches and sustainable tourism strategies for biosphere reserves, through a plethora of management examples. This year, as for many of the others, should bring about fruitful ideas and networking”, he adds.

The programme will include sessions on theory, discussions and interactive courses as well as group work, field visits and meetings in significant 'hotspots' in the area, from organic farms to guesthouses, including open-air museums and eco-paths. Professors from the University of Athens, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Sofia University, as well as experts from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Bulgaria will conduct lectures and group work.

Combining the findings with input from lectures and visits, participants will investigate: large-scale joint communication projects promoting the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme -both locally and internationally; connecting and involving young people into the MAB network; enhancing local products and tourist services for the sustainable development of the territory; and, Education for Sustainable Development projects within biosphere reserves.

The Summer University is co-organized and supported by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, the Central Balkan Biosphere Reserve, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, the Ministry of Environment and Water of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian National MAB Committee, the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development through its education initiative MEdIES, and the UNESCO Chair and Network on Sustainable Development Management and Education in the Mediterranean of the University of Athens.