Thirteen new sites have been added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which now numbers 631 sites in 119 countries, including 14 transboundary sites. The new biosphere reserves were designated by the International Coordinating Council of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, at its 26th session in Jönkoping (Sweden) and in the East Vättern Landscape biosphere reserve, from 10 to 13 June.
With the new inscriptions, Albania and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia join the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Meanwhile Austria and the United Kingdom decided to withdraw sites from the Network. The withdrawn sites are Gossenköllesee and Gurgler Kamm both in Austria (designated in 1977); North Northfolk in the UK (designated in 1976).
The Man and the Biosphere Programme, which was created by UNESCO in the early 1970s, is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to improve the relationships between people and their natural environment on a global scale. Biosphere reserves are conceived as experimental sites reconciling biodiversity conservation with the sustainable use of resources. New reserves are designated every year by the International Coordinating Committee of the programme, which brings together representatives of 34 Member States of UNESCO.
The new biosphere reserves are:
Valdes Biosphere Reserve (Argentina). The site encompasses the Patagonian Steppe, Hill Plains and Plateaus, and Argentine Sea eco-regions, as well as the Peninsula Valdés Natural Protected Area World Heritage site and the San Jose and Playa Fracaso Ramsar sites. The biosphere reserve is home to significant biodiversity including highly fragile terrestrial and marine ecosystems, whose conservation is crucial to vulnerable species, including, for example, the southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) that reproduces in Golfo Nuevo and San José. The 214,196 inhabitants in the region are engaged mainly in livestock farming, tourism, fisheries, and industry (aluminium, porphyry). Other economic activities include port activity and wind power generation.
Mount Chilbo (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). This 340 hectares site in the north-east of the country is a major storehouse of biodiversity. It hosts 16 plant species endemic to DPRK, 30 endangered plant and animal species, 132 species of medicinal herbs and several species of wild vegetables and fruits. Agriculture, fishery and tourism are the main economic activities practised in the reserve. The site offers many tourist attractions and has developed facilities to welcome a large number of visitors each year.
Bosque Seco (Ecuador). This biosphere reserve in the south-west of Ecuador extends over 500,000 hectares, including scrub and the most extensive and best preserved dry forest in the country. It is also home to one of the highest concentrations of endemic birds in South America and a significant population of flagship endemic species such as the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata). The main economic activities at the site, which is inhabited by more than 100,000 people, are livestock and agriculture (coffee, fruit and corn).
Mont-Viso / Area della Biosfera del Monviso transboundary biosphere reserve (France/Italy). Designated as national biosphere reserves in 2013, the French and Italian parts of this site are subject to both Alpine and Mediterranean influences. They now form a transboundary biosphere reserve straddling France and Italy. Particular characteristics of the region include the presence of several high altitude lakes, landscapes shaped by pastoralism and great ecological and biological diversity. The site includes forests, rock formations and water environments. Tourism is the main driver of the region’s economy, along with agriculture, forestry and crafts.
Sila (Italy). This biosphere reserve in Southern Italy extends over an area of 357,294 hectares. The site is host to approximately 1,000 vascular plant species and over 210 vertebrate species. The site’s plant diversity has earned it global recognition. The 230,000 permanent residents live mostly from agriculture, although eco-tourism has been playing an increasing role in the local economy in recent years, attracting over 500,000 visitors a year.
Minami-Alps (Japan). Extending over an area of 302,474 hectares, this biosphere reserve consists of a mountainous region flanked on two sides by the south-flowing Fuji and Tenryu rivers. It includes the Koma, Akaishi and Ina mountains. The flora of the Minami Alps is characterized by plant species that migrated south along the Japanese archipelago in the Ice Age, when it was still joined by land to the continent. Plant species recorded at over 800 metres above sea level in the site include 248 varieties of moss and 98 species of lichen. The areas around the foothills of the Minami Alps have long remained isolated from one another, but one of the aims of the biosphere reserve is to strengthen interactions between these regions and to foster sustainable development.
Tadami (Japan). Covering an area of 78,000 hectares, the Tadami biosphere reserve is located at the eastern edge of the Echigo mountains, the western edge of Fukushima Prefecture, and the southern part of the Tohoku region in Honshu. It consists of low relief, middle relief and high mountains (over 600 metres) as well as a gravel plateau and the floodplains of the Tadami and Ina river basins. Some 32 species of mammal have been recorded, as well as 145 bird species and 10 species of reptile. In 2007, the town of Tadami announced an initiative entitled ‘The Capital of Mother Nature’ aimed at reminding local residents of the value of their natural environment.
Ak-Zhayik (Kazakhstan). This site covers an area of 396,346 hectares and is located in the Atyrau oblast, where it mainly occupies wetlands of the Ural River delta and adjacent territories along the coast of the Caspian Sea. These lie along one of the largest migration routes, stretching from Eurasia to Eastern Africa. It is a concentration site for more than 240 species of migrating birds, including 110 species of waterbirds. The region is a nesting ground for about 70 waterbird species. The site also hosts a rare bird, the Dalmatian pelican (Pelicanus crispus) with more than 600 nesting pairs in the colony (12% of the global population). The 17,000 permanent residents rely mainly on fishing, cattle breeding and hunting.
Katon-Karagay (Kazakhstan). This biosphere reserve in eastern Kazakhstan extends over an area of 1,631,940 hectares. The northern section includes part of the Katunskiy Ridge, with altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 4,500 metres, while the southern section stretches from 850 to 3,487 metres (Southern Altai Ridge). The abundant meadow grasses and flowers on this site include over a thousand vascular plants – both ferns and seed plants – as well as mosses, lichens and fungi. The local population mainly rears cattle, sheep, deer and Siberian stags. They also cultivate cereal crops (barley and oats) as fodder for the cattle during the winter months.
Crocker Range (Malaysia). This site covers an area of over 350,584 hectares and is located south of Mount Kinabalu – a World Heritage site – in the State of Sabah, at the northern end of the island of Borneo. About 100 mammal species, 259 bird species, 47 reptiles, 63 amphibians and 42 freshwater fish species have been recorded. The park also hosts some endangered species such as the orang-utan, the sun bear and clouded leopard. The community and local authorities were extensively involved in the nomination of this biosphere reserve.
Ohrid-Prespa Transboundary Reserve (Republic of Albania / The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). The landscape of the transboundary biosphere reserve is a balanced combination of water bodies, and surrounding mountains bordered by flat areas on its external boundaries. With an area of 446,244 hectares and a population of about 455,000, it includes part of Lake Ohrid and its surroundings in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which are inscribed on the World Heritage List, as well as part of Lake Orhid in Albania.
Brighton and Lewes Downs (United Kingdom). Situated on the south-eastern coast of Britain, this biosphere reserve—the first full-fledged UK nomination since 1977 (i.e. not counting extensions)—covers an area of 38,921 hectares. It includes the town of Brighton and part of the South Downs National Park and is home to 371,500 permanent residents. The region’s main terrestrial landscape is chalkdown, with a coast dominated by impressive chalk cliffs in the east and an urbanized plain in the west. The site supports more than 200 species on international conservation lists and over a thousand locally rare species. Because of the diversity of the region’s rare wildlife habitats, its rich heritage and proximity to London, tourism is particularly well developed, with up to 12 million visitors a year. Other economic activities include agriculture and commercial sea fishing.
Bioma Pampa-Quebradas del Norte (Uruguay). Covering an area of 110,882 hectares, the biosphere reserve comprises a mosaic of different ecosystems, including primary forest with subtropical jungle. The pampa ecosystem includes temperate grasslands and is an important nesting area for many bird species. At present, however, only 0.7% of the grasslands are protected and the ecosystem faces significant threats to its conservation. Rare species of amphibians and reptiles in the area include the Uruguayan frog (Hyla uruguaya), the Toad of Devincenzi (Melanophryniscus devincenzii) and the South American rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus terrificus). The site is inhabited by a small number of smallholder farming families. Indeed, the development of the biosphere reserve is linked to promotion of the traditions of gauchos, the herders of the pampa.
Extensions of existing biosphere reserves:
Laguna Oca del Río Paraguay Biosphere Reserve (Argentina). With this extension the biosphere reserve increases in size from 12,000 to 61,763 hectares. The new area will integrate the city of Formosa, the Laguna de Herradura and the Riacho Salado, up to Mision Laishi, through a biodiversity and cultural corridor named ‘The Way of Water’, which will pass through the Paraguay River and its tributaries.
Rhön Biosphere Reserve (Germany). The Rhön biosphere reserve is part of the German central upland range and includes a mountainous region formed as a result of volcanic activity in the Tertiary era. With the extension of 58,113 hectares, the biosphere reserve will comprise a total surface of 243,323 hectares. In 2010, the biosphere reserve had over 135,000 permanent residents, the majority living in rural settlements. As a result of the extension, the population is now over 225,000.
Shiga Highland Biosphere Reserve (Japan). Located in central Honshu island, 20 km north-east of Nagano, the biosphere reserve was designated in 1980. It is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. With this extension of over 17,000 hectares, this site will now cover an area of more than 30,000 hectares, with over 21,000 permanent residents.
Montseny Biosphere Reserve (Spain). Designated in 1978, the biosphere reserve is located in the Catalan pre-coastal sierra, presenting a mosaic of Mediterranean and central European landscapes with a significantly abundant biodiversity. Passing from 30,000 to over 50,000 hectares, the reserve now numbers 51,310 residents, compared to 1,250 before the extension.
Mancha Húmeda Biosphere reserve (Spain). Designated in 1980, the site encompasses a gently rolling plain located at altitudes between 600 metres and 700 metres, full of Tertiary deposits and scattered with a great number of wetlands arising from the seasonal flooding of rivers and from the numerous upwellings of the Manchego aquifer in the depressions. The extension enlarges the reserve from 25,000 to 418,000 hectares.
Contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service, + 33 (0)1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon(at)unesco.org