Twenty new sites added to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves

The International Co-ordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) has added 20 new sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, bringing their total number to 651 sites, including 15 transboundary sites, in 120 countries. Myanmar had its first biosphere reserve inscribed this year. These additions were made by the Council during a meeting taking place in Paris from 8 to 12 June.

The Man and the Biosphere Programme is an intergovernmental scientific programme set up by UNESCO in the early 1970s with the aim of improving the interaction between people and their natural environment, on a global scale. 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. The Council brings together representatives of 34 UNESCO Member States, which are elected to that office .

The Belezma biosphere reserve (Algeria) is a mosaic of habitats including forests, thickets, lawns, cliffs and rivers. It includes over 5,315 hectares of centuries’ old Atlas cedars, almost one third of the cedar forests of Algeria. Endemic to North Africa, Algeria and Morocco, the cedar is a protected species in Algeria. It is a flagship tree species of the Aurès region. The reserve also boasts historic and archaeological sites, caves and tombs. It is home to 3,500 inhabitants who work in livestock and grain farms as well as commercial and artisanal activities.

The Patagonia Azul biosphere reserve (Argentina) is located in the south of the country on the coast of Chubut province, and covers an area of 3,102,005 hectares. The site encompasses a coastal area with the greatest biodiversity on the Argentinean coastline. It also includes important breeding, feeding and migration sites of different species of birds and mammals. It hosts the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world, accounting for almost 40% of the global population. The site has a very low human population density, the only town being Camarone. Close to five percent of the town’s permanent population belong to indigenous ethnic groups, including the Mapuche and Tehuelche. Ranches or rural establishments dedicated to sheep rearing account for the main human activity on the territory, followed by the production of wool, fishing, tourism and seaweed extraction.

Hanma biosphere reserve (People’s Republic of China) is located in Inner Mongolia and is described as representing an important part of the Taiga distributed in China. It protects the diversity of both forest and wetland ecosystems, extending over a total area of 148,948 hectares. The natural vegetation is intact, owing to very limited interaction with humankind. The cold temperate coniferous forest is the best-preserved forest type in China and is of high scientific value. Forest products from this site, such as bilberry and other wild fruit, contribute to the socio-economic development of the communities in the area. Ecological tourism is an activity that could be exploited further.

The Lake Tana biosphere reserve (Ethiopia) is situated in the north-western part of Ethiopia and inlcudes Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. The site covers a total area of 695,885 hectares and is a hotspot of biodiversity. Internationally known as an Important Bird Area, it is also of global importance for agricultural genetic diversity. The main economic activities are agriculture, fishing, national and international tourism and sand mining. The area has a unique cultural, historical, geological and aesthetic value with numerous monasteries and churches dating back to the 13th century. Church forests around Lake Tana host an outstanding diversity of tree and shrub species and medicinal plants and play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. The biosphere reserve will seek to rekindle traditional communities’ appreciation of their cultures, knowledge and skills, which reflect a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with the environment.

Gorges du Gardon biosphere reserve (France) is located in the Gard département in Southern France and covers a total area of 45,501 hectares. It includes the cities of Uzès and Nîmes, as well as the Pont du Gard, a World Heritage since 1985. The site is a typical Mediterranean landscape, with scrubland, green oaks, the Gardon River and cliffs, and contains threatened and protected species such as Egyptian vultures, Bonelli’s eagle and the Woodcock orchid. This area is known for its rich cultural, architectural and historical heritage. The main human activities are agriculture, tourism (450,000 visitors per year) and services. The main agricultural activities include wine production and olive oil, as well as Tuber melanosporum (truffles), herbal plants and aromatics.

The Cacique Lempira, Señor de las Montañas biosphere reserve (Honduras) is located in the western part of the country and covers a total area of 168,634 hectares. It forms part of the ecological region of pine and oak forests as well as humid tropical forests and hosts a large number of endangered and endemic species. The high rate of endemism among the wildlife has led Conservation International to designate the eco-region an Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The total population of the biosphere reserve is over 150 000 inhabitants. The predominant economic activity is traditional agriculture (87%), mainly mais and beans, with a steady increase in coffee production. Tourism is promoted in the city of Lempira, which receives local and international tourists in growing numbers.

The Bromo Tengger Semeru-Arjuno biosphere reserve (Indonesia) is located in East Java province and has a total area of 413,374 hectares. The site consists of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park (BTSNP), and the forest protected area of Raden Soerjo. There are 1,025 species of flora, including 226 orchid species along with 260 other medicinal and ornamental plant species. Several of the site’s mammal species are included on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The area is a model of good practice in terms of sustainable development at the regional, national and international levels. The development of agriculture is envisaged in certain areas. Livestock farming of cattle, goats, sheep, horses, rabbits and chicken also contribute to the local economy. There is an active programme of research in the area on biodiversity management and carbon reduction.

The Taka Bonerate-Kepulauan Selayar biosphere reserve (Indonesia) is located at the south of Sulawesi (Celebes) and belongs to South Sulawesi Province. It covers an area of about 4,410,736 hectares. Mangrove forests serve as a barrier against the fierce ocean waves and hence as a shelter and spawning ground for various types of fish, as well as a habitat for many species of fauna such as birds. The national authorities aim to make this site the leading area in coral reef conservation and a major tourist destination in Sulawesi. The area is intended to serve as a learning laboratory for researchers, students, local government representatives, NGOs and private sector organisations.

The Tang-e-Sayad and Sabzkuh biosphere reserve (Islamic Republic of Iran) is a combination of the reserves of two regions, Tang-e- Sayad and Sabzkuh totalling 532,878 hectares. Land subsidence, geological activity and the melting ice caps have formed several wetlands in the area, home to rare fauna such as the wild cat and tiger snake. The Karun River, the biggest in Iran, supports 22 fish species, including pike and Mesopotamian catfish. During the cold season, the bushlands in the area are home to migratory birds such as the white stork and greater flamingo. The presence of several rivers and springs in the site has led to an increase in the development of agriculture and animal husbandry. Local handicrafts and folk festivals also offer the potential to develop tourism. These activiies would be managed by the local communities.

The Ledro Alps and Judicaria biosphere reserve (Italy) is located in the Trento region in northern Italy, between the Dolomite World Heritage site and Lake Garda, with a total surface area of 47,427 hectares. The site is representative of the southern slopes of the central-eastern Alps, comprising different non-polluted habitats (Alpine meadows, forest, grasslands, moorlands) as well as traditional crops. Its strategic location contributes to its rich biodiversity and the creation of a corridor running north−south across the Alps, ensuring a territorial continuity between protected areas from the Po valley to the northern Alps. It is also a highly valued by tourists who provide an important source of income to the local population. Agriculture is the main economic activity in the Reserve, chiefly viticulture, olive, fruit and vegetable, as well as animal husbandry.

The Po Delta biosphere reserve (Italy) in northern Italy covers an area of 139,398 hectares and is home to 120,000 people living in 16 municipalities. The area is a plain produced by the Po River’s action and recent human activity. It is the only delta in Italy. The site includes the confluence of river branches, coastal dune systems and sand formations, lagoons, fishing ponds, marshes, fossil dunes, canals and coastal pine forests, vast brackish wetlands and cultivated lands dominated by rice farming. These landscapes provide an exceptional heritage of biodiversity due to their range of habitats. Tourism is one of the main economic activities of the local communities, along with agriculture and fish farming. Sustainable tourism could be promoted. Environmental and cultural education aimed at the general public is an important activity of the biosphere reserve.

The Appennino Tosco-Emiliano biosphere reserve (Italy) is located in the Tuscany and Emilia Romagna regions, in northern-central Italy. It covers the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine ridge from Passo della Cisa to Passo delle Forbici. This stretch of ridge marks the geographical and climatic boundary between continental Europe and Mediterranean Europe. It includes 38 municipalities. The total surface of the site is 223,229 hectares. The reserve contains 70% of all the species present in Italy, including species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, fish, the wolf and the Golden Eagle, but also great plant biodiversity, with at least 260 aquatic and terrestrial species. The main economic activity is agriculture, of various kinds depending on the landscape. A tourism economy has recently been developed to improve the link between tourism and agriculture, with, for example, “zero kilometre menu” restaurants using local products.

The Aksu-Zhabagly biosphere reserve (Kazakhstan) is located south of Karatau in the west Tien Shan. The total area of the site is 357,734 hectares. It has 48% of the total diversity of birds in the region, and 72.5% of vertebrates. Land in the reserve is mostly used for agriculture, with a variety of crops: on the rain-fed area – cereal cultures (wheat and barley); on irrigated arable lands – forage cultures (corn, clover, alfalfa). Local people usually breed cattle, sheep (South-Kazakh Merino), goats, horses (trotters and Donskaya breed) and poultry (chicken and turkey). Aksu Zhabagly is one of the famous tourist spots for bird- watchers from all over the world and there is great potential for eco-tourism. Research activities on the ecology of the fauna are carried out within the biosphere reserve.

The Inlay Lake biosphere reserve (Myanmar) is situated in Taunggyi District, Southern Shan State and covers a total area of 489,721 hectares. The wetland ecosystem of this freshwater lake is home to 267 species of birds, out of which 82 are wetland birds, 43 species of freshwater fishes, otters and turtles. Diverse flora and fauna species are recorded and the lake is reported to be the nesting place for the globally endangered Sarus crane (Grus antigone). In addition to its ecological importance, Inlay Lake is also unique for the way the local inhabitants have adapted their lifestyle to their environment. Farmers from one of the dominant ethnic groups in the region, the Inthas, practice floating island agriculture, locally called ‘Yechan”. Inlay Lake and its watershed provides several ecosystem services on which local people depend, including clean air, clean water, a cooler climate, fish stocks and other resources.

The Gouritz Cluster biosphere reserve (South Africa) in the southern part of South Africa covers an area of 3,187,892 hectares.  The reserve is divided into four connected sectors ranging from sea level to 2,240 m. It is the only place in the world where three recognized biodiversity hotspots (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Maputoland-Tongoland-Albany) converge. There are a great many endemic plant species. The site is on the migratory route of large mammals such as the leopard and serves as a nursery for marine species. The area is critical for water resources. With over 200,000 inhabitants, the area is facing socio-economic challenges (high unemployment, wide-spread poverty, sprawling informal settlements with inadequate services, rising HIV and crime rates). One promising solution envisaged to reduce youth unemployment consists of establishing local business models in the biosphere reserve and developing jobs linked to the biodiversity economy.

The Magaliesberg biosphere reserve (South Africa) covers an area of 357,870 hectares, between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. The site lies at the interface of two great African biomes* – the Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah. Its rich biodiversity includes 443 bird species constituting 46.6% of total bird species in the Southern African sub-region. In addition, the area is exeptionally beautiful, with unique natural features, rich cultural heritage, and archaeological interest with the “Cradle of Humankind”, which is part of the World Heritage site with 4 million years of history. Over 260 000 people live in this region, adjacent to a major urban infrastructure impacting an economy that is dominated by agriculture, mining, urban development and tourism. The biosphere management plan aims to stimulate conservation and promote, among other things, tourism, farming and sustainable practices (such as solar power and water saving).

The Macizo de Anaga biosphere reserve (Spain) in the northeast of the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands covers 48,727.61 hectares. Macizo de Anaga hosts significant diversity of fauna including reptiles, birds and fish, and in particular large numbers of invertebrates, with 1,900 recorded species. From a geological point of view the massif is one of the oldest areas on the island with rocks dating back seven to nine million years. Over this long period, the area has experienced several cycles of volcanic activity, the result of which is a rich geological and geomorphological mosaic. Over 22,000 people live permanently in the biosphere reserve. Historically, agriculture, livestock farming (especially goat breeding), forestry and fishing have been the main economic activities.

The Meseta Iberica biosphere reserve (Spain/Portugal) encompasses the provinces of Salamanca and Zamora in Spain and Terra Quente and Fria in Portugal. It covers an area of 1,132,606 hectares. Altitudes in the area vary from 100 m to 2,000 m above sea level. The area contains many flagship species, some of which have been the subject of conservation projects, such as the black stork (Ciconia nigra), Egyptian vulture (Neophron pernocpterus), Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), European otter (Lutra lutra), and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus). Over 300,000 people live in this site, which also features built heritage dating back to Roman times and the Middle Ages.  

Langbiang biosphere reserve (Viet Nam), in Lam Dong Province, covers a total area of 275, 439 hectares. Biodiversity in this region is very high, including many threatened species in. The core area will create a biodiversity corridor, maintaining the integrity of 14 tropical ecosystems. It is also the habitat of many species of wildlife. Agriculture, forestry and the fishery sectors are the main sources of employment for the local communities. Flowers, coffee and tea are the most important cultivated crops here, in terms of revenue. There are a number of planned investment projects for some areas with a view to improving overall management and protection.

*A set of ecosystems characteristic of a biogeographical area and classified according to the predominant plant and animal species.


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Contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service, a.bardon(at) +33(0)1 45 68 17 64