UNESCO adds 15 new sites to world network of biosphere reservesParis – Fifteen new sites in 10 countries have been added to UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves, including the first members of the network in Slovenia and Yemen. Three extensions to existing biosphere reserves have also been approved, reflecting on-going efforts to improve existing sites, illustrating the vitality of the network. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now consists of 440 sites in 97 countries.
The new biosphere reserves and extensions were approved by the Bureau of the International Co-ordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme at its meeting on July 8-11 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Biosphere Reserves are pilot sites, which perform three complementary functions: biodiversity conservation; development (integrating local communities) and logistic support (combining research, education, training and monitoring). The following sites have been designated or extended:
Wudalianchi Biosphere Reserve (China) located in the extreme north-eastern part of the country, is marked by relatively recent volcanism. Its conservation value derives from a great amount of surviving vegetation of the tertiary period. Due to a mix of older and more recently erupted volcanic areas, the site is an ideal place in which to study the succession of pioneer plants on barren land.
Yading Biosphere Reserve (China) is part of the eastern extension of the Tibetan plateau ranging from 2,200m to 6,032m and comprises three sacred mountains. The area is not only noted for its high biological diversity, but also for its associated cultural values.
Extension to Palava Biosphere Reserve, renamed the Lower Morava Biosphere Reserve, (Czech Republic). The original Palava site is now complemented by the corresponding lowland floodplain forests of the Rivers Dyje and Morava, the second largest area of its kind in Europe. The extension is the result of a major consultation process amongst all parties concerned. It is envisaged at a later date to create a transboundary biosphere reserve, straddling the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.
The Tuscan Islands Biosphere Reserve (Italy) is the first archipelago to be nominated as a biosphere reserve in Italy. The islands, located in the Thyrrhenian Sea, exhibit a wide variety of habitats and degrees of human impact, ranging from the important tourist destination of Elba, to the near pristine island of Montecristo.
Mount Elgon Biosphere Reserve (Kenya) is providing a framework for coordinating the conservation of Mount Elgon National Park - known for its endemic flora and fauna and for its role as a vital “water tower” - with forestry activities and especially intensive cultivation of
the rich volcanic soils in the foothills. Cooperation is already underway with neighbouring Uganda to create a future biosphere reserve that crosses their shared border, covering the entire Mount Elgon ecosystem.
Littoral de Toliara Biosphere Reserve (Madagascar). Located on the southwest coast, with a mix of mainland forest, mangroves and coral reefs and with some 235,000 inhabitants, this is a demonstration site of integrated coastal conservation and development in Madagascar.
Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve (Mexico) is located in the south-western tip of the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This mosaic of open water, seagrass beds, mangroves, sand beaches and coral reefs is considered one of the outstanding marine sites in the region. The major economic activities are tourism and fishing, both of which are incorporated into the integrated and participatory management programme.
Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve (Mexico) is close to the southern tip of Baja California Peninsula, which separates the Gulf of California from the Pacific Ocean. This area represents important and unique habitats, including a rare type of deciduous forest. The vegetation also ensures the water supply of the adjacent settlements.
Rio San Juan Biosphere Reserve (Nicaragua) covers a broad area in the southeast of Nicaragua. This new site represents an impressive patchwork of ecosystems, including vast tropical forests, coastal and river ecosystems, major wetlands, and part of Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater body in Central America. Equally important, the area is characterized by its outstanding ethnic and cultural diversity.
Far East Marine Biosphere Reserve (Russian Federation). This site consists of 11 islands, the surrounding sea and the corresponding coastal area along the Pacific Ocean, just south of Vladivostock. The marine biodiversity is very rich due to the meeting of boreal-arctic and subtropical currents. A major focus is changing from unsustainable, industrial use of natural resources to more ecologically friendly economies, such as nature tourism and aquaculture, to the benefit of local communities.
Julian Alps Biosphere Reserve (Slovenia). This first biosphere reserve in Slovenia contains the Triglav National Park as a core area, managed in a cooperative agreement with the three neighbouring municipalities, focusing on developing high quality nature tourism, based on local products.
Extension of Western Cape Biosphere Reserve (South Africa). New core areas consisting of Dassen and Vondeling Islands and their surrounding sea area have been added, thus improving the coastal–marine representativeness of this biosphere reserve.
Monfragüe Biosphere Reserve (Spain). An area in the Extremadura region characterised by the traditional dehesas agro-pastoral system, with a remarkable interplay of biological and cultural diversity.
Valles del Jubera, Leza, Cidacos y Alhama Biosphere Reserve (Spain). This is a Mediterranean forest and grassland landscape shaped by a long history of human use, with a special interest due to its fossil dinosaur remains. Today, this area is a pilot site in the Rioja region for the regional strategy for sustainable development, mobilising government agencies, foundations, universities and local communities.
Extension to Muniellos Biosphere Reserve Unit and two new sites: Valle de Laciana Biosphere Reserve Unit and Picos de Europa Biosphere Reserve Unit, Gran Cantabrica (Spain). These sites constitute steps in building up the Gran Cantabrica Biosphere Reserve in Northern Spain. Muniellos (Asturias) is now extended to cover an area recently declared as a Parque natural. Valle de Laciana (Castilla y León) is characterised by the cooperative venture of four valley communities to promote tourism and new economic activities respectful of nature. Picos de Europa (Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla y León), with mountains over 2,600 m, is one of the last protected refuges for European brown bear, wolf and capercaillie.
Socotra Archipelago Biosphere Reserve (Yemen). This first biosphere reserve in Yemen is an archipelago located at the crossroads of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. This site is internationally renowned for its remarkable plant diversity and for its cultural richness, with the 40,000 inhabitants speaking the unique Soqotri language.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves is the main operational tool of the MAB Programme. Biosphere reserves are sites nominated by countries where the interdisciplinary MAB approach can be applied in actual situations. They also serve as sites for exploring and demonstrating approaches to sustainable development. The global network that they constitute covers a representative - and growing - sample of the major ecological regions and human use systems of the earth. The biosphere reserves approved this year demonstrate an increasing interest in using the biosphere reserve approach to reconcile conservation and development in coastal areas and archipelagoes, and in protecting cultural values dependant on the maintenance of certain traditional uses. There is also an increasing interest in transboundary biosphere reserves, which straddle national boundaries, as frameworks for joint efforts to manage and conserve shared ecosystems.