Twenty-three New Biosphere Reserves Added to UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) NetworkTwenty-two new sites in 17 countries as well as one transboundary site between Senegal and Mauritania have been added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. An extension to an existing Biosphere Reserve was also approved. The Network now consists of 482 sites in 102 countries.
The additions and changes to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which illustrate its vitality and the continuous efforts made to improve its quality, were approved by the Bureau of MAB’s International Coordinating Council during its meeting on June 27 to 29 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The MAB Programme has been pioneering the practice of sustainable development on a scientific basis for over 30 years.
Biosphere Reserves are places recognized under MAB where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring, promoting both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. The following sites have been designated or extended:
Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve (Austria), on the outskirts of Vienna, is a landscape with small hills, thermal springs, watercourses, wet and dry meadows and large-scale forest, as well as extensively farmed open areas. The Biosphere Reserve has 200,000 inhabitants and is the congested capital’s principal recreation area.
Barkindji Biosphere Reserve (Australia), north of the Murray River in New South Wales, comprises several important wetlands, homes for waterfowl and migratory birds. Local farmers and NGOs promoted it to foster both environmental conservation and sustainable development.
Serra do Espinhaço Biosphere Reserve (Brazil) covers 3 million ha of the Espinhaço Mountains in the state of Minas Gerais with cerrado and Atlantic forest vegetation. Family agriculture, harvesting of natural resources and popular art contribute to regional economic development. It contains 18th century colonial cities such as Ouro Preto (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve (Chile), the first nominated in Chile in more than 20 years, is located in the south next to Cape Horn, comprising marine areas, islands and forested coast. It has very low population pressure but major potential for tourism.
Shouf Biosphere Reserve (Lebanon), the first in Lebanon, covers about 5% of the country and extends along the ridge of Mount Lebanon’s western chain at an altitude of 1000 to 2000 metres. It includes 24 villages and two protected areas, Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve and the Ammiq Wetland.
Utwe Biosphere Reserve (Federated States of Micronesia), the first in Micronesia, South Pacific, has a high biodiversity, with tropical rain forests, mangrove forest, sea grass beds and coral reefs. The nomination was prepared by Kosrae State communities, which have a long tradition of natural resource conservation through customary laws.
Dornod Mongol Biosphere Reserve (Mongolia), in the eastern part of Mongolia bordering with China, is a sparsely populated temperate grassland and steppe ecosystem, home to some of the largest remaining herds of Mongolian gazelles and to several rare and threatened bird species.
Ngaremeduu Biosphere Reserve (Palau), the first in Palau, South West Pacific, covers a large bay and coastal area with dense mangrove swamps. Marine core areas protect economically important crab, fish and clam species. Populations of three states in Palau prepared the nomination using a community approach.
El Chaco Biosphere Reserve (Paraguay) is named for the Chaco region’s dry forest ecosystems, ecologically diverse but under great pressure to be converted into grazing lands. The Biosphere Reserve designation will also help protect local indigenous communities’ homeland and cultural identity.
The extension to Bialowieza Biosphere Reserve (Poland) adds a vast area to the original site, a national park on Poland’s eastern border, remnant of ancient central European forest, with European bison.
Khanka Lake (Russian Federation) is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Eastern Asia. The site is composed of wetlands, swamps, steppe and lacustrine areas. Also designated a Ramsar site*, it is particularly noted for its variety of bird and fish species. Avoiding pollution from agriculture and industry is a major concern.
Serali Biosphere Reserve and Raifa Biosphere Reserve (Russian Federation) are two units of a future large-scale Biosphere Reserve to be established along the River Volga next to Kazan, a World Heritage city, with innovative arrangements for regional land and water resources management.
The Delta du Fleuve Sénégal Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Senegal and Mauritania), the second Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Africa, covers a mosaic of deltaic and coastal ecosystems at the mouth of the River Senegal that forms the international border. One of the most important sanctuaries in West Africa for migratory birds, it comprises five Ramsar wetland sites and two World Heritage sites, including the city of Saint Louis. Coordinated sustainable management of the river is a central issue for the two countries.
Alto de Bernesga Biosphere Reserve, Los Valles de Omaňa y Luna Biosphere Reserve and Los Argüellos Biosphere Reserve (Spain) are three new units of a large-scale Biosphere Reserve that will encompass the entire sparsely-populated Gran Cantabrica mountain range in northern Spain. The project aims to provide an “umbrella” enabling coordination of land uses to ensure conservation of large rare mammals such as wolf and bear while favouring quality ecotourism and responsible industry.
Area de Allariz Biosphere Reserve (Spain) in Galicia is particularly important for cultural values and sustainable land-use enabling local flora and fauna conservation. Adjoining sites
are expected to be nominated soon, to connect the area to the future Gran Cantábrica Biosphere Reserve.
Gran Canaria Biosphere Reserve (Spain) covers some 40% of the island including entire water catchment basins from the top of the island’s mountains through valleys used by agriculture to beaches and finally to marine areas. The site is likely to be extended to include additional areas in the near future.
Sierra del Rincon Biosphere Reserve (Spain), close to Madrid, is characterised by pine and oak forests, rocky hillsides and valleys with pastures and a large variety of species associated with a long history of agriculture and cattle raising. A major challenge is to revive the dwindling economies of the small villages to enhance natural and cultural values.
Bundala Biosphere Reserve (Sri Lanka), southeastern area marked by lagoons, inter-tidal mud flats, beaches, sand dunes, grasslands and forests, is an important bird sanctuary and a Ramsar site since 1991, home to elephants, sea turtles, flamingos and rare black-necked storks.
Kristianstad Vattenrikke Biosphere Reserve (Sweden) in densely populated southernmost Sweden around the town of Kristianstad, is surrounded by agricultural lands, forests and water meadows of international importance for bird life. Innovations to avoid conflict of interests have been sparked, such as the “Haymaking project”, in which a local farmer developed new equipment to harvest hay even in very wet areas. It is a pilot site for fostering economic and human development.
Camili Biosphere Reserve (Turkey), in the Karçal Mountains on the border with Georgia, is home to brown bear, wolf and lynx and incorporates a significant bird migration route. The Biosphere Reserve, the first in Turkey, will generate income opportunities (e.g. organic agriculture, honey production, ecotourism) for inhabitants of its six villages.
Mount Elgon Biosphere Reserve (Uganda), at the Kenyan border, is in a major regional water catchment area, critical for the livelihoods of local communities. Discussions are ongoing to unite the site with the existing Mt. Elgon Biosphere Reserve in Kenya, forming a potential Transboundary Biosphere Reserve and facilitating cross border cooperation.
In addition, the MAB Bureau discussed a change in zonation of the Dunaisky Biosphere Reserve (Ukraine). The Bureau has requested more information from Ukrainian authorities on the controversial project to construct a navigation canal across the Danube Delta, designated as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve with Romania.
* Ramsar sites are areas recognized as Wetlands of International Importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention, which promotes their conservation and wise use.