UNESCO adds 18 new sites to World Network of Biosphere ReservesParis - Eighteen new sites in 12 countries have been added to UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves while five existing biosphere reserves have been extended.
One extension creates the first transboundary biosphere reserve in Africa.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now consists of 425 sites in 95 countries. Its focus is all the more pertinent in the wake of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), where countries called for action to reduce extreme poverty and hunger and ensure environmental sustainability. "Biosphere reserves," says Peter Bridgewater, Secretary of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, "represent real, on-ground action with these ideas." A key aspect is that local populations work together with all other concerned parties to achieve these aims.
The new biosphere reserves and extensions were approved by the Bureau of the MAB International Co-ordinating Council at its meeting on November 6-8 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The new biosphere reserves are very varied, differing in size, population density, ecological features, land use and challenges:
The Chréa Biosphere Reserve (Algeria) is located 50 km southwest of the capital Algiers, along the northern and southern ridges of the Blida section of the Atlas Mountains. This site plays a vital role in the area, notably as a water reservoir for large cities like Algiers, Blida and Medea. It is also important from a conservation perspective with rare and endangered ecosystems specific to the northern Atlas Mountains.
Las Yungas Biosphere Reserve (Argentina), in the high Andes of northern Argentina, has a great variety of landscapes, ranging from abundant sub-tropical mountain forest with high biodiversity to cloud-swept montane grasslands. The rich culture of local people has marked the landscape.
Mornington Pensinsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve (Australia), located in a coastal region close to Melbourne, is the country's first new nomination since the 1970s. Port facilities, small farms, and nature reserves - some of international importance for bird life - co-exist, raising the challenges of promoting sustainable development in an urban/coastal area by involving the numerous stakeholders from the public and private sectors.
The "W" Region Transboundary Biosphere Reserve covers more than one million hectares in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. These three countries demonstrated great political will by creating the first transboundary biosphere reserve in Africa after a long process of study and consultation. This site will serve as a model to experiment with different strategies for sustainable development involving the participation of local communities. It will mark the first concrete action by the Environment Initiative launched by NEPAD - the New Partnership for Africa's Development - at WSSD in Johannesburg.
The Mata Atlantica Biosphere Reserve (Brazil) has been extended and now covers all the remnants of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. This vast biosphere reserve ranges from the dry area of northeast Brazil to humid rain forest in the middle section, and the temperate forest of Southern Brazil. This is the fifth extension of an already existing reserve, including new areas in the south filling up remaining gaps in this large site.
Canada's twelfth biosphere reserve, Thousand Islands - Frontenac Arch , takes its name from a geological ridge formation and the islands formed where Lake Ontario spills over its eroded hilltops and valleys into the St Lawrence River.
The Dalai Lake Biosphere Reserve (China), in the far northeastern part of the country, covers grassland ecosystems and wetlands which are considered as internationally important for migratory birds under the Ramsar Wetland Convention. This region is thought to be one of the places where traditional Mongolian culture originated. The lakes in the region supply water to some 300,000 people and 2.5 million animals.
Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve (Dominican Republic) is the country's first biosphere reserve. It covers almost half a million hectares in the southwest of the country. It is made up of a complex mosaic of ecosystems ranging from marine and coastal areas to various forest types and summits up to 2,300 m, as well as a unique lake lying below sea level.
Sumaco Biosphere Reserve (Ecuador), situated in the tropical rain forest of the northeastern Cordillera de los Andes, has now been extended, following a request from the local population.
The Upper Niger Biosphere Reserve (Guinea) plays an important role in the protection of the Sudano-Guinean forest ecosystem of the catchment basin of the Niger River.
The Badiar Biosphere Reserve (Guinea) covers an area of about 1.5 million hectares of savannah and open woodlands. It is adjacent to the Niokolo Koba Biosphere Reserve in Senegal and so authorities from both countries are encouraged to cooperate in order to create a transboundary biosphere reserve.
The Valle del Ticino Biosphere Reserve (Italy) consists of a "riverscape" along the Ticino River in the north of the country, the meeting place of the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont, with a rich cultural identity.
The Hustai Nuruu Biosphere Reserve (Mongolia) lies about 100 km southwest of Ulanbaatar, the country's capital. It contains threatened steppe and forest steppe ecosystems, which, elsewhere, have been destroyed by over-exploitation. The site is noted for its successful reintroduction of the endemic Przewalski horse.
Jeju Island Biosphere Reserve (Republic of Korea) covers the central part and small marine areas of the island, lying to the south of the mainland. The area contains remarkably high biological diversity in the core areas, the buffer zones play an important role in environmental education and the transition area focuses on environmentally-friendly primary industries. The biosphere reserve concept could be extended to the whole island.
The five new biosphere reserves in the Russian Federation come as a follow up to a national workshop held in 2001 to examine how the biosphere reserve concept could help in associating nature protection and new enterprises in forestry, agriculture and tourism, while benefiting local communities in rural areas. The new sites are Darvinskiy, a peninsula of the Rybinsky Reservoir on the Volga River; Nijegorodskoe Zavoljye in the middle section of the River Volga focusing on restoration and protection of forests; Smolensk Lakeland in the extreme west of the country where ecotourism is a major feature; Ugra, conserving natural and cultural landscapes on the Ugra, Zhizdra and Oka rivers; and the Commander Islands in the Bering Sea, with their marine fauna and birdlife of Asian and American origin, and traditional use by local communities.
Las Dehesas de Sierra Morena Biosphere Reserve (Spain) covers 424,400 hectares in the North of Andalusia in Spain on the border with Portugal, including three national parks with Mediterranean sclerophyllous forests. It is also noted for the prime examples of the ancient dehesas agro-pastoral systems of Southern Spain, which have proven their worth as a means for the sustainable use of natural resources.
In Spain in 1983 a small part of the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands was designated a biosphere reserve according to the criteria of that time. After a first extension in 1998, the biosphere reserve concept has now been applied to the whole island including some adjacent marine areas and renamed La Palma Biosphere Reserve.
The Terras do Miño Biosphere Reserve in the northwest Atlantic region of Spain, in the Province of Galicia. This is a traditional cultural landscape with many highly important natural habitats. It plays an essential role in regulating the water supply for the surrounding larger region.
In the United Kingdom, the Braunton Burrows site in North Devon, first designated in 1977, has been completely revised and extended by a consultation process among the local communities and the conservation and development authorities. It is now renamed the Bideford Bay Biosphere Reserve.
All new sites and extensions were proposed by the countries concerned. Membership in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves entails official UN recognition of local and national efforts to meet global concerns on environmental sustainability. It also represents a "label of excellence" which helps secure funding and promote tourism and the local economy. Membership in a structured network facilitates the exchange of experience on how to make it work.
For more information contact
On November 8:
Amy Otchet, Bureau of Public Information Telephone: (33) (0)1 42 93 54 95
From November 12 onwards: Peter Coles
Telephone: (33) 1 45 68 17 10