UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization


Natural Sciences


    A renewed interest in further investigating the urban area / biosphere reserve interface
    The fact that urban sprawl and unsustainable city development continue at an alarming rate worldwide, at the same time as the biosphere reserve concept today perhaps is more popular than ever as a model for sustainability, prompted a renewed interest in seeking to further investigate the urban area/ biosphere reserve interface.

    An important step forward to carry-out this investigation was the establishment in year 2000 of the MAB ad hoc Working Group to Explore the Application of the Biosphere Reserve Concept to Urban Areas and their Hinterlands (the MAB Urban Group). Its objectives are:

    • To identify contributions that the biosphere reserve concept has made or could make in urban planning and management, including in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity with its focus on the ecosystem approach
    • To examine if there is, or should be, a place for urban areas and cities in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (beyond as transition areas)
    • To explore alternative ways and means of recognizing selected cities, or parts thereof, as sites that exemplify the biosphere reserve model
    • To stimulate a discussion within MAB and with relevant partner institutions and organizations, on the development of an agenda for possible future MAB activities in this area

    A limited number of Biosphere Reserves have been established just outside major cities
    Examples include:

    The biosphere reserve concept is evolving and its model for sustainability is increasingly popular
    The World Network of Biosphere Reserves is the major instrument for promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable development within UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB).

    Having evolved from traditional protected area approaches, in particular national parks, the biosphere reserve concept and the World Network have usually been associated with more pristine, scarcely populated environments than what urban areas and their hinterlands offer. However, the biosphere reserve concept is an evolving one and, following the Seville Conference and the adoption of the Seville Strategy, more emphasis is now put on sustainable development objectives and on more large scale, regional, conservation and development concerns.

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