The UN cultural agency observed the 50th anniversary of its Man and the Biosphere Programme, which was created in 1971 for promoting a long-lasting connection between people and nature.
Biosphere Reserves encompass the main functions of conserving biodiversity and cultural diversity, socio-culturally and environmentally sustainable economic development, and logistic support through research, monitoring, education and training.
“This is really a programme for the people because people are part of nature…so they are incorporated in nature protection but also in sustainable use of natural resources”, said Miguel Clusener Godt, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) MAB Programme Secretary.
Today, 727 biosphere reserves integrate nature conservation and sustainable development in 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites. In Africa, there are 86 sites in 31 countries; the Arab States have 35 sites in 14 countries; Asia and the Pacific have 168 sites in 40 countries; Europe and North America have 306 sites in 24 countries, and there are 132 sites in 24 Latin American and the Caribbean countries. In total, the sites would be equivalent to about five per cent of the world’s surface, spanning 6,812,000 km² or “around the size of Australia,” says Godt.
The diverse vegetation and unique fauna in Tanzania’s Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve is home to the largest chimpanzee community in the country and includes the Gombe National Park, forest land reserves and part of Lake Tanganyika.
The Maolan in China, listed as a biosphere reserve in 1996, is in the Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Guizhou Province with an area of 20,000 hectares. It is renowned for its “hugging trees” that cling to the rocks of the mountain landscape.
Bañados del Este is in south-east Uruguay. The reserve harbours a remarkable complex of ecosystems, including white sand beaches, dunes and lagoons along the Atlantic coast. It is home to the diverse wildlife that remains almost intact both on land and at sea.
In Spain, El Hierro Biosphere Reserve is aiming to produce 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables. The reserve covers the entire island and some of its waters, with 60 per cent of the island integrated into the core zone and buffer areas. The volcanic island has an incredibly diverse landscape and a great variety of plant and animal life.