UNESCO announces selection of 13 new Biosphere Reserves
The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme has added 13 new sites and five extensions in 15 different countries to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), which now numbers 564 sites in 109 countries.
The decision to include the new sites was taken during the 22nd session of the International Coordination Council, which took place from 31 May to 4 June at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Reserves were inscribed in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe for the first time this year. Sweden and the United Kingdom for their part decided to withdraw two sites from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves - Lake Torne and Taynish respectively - because they do not meet the criteria set out in the Seville Strategy of 1995. Biosphere Reserves are areas designated under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to serve as places to test different approaches to integrated management of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine resources and biodiversity. Biosphere Reserves are thus sites for experimenting with and learning about sustainable development.
Brief descriptions of the new sites follow:
1. Kafa, Ethiopia, stretches over more than 700,000 ha containing more than 50% of Ethiopia’s remaining Afromontane evergreen forests ecosystems. It is the place of origin of the rare and critically endangered Coffea Arabica. The site, a scientific, economic, aesthetic and cultural treasure house, is characterized by numerous fertile valleys and lowlands linking the mountains and ridges, and a number of majestic waterfalls, including the Barta and Woshi falls. Public-private partnerships for economic growth and efficient use of resources have been implemented successfully in the area and can serve as models for new initiatives, particularly for sustainable coffee production and marketing.
2. Yayu, Ethiopia, in the south-western Illubabor Zone of the Oromiya Regional State, is part of the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the world’s 34 vital yet threatened areas for biodiversity conservation. The area comprises undisturbed natural forests and semi-forest systems managed for the production of coffee, spices, honey and wood while providing important ecosystem services such as watershed protection in the Nile Basin. The Yayu forest has the greatest abundance of wild Arabica coffee anywhere. Sustainable development activities in the site focus on coffee production, including the planting of fruit trees both for crop and to provide shade for the coffee.
3. Dena, Iran, stretches across the Central Zagros Mountains and consists primarily of semi-arid steppe forest. Oak species predominate in the highlands, with pistachio and almond at lower elevations. Large rivers, including the Karun, Dez, and Kharkeh, originate from the Central Zagros, draining into the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Waterfalls, pools and lakes add to the beauty of the mountain landscape. The area is home to a large rural population, including a nomadic community of about 20,000 people practicing traditional livelihoods. Development priorities include sustainable range management and eco-tourism. 4. Naha-Metzabok, southeast Mexico, covers the northern part of the Lacandona forest, the biggest tropical forest in the country. An integral part of the Mayan Forest biological corridor, it has regional importance for conservation. The diversity of the population of more than 6,500 indigenous people including the most ancient Maya-Lacandon as well as Tzeltales and Choles communities, adds high cultural value to the site. Agricultural and other activities practiced by indigenous communities in the buffer and transition zones contribute to sustainable development and natural resources conservation of the region.
5. Los Volcanes, Mexico, is characterized by a volcanic landscape of significant aesthetic and touristic value. The site includes Popocatépetl, one of the most impressive active volcanoes on the planet, and a variety of endemic, particularly adapted species, such as the volcano rabbit. The area provides important environmental services as a water catchment for Mexico City, which has the highest population density in the country. Projects for reforestation, soil rehabilitation and groundwater infiltration are being developed to protect water supply, involving many different sectors of the population.
6. Maria’s Island, Mexico, is a reservoir of endemic species that developed over eight million years of insularity. It contains a rich diversity of ecosystems including a dry tropical forest, mangroves, swamps and coral reefs. A federal penitentiary is established there. The National Institute of Ecology, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the Secretariat of Public Security have introduced sustainable management projects, such as reforestation and agriculture, to rehabilitate the prisoners inhabiting the island.
7. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, is an island biosphere reserve in the biggest freshwater reservoir in the country, Cocibolca Lake or Lake Nicaragua. The site’s name in the local Nahuatl language is “island of two hills”, referring to its two volcanoes. The surrounding lake serves as an important source of freshwater, as well as habitat for exceptional species, e.g. freshwater sawfish, Nicaraguan freshwater shark and many others. The island is home to some 30,000 people and its rich pre-Columbian vestiges (petroglyphs, statues, ceramics) demonstrate its long history of human settlements. Current activities include community-based ecotourism.
8. Oxapampa-Ashaninka-Yanesha, Peru, is part of the country’s Amazonian high forest region. Although classified as a conservation hotspot, the region is under intense pressure from human activities such as deforestation, causing loss of biological diversity. To address these issues, the biosphere reserve has developed participatory management processes involving regional authorities, NGOs and the local population. The presence of indigenous cultures, such as the Yánesha and Asháninka, helps preserve ancestral knowledge in managing natural resources. Sustainable development initiatives include progressive adoption of agro-forestry and promotion of eco-tourism and artisanal crafts.
9. Tuchola Forest, Poland, is one of the biggest forest complexes in the country, located in the north-western Pomerania region, about 50 km southwest of Gdansk on the Baltic coast. About 17,000 people live in the biosphere reserve’s buffer zone (total population in the whole area is 102,500). They mainly depend on tourism and forestry; including logging, hunting as well as picking mushrooms and berries. In recent years, agro-tourism combining tourism, recreation and craft development has become a booming economic sector in the transition area. This biosphere reserve has benefited from endorsements and remarkable support from local and national stakeholders.
10. Gwangneung Forest, Republic of Korea, is located in the central part of the Korean peninsula where the extreme continental climate of northeast Asia and the oceanic climate of the Pacific meet. The area contains well-preserved deciduous hardwood forests over 500 years old, as well as farmlands and private forests. The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, a World Heritage property, is located within the biosphere reserve, along with the Korea National Arboretum. Planned sustainable development activities include eco-labelling of local goods, development of renewable energy resources and promotion of organic agriculture.
11. Kozjansko & Obsotelje, Slovenia, between the Sava, Savinja and Sotla rivers, represents a mosaic of Alpine and Panonian landscapes. To the east, the reserve borders with the Republic of Croatia, separated from it by the Sotla River. Forests cover over 55% of the site. The Kozjansko Regional Park makes up large part of the core area. At the meeting point of three regions, it has a well preserved natural landscape with forests and agricultural land. Eleven communities live in the site. They are all involved in sustainable development projects: alternative and ecological farming, sustainable tourism, production of traditional food and crafts.
12. Lake Vänern Archipelago, Sweden, includes the largest lake in Sweden, which is the third largest in Europe. In the site’s centre is Mount Kinnekulle, with a species-rich fen, called Skebykärret, to the southwest. Along the 350 km-long Lake Vänern are a number of sites with reed areas and diverse birdlife. Some 60,000 people live within the site; the transition area incorporates several city centres, including Mariestad. Fishing, agriculture, forestry and tourism have great economic importance. The biosphere reserve constitutes a forum for cooperation and participation. Projects in the site include sustainable travel, ecotourism and product development.
13. Middle Zambezi, Zimbabwe, stretching over approximately 40,000 km2 in the Zambezi valley, the site features riverine and terrestrial ecosystems, unique to the subcontinent, including one of its largest man-made reservoirs, Lake Kariba. The Mana Pools National Park, part of the core area, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Controlled safari sport hunting in parts of the buffer zone provides employment for hundreds of people. The area also comprises human settlements, notably the town of Kariba, which depends largely on fishing in Lake Kariba for protein and income. The fishery of the pelagic fish, Limnothrissa miodon, with an annual output of about 40,000 tonnes estimated at a value of US$40 million, rivals major lake fisheries in the region.
The MAB-ICC also approved extensions to five already established Biosphere Reserves:
1. Araucarias Biosphere Reserve, Chile, originally designated in 1983, has been extended to 12 times its original size. The site, in the south of the volcanic Andean chain in south-central Chile, now covers an area of 1,140,000 ha and includes 105,000 inhabitants. The main objective of the extension is to promote a sustainable balance between conservation of biological diversity, socio-economic development and protection of the cultural values of the region’s Mapuche people, living mainly in the transition area.
2. Cordillera Volcanica Central Biosphere Reserve, Costa Rica, originally designated in 1988, has been extended to five times its original size. It now covers some 650,000 ha and is home to a population of almost 3 million people. A well-developed participatory process involving local and indigenous communities and a large number of institutions, municipalities and other stakeholders made the extension possible. The extended site, now including the city of San José, will provide for improved management of one of the country’s richest regions in both natural resources and cultural heritage.
3. Archipelago Sea Area Biosphere Reserve, Finland, established in 1994 in connection with the Archipelago National Park, is a unique coastal area in the Baltic Sea with thousands of islands and skerries. The total surface is now 5,400 km2, of which 4,580 km2 is water. The area numbers 3,850 residents, homes of people who for generations have lived in close contact with the sea and nature. Livelihoods are fishing and agriculture, with the latter declining in recent years. There are also some 8,000 summer cottages in the biosphere reserve and the region serves a recreational area for 150,000 people annually. Projects for the biosphere include the management of ecologically valuable pastures and the development of local livelihood based on ecological and traditional values.
4. Berchtesgadener Land Biosphere Reserve, Germany The extension and renaming of the Berchtesgadener Biosphere Reserve, designated in 1990, include the entire county, or Land, of Berchtesgaden which numbers 15 communities. It is the only alpine biosphere reserve in Germany, with 103,000 people living in the extended transition area. This extension will improve the protection of the area’s rich biodiversity and the integration of more inhabitants. The unique cultural and natural landscape offers an array of educational, cultural and recreational amenities. Economic sectors present in the area include agriculture, forestry, salt mining, small-scale industry and crafts, retail trade, health services, tourism and resorts. Research focuses mainly on the local effects of global climate change, especially on the alpine vegetation. A large number of stakeholders were involved in making the extension possible to increase opportunities for the area’s sustainable development.
5. The Reservat da Biosfera Val Müstair-Park Naziunal, Switzerland, now includes a buffer zone and a transition area east of the main core area, including local municipalities and villages, in particular Val Müstair to the south-east of the original Swiss National Park and Biosphere Reserve. Further extensions to the site to be implemented before 2013 were agreed between the Council and the Swiss authorities Launched in the early 1970s, the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), proposes an interdisciplinary research agenda and capacity building, aimed at improving people’s relationship with their environment. It notably targets the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and the reduction of this loss. It uses its World Network of Biosphere Reserves as vehicles for knowledge-sharing, research and monitoring, education and training, and participatory decision-making.
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