Biosphere reserves aim to achieve integrated management of land, fresh and marine waters and living resources by putting in place bioregional planning schemes based on integrating conservation into development through appropriate zoning. While countries maintain flexibility at the national levels with regard to the definition of zones, the zonation needs to ensure that biosphere reserves effectively combine conservation, sustainable use of resources and knowledge generation through integrated zonation and collaborative management:
The zonation of each biosphere reserve should include:
- Core area(s): securely protected sites for conserving biological diversity, monitoring minimally disturbed ecosystems, and undertaking non-destructive research and other low-impact uses (such as education). In addition to its conservation function, the core area contributes to a range of ecosystem services which, in terms of the development functions, can be calculated in economic terms (e.g. carbon sequestration, soil stabilization, supply of clean water and air, etc.). Employment opportunities can also complement conservation goals (e.g. environmental education, research, environmental rehabilitation and conservation measures, recreation and eco-tourism).
- Buffer zone(s): which usually surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and is used for cooperative activities compatible with sound ecological practices, including environmental education, recreation, ecotourism, and applied and basic research. In addition to the buffering function related to the core areas, buffer zones can have their own intrinsic, ‘stand alone’ functions for maintaining anthropogenic, biological and cultural diversity. They can also have an important connectivity function in a larger spatial context as they connect biodiversity components within core areas with those in transition areas.
- Transition area: area with a central function in sustainable development which may contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements and other uses and in which local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations, cultural groups, economic interests and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area's resources.