03.10.2016 - UNESCO Office in Venice

Unveiling the unexplored potential of Biosphere Reserves: around the Mediterranean

© Wannes – Adult Capra aegagrus cretensis female in natural habitat, Samaria Gorge National Park

Co-organized by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, the Samaria Gorge Management Body and the Region of Crete, with the support of the MAB Secretariat and of the Greek MAB National Committee, the International workshop will take place in Chania, Crete (Greece), on 3-5 October 2016. The aim is to contribute to the sharing of good practice for the sustainable development of island and coastal Biosphere Reserves of the Mediterranean region.

The Gorge of Samaria National Park is a mountainous limestone area located on the southwestern coast of Crete renowned for its deep narrow gorge. The gorge was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 and added to the World Heritage tentative list in 2014.  The site plays a key role in the sustainable development of the tourism industry of the Island, with 120,000 tourists out of 3,5 million per year that cross the Gorge. Located the “heart” of Lefka Ori (White Mountains), the area is rich in flora and fauna and has a high degree of endemism. Human presence is found in the small villages nestled in the mountain foothills; the practice of semi-traditional economic activities is combined with the protection and maintenance of an emblematic natural environment.

Today, the Gorge of Samaria faces a double challenge. On the one hand, that of finding the best management scheme for the protection, enhancement and sustainable development of the Biosphere Reserve, and on the other, that of setting the standard for a new development approach of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean area. Such development would benefit from the precious help of local institutions and the generous support of the EU funding for Crete. It would also permit to better value the natural route that connects the 3 UNESCO designated sites of the island: Gorge of Samaria Biosphere Reserve, Global Geoparks of Psiloritis Natural Park and Sitia.

The international workshop on “Unveiling the unexplored potential of Biosphere Reserves. Around the Mediterranean” to held in Chania over 3 days will make a specific reference to the provisions of the Lima Action Plan of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves for 2016-2025, adopted at the 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves (Lima, Peru; March 2016); and, to the initiatives already taken within the framework of the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves as well as the Mediterranean network of Biosphere Reserves. 

The objective of the workshop is primarily to facilitate the exchange of experiences and good practices among Biosphere Reserves having common issues to address - such as climate change, tourism development and seasonal migrations, water resources management, etc. Secondly, the purpose will be to strengthen knowledge and skills of key Biosphere Reserves’ stakeholders with a view to enhance their managerial and communication capacities in addressing the current emerging challenges faced by Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves. The workshop will lay the ground for joint action towards Sustainable Tourism.

Participants will include representatives of existing and future Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves from Mediterranean countries - including Croatia, France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Participants will present their Biosphere Reserve - its management scheme, its main challenges and successes – and provide explanation as to how sustainable tourism development is approached and implemented in their respective territory.

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