Biosphere Reserves

Learning sites for sustainable development where communities collaborate to live in harmony with their environment

The biosphere is the world we live in; it is the air that we breathe, the land that we cultivate and the water we drink.

Biosphere Reserves are model regions for sustainable development and test sites for conservation approaches where communities collaborate to live in harmony with their environment. They are the world’s only internationally recognised ‘badge’ for demonstrating excellence in sustainable development. The new MAB Stratregy (2016 – 2025) sets out priorities for UNESCO Member States to use the World Network of Biosphere Reserves to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through biodiversity conservation, sustainability science, policy, education and outreach.

The UK’s six Biosphere Reserves work to promote a balanced relationship between people and their natural environment by educating and inspiring the local community to work together for a more sustainable future.

Biosphere Reserves are comprised of three interrelated zones:

  1. The Core Area (protected: the ‘natural’ state of the region’s ecosystems)
  2. The Buffer Zone (conserves the core area, and can accommodate positive human engagement, including research, education, training, tourism, extensive agriculture, or sustainable forestry)
  3. The Transition Area (where most of the region’s people live and work, using the natural resources in a sustainable manner)

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme comprises a World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The main MAB governing body is the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme, usually referred to as the MAB Council or ICC. The international Secretariat is based in Paris.

The UK Man and the Biosphere (UK MAB) Committee oversees UNESCO’s MAB Programme in the UK, and is Chaired by Professor Martin Price based at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Perth, Scotland.

Wider Value to the UK

The UK's Biosphere Reserves generated an estimated £1.8 million from April 2014 to March 2015 through their involvement with the global network. Source: Wider Value of UNESCO to the UK 2014 – 2015

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