UNESCO has awarded Biosphere Reserve status to Wester Ross in Scotland’s North West Highlands and the whole of the Isle of Man, including its territorial waters. The two new sites join a dynamic UK network of Biosphere Reserves within a global network of 669 Reserves across 120 countries worldwide.
Professor Martin Price, Chair of the UK Man and Biosphere Committee who is based at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said:
“I am very glad that we now have six Biosphere Reserves that conform to UNESCO’s strict criteria. The nominations of both Wester Ross and the Isle of Man resulted from participatory processes which showed strong local support for UNESCO designation. Now that they are Biosphere Reserves, I am sure that this support, based in a clear sense of local identity, will ensure that they truly become sites of excellence for sustainable development and conservation”.
Dr Beth Taylor, the UKNC’s Non-Executive Director for the Natural Sciences, added:
“Biosphere Reserves set the gold standard we should be aiming for as a country in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the UN last autumn. I am very proud to see the UK network expanding, and hope to see great achievements by Wester Ross and the Isle of Man in the coming years”.
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 newly-designated area of Wester Ross extends from the tip of Knoydart northwards to Achiltibuie and the Summer Isles, including population centres in Kyle of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, Gairloch and Ullapool. The new designation replaces an earlier Biosphere Reserve designation for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve – a much smaller area that was managed solely for nature conservation, research and education. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve criteria were changed in the 1990s to provide greater focus on people’s relationship with the environment, prompting a reapplication to the network for the wider area of Wester Ross.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is the first entire jurisdiction to receive UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. As a Crown Dependency of the UK, the Isle of Man was supported through the rigorous application process by the UK Man and Biosphere Committee in cooperation with the UK National Commission for UNESCO.