UNESCO Center

Biosphere Reserves

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Biosphere Reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems that are recognised by its Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB,1971). Each reserve promotes reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Biosphere Reserves are “Science for Sustainability support sites”- special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.

The three zones that characterise a Biosphere Reserve are

In order to achieve an integrated management of land, living resources and sea water as well as fresh water, Biosphere Reserves are divided into three interrelated zones: core zone, buffer zone and transition zone.

Although there is flexibility in the different ways that countries define these zones on a national level, the zonation needs to ensure that biosphere reserves effectively combine a good biodiversity conservation, a sustainable use of resources and knowledge generation by means of integrated zonation and collaborative management.

  • Core area(s)

    This is the most protected area, prioritising the conservation of biological diversity and the monitoring of little disturbed ecosystems. The core area also contributes to the maintenance of ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating and cultural services), for example; carbon capture, soil stabilization or the supply of drinking water, among others.

    In parallel to conservation, certain economic activities can also be developed inside these areas, such as environmental education, research, environmental conservation and rehabilitation activities and also recreational and Eco touristic activities.

  • Buffer zone

    The buffer zone surrounds the core areas and can host activities that are compatible with the environment. This zone also reduces the impact of human activities on the core area and is essential for maintaining biological and cultural diversity. It also promotes biological connectivity that acts as a natural corridor between the core zone and the transition zone.

  • Transition area

    This area is fundamental for the management and sustainable development of natural resources. A much wider range of economic activities that benefit the socio-economic development of local populations can take place here. However, these activities must respect the specific goals of each reserve.

Main functions

  • Conservation: Managing Biosphere Reserve’s genetic resources, endemic species, ecosystems and landscapes.

  • Development: Promoting economic and human growth that is sustainable on a sociocultural and ecological level. Structured around production activities that are subject to applicable national laws and the goals of Reserves in order to ensure and strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and protection of the environment.

  • Logistic support: Promoting research activities, environmental education, training and monitoring in the context of local, national and international conservation and sustainable development.

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