Global Network

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves


A biosphere reserve is an area declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as having achieved a notable balance between environment and sustainable human development.

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status recognises places around the world with outstanding natural environments, where communities are committed to working together to live sustainably.

Biosphere reserves are living, learning places. They are used to showcase innovative approaches to conservation and sustainable development and act as a regional centre for scientific research and education on natural and managed ecosystems.

Biosphere reserves consist of terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and showcase various approaches to sustainable development that are culturally relevant to local communities.

Generally, biosphere reserves will have at least three objectives:

What happens in a biosphere reserve?

Biosphere reserves are guided by the UNESCO Biosphere Programme, an Intergovernmental Scientific Program that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.

Read more about UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves

Part of a global network

Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve is part of a global network, connected to 738 biosphere reserve sites across 134 countries under the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

The World Biosphere Network is a platform for these sites of excellence to share knowledge and develop approaches to achieving the global goals of the Lima Action Plan 2015-2025 and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve is made up of 214,048 hectares spanning five local government areas and French Island. It combines a mix of landscapes, assembled into 69% terrestrial and 31% marine.

This updated map was included in our submission to UNESCO in September 2022 as part of our second Periodic Review.  It shows the extent of the Reserve and also the different zones within it – including core, buffer and transition zones.  The GIS files for the zonation map are located here.


Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve is one of five UNESCO biosphere reserve sites in Australia, along with:
















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