Go to top of page

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

Biosphere reserves are sites recognised under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO's) Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program

One of the primary objectives of MAB is to achieve a sustainable balance between the goals of conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development, and maintaining associated cultural values.

Biospheres promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. Biospheres make ideal learning sites to test and demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development and innovative approaches to living and working in harmony with nature. Biospheres encourage the community to develop better ways to meet social and economic needs, while conserving natural processes and biodiversity. They support this through research, monitoring, education and information exchange.

Biosphere reserves include urban, industrial and agricultural areas as well as conservation reserves, and participation by landowners is voluntary. For management purposes, they are structured into three zones:

  1. Core—Conservation areas that are legally protected (e.g. national park).
  2. Buffer—Areas surrounding the core, where activities compatible with conservation occur.
  3. Transition—Other areas, e.g. private land, farms, industrial and urban areas, where sustainable practices are developed and promoted by the community.