- On this second anniversary of World Biosphere Reserve Day, UNESCO in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, concluded the 10th South and Central Asian Biosphere Reserve Network Meeting (SACAM) in Chennai, India (November 1-3).
- With the theme “Ridge to Reef,” the SACAM provided a platform for exchanging knowledge and fostering collaborations in the realm of sustainable environmental practices in the South and Central Asia Region.
World Biosphere Day
- World Biosphere Reserve Day is celebrated on November 3 each year to raise awareness of the importance of biosphere reserves and to promote their conservation and sustainable use.
What are Biosphere Reserves?
- Biosphere reserves are designated areas that aim to balance the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable development, and scientific research.
- They are part of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program, which is run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- The UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme enhances the human-environment relationship through combining natural and social sciences to improve livelihoods, safeguard ecosystems, and promote sustainable economic development.
- Biosphere reserves are also supported by other United Nations agencies, for example the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature. .
- The primary goals of biosphere reserves are to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, protect ecosystems, and foster research and education.
- Biosphere reserves typically consist of three interconnected zones.
- Core Area: The core area is the central, undisturbed portion where conservation efforts are focused. It is meant to protect and preserve the most sensitive and valuable ecosystems, plants, and wildlife.
- Buffer Zone: The buffer zone surrounds the core area and acts as a transitional area. Here, human activities are managed to promote sustainability and minimize negative impacts on the core area. Sustainable resource use and ecotourism are often encouraged in this zone.
- Transition Area: The transition area, which surrounds both the core and buffer zones, allows for more intensive human activities and development. The goal is to foster sustainable development, maintain cultural heritage, and engage local communities in conservation efforts.
- According to UNESCO, there are currently 748 biosphere reserves across 134 countries, including 22 transboundary sites, enhancing the friendly cooperation between neighboring countries.
- They impact the lives of more than 250 million people in 134 countries; 12 sites can be found in India alone.
Significance of biosphere reserves
|Do you know?
|In the Island of Principe Biosphere Reserve, Sao Tome and Principe in Africa, schoolchildren have been equipped with stainless steel bottles for drinking water, so the daily production and consumption of single-use plastic bottles can be completely avoided.
- Pockets of hope in the face of the climate crisis:
- In recent years, biosphere reserves have become crucial in our fight against climate change, as these areas are home to many of the world’s carbon sinks helping to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Carbon sinks, like forests and the ocean, provide solutions in implementing adaptation strategies to fight climate change.
- They are hidden oases, protecting biodiversity, reducing pollution, and enhancing climate resilience.
- They are living jewels of land, coastal and marine ecosystems, scattered across the globe, where nature and humans come together creating a symphony of life.
- They are home to a wide variety of ecosystems from tropical rainforests to alpine deserts, and thereby provide home to countless unique and endangered plants and animal species.
- In addition to playing a vital role in the protection of biodiversity and ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, they also provide opportunities for sustainable economic development.
Conservation efforts at the local level
|UNESCO Michel Batisse Award
- There have been significant advancements in the conservation of biosphere reserves on the local level.
- For example, in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve in India, local communities are working together to manage mangrove forests and protect the biodiversity of the region.
- In the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve in India, local communities, including women, are contributing towards conservation efforts by forming self-help groups, while the youth are getting engaged in eco-tourism.
- The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust has also introduced the concept of ‘plastic checkpoints’. Community members check all vehicles and tourists for plastic waste, which is collected, recycled and used for the construction of roads. This was recently recognised with the UNESCO Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management 2023.
- Deforestation, invasive species and land use changes such as mining, increasing urbanization and constant growth of the world population leading to increasing exploitation by humans remains as threats to the biosphere reserves.