UNESCO recently announced the addition of 11 new biosphere reserves to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves. 

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  • With the addition of these 11 new biosphere reserves covering a total area of 37,400 km², these critical conservation areas now expand to 759 sites across 136 countries.
  • These additions were decided during the 36th session of the International Co-ordinating Council, the governing body of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme, which is composed of 34 representatives of UNESCO Member States. 
  • The Council held its session in Agadir, Moroccofrom 2 to 5 July following the UNESCO Conference on Soils.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

  • UNESCO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) dedicated to promoting peace and security through international cooperation in education, science, culture, and communication. 
  • It was founded in 1945 after the devastation of World War II.
  • Presently, it has 194 member states and 12 associate members. 

Key Programs and Initiatives of UNESCO:

  • Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme: This program establishes biosphere reserves around the world, promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. 
  • World Heritage Convention: This international treaty identifies and protects cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal value.
  • Education for All (EFA): This global movement aims to achieve universal primary education and equip all youth and adults with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive.

The 11 New Biosphere Reserves

  1. Tribugá-Cupica-Baudó Biosphere Reserve (Colombia): Protects Pacific coast rainforests, mangroves, and coral reefs, safeguarding marine biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.
  2. Madre de las Aguas Biosphere Reserve (Dominican Republic): Encompasses freshwater ecosystems, including Lake Enriquillo, a critical habitat for endemic bird species. 
  3. Niumi Biosphere Reserve (Gambia): Protects a mosaic of wetlands, mangroves, and terrestrial ecosystems vital for migratory birds and local communities.
  4. Colli Euganei Biosphere Reserve (Italy): Showcases volcanic landscapes, cultural heritage, and rich biodiversity.
  5. Julian Alps Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Italy & Slovenia): A collaborative effort protecting the Julian Alps, a region of high mountain ecosystems and cultural significance.
  6. Khar Us Lake Biosphere Reserve (Mongolia): Safeguards a vast freshwater lake (Khar Us) and surrounding grasslands, supporting diverse wildlife populations.
  7. Apayaos Biosphere Reserve (Philippines): Diverse reserve protecting coral reefs, rainforests, and mountains, providing habitat for the endangered Philippine eagle.
  8. Changnyeong Biosphere Reserve (South Korea): Protects mountains, forests, and agricultural areas, known for its rich cultural heritage and traditional practices.
  9. Val d’Aran Biosphere Reserve (Spain): Located in the Pyrenees mountains, this reserve safeguards high-altitude ecosystems with unique flora and fauna.
  10. Irati Biosphere Reserve (Spain): Features Europe’s largest beech forest, showcasing temperate ecosystems and cultural traditions.
  11. Kempen-Broek Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Belgium & Netherlands): A model for sustainable land management across borders, encompassing forests, peatlands, and agricultural areas.

What are Biosphere Reserves?

  • Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems that promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. 
  • They are internationally recognized under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. Each biosphere reserve consists of three interrelated zones:
  1. Core Area: Strictly protected for conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species, and genetic variation.
  2. Buffer Zone: Surrounds or is contiguous to the core area; activities are allowed that can help manage natural resources sustainably.
  3. Transition Area: The outermost part where sustainable resource management practices are promoted and developed.

Importance of Biosphere Reserves

  • Biodiversity Conservation: They protect species and genetic diversity, which is vital for ecosystem resilience.
  • Sustainable Development: They promote sustainable economic practices that do not harm the environment.
  • Research and Education: They serve as sites for scientific research, monitoring, education, and training.
  • Cultural Preservation: They often include areas of cultural and historical significance. They also support local and Indigenous communities through practices such as agro-ecology, water management, and the generation of green income. 
  • Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework: Biosphere reserves help achieve the goals set in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in December 2022, which includes designating 30% of the Earth’s land and marine surface as protected areas and restoring 30% of the planet’s degraded ecosystems by 2030. 

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