Biosphere Reserves Are Evolving as Pockets of Hope

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Why in News?

  • 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.
  • On the second anniversary of World Biosphere Reserve Day, it is important to reflect on the progress made in conserving and sustainably using these vital ecosystems.

The Asian Meet in Chennai on Biosphere Reserves

  • On the second anniversary of World Biosphere Reserve Day, UNESCO successfully wrapped up the 10th South and Central Asian Biosphere Reserve Network Meeting (SACAM) in Chennai, India.
    • The SACAM was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, Govt of India, and the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management,
  • Under the theme ‘Ridge to Reef’, SACAM served as a forum for sharing expertise and nurturing partnerships in the domain of sustainable environmental practices within the South and Central Asia region.

Biosphere Reserves (BR)

  • BR is an international designation by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof.
  • These are ‘Science for Sustainability support sites’ designated to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity, the quest for economic and social development and maintenance of associated cultural values.
  • Biosphere reserves receive support from various UN entities (such as the UNDP, UNEP), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • As per UNESCO's records, there are presently 748 biosphere reserves spread across 134 nations, which includes 22 sites that cross national borders, fostering cooperation among neighbouring countries.
  • These reserves have a positive influence on the lives of over 250 million individuals in 134 countries, with as many as 12 million of them located within India.

Regulation of Biosphere Reserves

  • Strictly Protected Core Zone
    • At the centre of every biosphere reserve, there is a core zone that is subjected to strict protection.
    • This core zone serves as a habitat for various plant and animal species while safeguarding the overall ecosystem by preserving water, soil, air quality, and the entire biota.
  • Buffer Zone
    • Surrounding the core zone, there is a buffer areawhere people coexist with nature in a harmonious manner.
    • This zone also serves as a laboratory for scientists to conduct research on natural phenomena and as a platform for training and education purposes.
  • Outermost (Transition) Zone: The outermost edge is the transition zone where communities practise socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable human activities.

 Significance of Biosphere Reserves

  • Vital for the Future of Our Planet
    • Biosphere reserves play a pivotal role in securing the future of our planet.
    • They stand as a living testament to nature's remarkable resilience, demonstrating that it can thrive even amid human activities.
  • Provide Home to Unique and Endangered Species
    • Within biosphere reserves, a diverse range of ecosystems can be found, encompassing everything from tropical rainforests to alpine deserts.
    • As a result, these reserves serve as habitats for numerous distinct and endangered plant and animal species.
  • Provide Opportunity for Sustainable Economic Development: Beyond their crucial role in safeguarding biodiversity and promoting the sustainable utilisation of natural resources, biosphere reserves also create opportunities for sustainable economic development.
  • Crucial in Fight Against Climate Change
    • In recent years, biosphere reserves have become crucial in our fight against climate change.
    • 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.
    • Acting as pockets of hope in the face of the climate crisis, biosphere reserves are hidden oases, protecting biodiversity, reducing pollution, and enhancing climate resilience.

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB)

  • The MAB is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments.
  • It combines the natural and social sciences with a view to improving human livelihoods and safeguarding natural and managed ecosystems.
  • It promotes innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable.
    • For example, in the Island of Principe Biosphere Reserve, Sao Tome and Principe in Africa, schoolchildren have been equipped with stainless steel bottles for drinking water.
    • This is an attempt to completely avoid the daily production and consumption of single-use plastic bottles.
  • MAB’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves is a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence that foster harmony between people and nature for sustainable development through –
    • participatory dialogue;
    • knowledge sharing;
    • poverty reduction and human well-being improvements;
    • respect for cultural values and
    • society’s ability to cope with change.

Conservation Efforts for Biosphere Reserves at the Local Level

  • In Sundarbans 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 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.
    • Recently recognised with the UNESCO Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management 2023, 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.

Challenges in Protecting Biosphere Reserves

  • Despite these sites being the most vital ecosystems protecting nature, these sanctuaries are not without threats such as deforestation, invasive species, and land use changes such as mining.
  • With increasing urbanisation and constant growth of the world population, exploitation by humans is ever increasing.


  • Biosphere reserves are living jewels of land, coastal and marine ecosystems, scattered across the globe, where nature and humans come together creating a symphony of life.
  • In times of global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development, the role of biosphere reserves and protecting them become even more important. 

Q1) What is the World Network of Biosphere reserves?

It is a network of sites of excellence, and is a unique tool to test and apply socio-ecological solutions through sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, building capacity and promoting best practices. It was formed in 1971, as a backbone for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, and living in harmony with nature. 

Q2) What are the criteria of designation of biosphere reserves?

For the designation as a biosphere reserve, a site must contain a protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation. The core area must be a bio-geographical unit and should be large enough to sustain viable populations representing all trophic levels. Further, the involvement of local communities and use of their knowledge in biodiversity preservation. Area's potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of the environment.

Source: The Hindu