The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), which met in Paris from 27 to 30 May, has added 12 sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The additions bring the total number of biosphere reserves to 621 in 117 countries.
Biosphere Reserves are sites chosen by the MAB Programme to experiment with different approaches to the management of terrestrial, marine and coastal resources as well as fresh water. They also serve as in situ laboratories for sustainable development.
The United Kingdom asked for the withdrawal from the World Network of Loch Druidibeg, on the Scottish island of South Uist. It argued that the site, designated as biosphere reserve in 1976, no longer met the criteria required to be part of the Network today.
The new Reserves are:
The Alakol reserve covers 193,089 hectares, including wetlands of world significance. It is an important Indian bird migration route, a water bird habitat and aggregation site. The bird population includes the rare Dalmatian Pelican (Pelicanus crispus) and Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), both of which are endangered. The Reserve is home to 678 species of plants, six of which are endemic. The local economy is based mainly on agriculture and cattle breeding.
Gochang (Republic of Korea)
Covering 670 square kilometres, Gochang is located in the south-west region of the country and is composed of forest, coastal and freshwater ecosystems. The tidal flats are major stopover sites for migratory birds, especially longbill and plover. Economic activities on the site include eco-tourism, organic farming and salt production.
Great Nicobar (India)
This island biosphere reserve, covering 103,870 hectares, is characterized by tropical wet evergreen forest. It is home to 1,800 animal species, including 200 species of meiofauna in the coastal zone. The island is also home to the indigenous Shompen people, semi-nomadic hunters living inland, and the Nicobarese, who are coastal dwellers dependent on fishing and horticulture. The 6,381 inhabitants derive a wide variety of biological resources from their environment such as medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products.
Macizo de Cajas (Ecuador)
Situated in the south-west of Ecuador, this biosphere reserve includes a large number of ecosystems ranging from high mountains down to coastal and marine areas along the Pacific. It includes the Las Cajas National Park and the Quimsacocha National Recreational Area, which play an important role in water provision and regulation. Las Cajas National Park is also rich in biodiversity, especially endemic north-Andean fauna and is recognized as a Ramsar site, important for bird conservation. The World Heritage City of Cuenca is also part of the reserve.
Marais Audomarois (France)
Covering some 22,300 hectares in the north or France, Marais Audomarois includes the city of art and history of Saint Omer and its wetland, a Ramsar site. There are more than 1,700 species of flora, birds and fungi in the Reserve. Together they account for more than one third of France’s aquatic diversity. The reserve has a permanent population of 69,000 residents and one of France’s two remaining wetland floating gardens. These gardens are characterized by a system of wateringues (water management units, or small canals) crucial for the prevention and management of floods. The reserve is also a highly valued place for leisure and tourism.
Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo (Spain)
This biosphere reserve, located in the littoral Cantabric-Atlantic region, covers an area of 116,724 hectares and has about 190,000 inhabitants. It encompasses two main river watersheds, Mero and Mandeo, and contains ecosystems from coastal zones to mountain regions with high biodiversity. The area also boasts significant cultural diversity, linked to the use of natural resources (e.g. fertiliser and honey production) and the conservation of local livestock breeds.
Situated in a transition between Alpine and Mediterranean influences, the French territory of the Mont-Viso Biosphere Reserve is a glacial cirque surrounded by river valleys and high altitude lakes with a dry and sunny climate. The enclosed area is characterized by the presence of numerous endemic species, and landscapes shaped by pastoralism and great ecologic and biologic diversity. The territory’s dozens of ecosystems include forests, rock formations and water environments. While tourism is the driving economic force in Mont-Viso, the area also sustains well-developed agriculture and forestry.
Monteviso Area della Biosfera del Monviso (Italy)
Monviso is situated in the northern Alpine part of Italy near the French border. It encompasses a mosaic of ecosystems that run along a steep altitude gradient climbing from 450 to 3,841m above sea level. The site covers 293,916 hectares and econmpasses the Monviso Mountain, the Alevè Forest—consisting mainly of Arolla Pine (Pinus cembra)—and the Po River basin. It is home to over 266,000 permanent residents whose traditional economic activities include agriculture and the manufacture of wooden objects such as toys, furniture and harps.
Real Sitio de San Ildefonso-El Espinar (Spain)
Located in Segovia Province, 50 kilometres from Madrid, this site covers 35,414 hectares, and has a population of almost 14,000. The mountain of Valsain constitutes an important woodland area in the country and is of important ecological, economic, aesthetic and social value. Economic activities include glass production, tourism and small-scale farming. The site includes several research centres dedicated to forestry research and monitoring.
Snake Island, Laotie Mountain, (China)
Situated in the east of Dalian Lushunkou District, the site covers 9,808 hectares. It includes mountains and Snake Island, which is home to the Gloydius shedaoensis, an endemic species of the Viperidae family, inscribed on the Chinese list of endangered species since 2004. The venom of this snake has medicinal properties. The site also provides shelter to 307 bird species and ten million birds use it as stopover during migration.
Terres de l’Ebre, Catalonia (Spain)
This biosphere reserve covers 367,729 hectares and has a population of 190,000. Located in the Catalunya region, it includes the delta and watershed of the Ebro River, which is Spain largest river in terms of volume. It has a large number of different ecosystems ranging from inland to coastal areas. The main part of the land is used for cattle. Alternative energy sources such as hydrological, solar and wind power, are being developed in the region, respecting biological conservation and landscape values.
Ziarat Juniper Forest (Pakistan)
Pakistan’s largest Juniper forest is located in this reserve. The juniper forest ecosystem is of inestimable value for biodiversity conservation. It is also of great ecological significance, providing local, regional and global benefits.
First designated in 1977, this was one of the first Spanish biosphere reserves. It is located in the central Pyrenees and encompasses the Ordesa and Mont Perdido National Park, the natural monument of Pyrenees glaciers and the World Heritage site of Pirineso-Mont Perdido, Circos y Canones. The extension concerns the valley and urban zones surround the core zone protected areas. The biosphere reserve now covers 117,364 hectares and is home to 6,000 inhabitants.