UNESCO Designates 20 New Biosphere Reserves
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The International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated 20 new sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, bringing the total number to 651 sites in 120 countries, including 15 transboundary reserves.

The list includes Inlay Lake, the first biosphere reserve in Myanmar.

mab-unesco9 June 2015: The International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated 20 new sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, bringing the total number to 651 sites in 120 countries, including 15 transboundary reserves. The list includes Inlay Lake, the first biosphere reserve in Myanmar.

The new sites cover major ecosystems spanning millions of hectares, such as Patagonia Azul that covers a biodiversity-rich coastal area of southern Argentina and hosts the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world, and Gouritz Cluster biosphere reserve in South Africa, where three biodiversity hotspots (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Maputoland-Tongoland-Albany) converge. One of the smallest sites is the Belezma biosphere reserve in Algeria that comprises over 5,315 hectares of centuries’ old Atlas cedars, a flagship tree species of the Aurès region of North Africa. The new list also contains one transboundary biosphere reserve, Meseta Iberica, which covers more than 1 million hectares across Spain and Portugal and hosts many flagship species.

Many of the new biosphere reserves combine unique natural attributes with a rich cultural, gastronomic and architectural heritage, and hence aim to combine biodiversity conservation with eco-tourism activities. They include Gorges du Gardon in Southern France Cacique Lempira, Señor de las Montañas in Honduras, Aksu-Zhabagly in Kazakhstan, Hanma in Inner Mongolia, China, Lake Tana in Ethiopia, Po Delta and Appennino Tosco-Emiliano in Italy, Taka Bonerate-Kepulauan Selayar in Indonesia, Tang-e-Sayad and Sabzkuh in Iran and Magaliesberg in South Africa. Several sites also aim to rekindle traditional knowledge and skills as a way of enhancing sustainable livelihoods for local communities.

A number of biosphere reserves, including Langbiang in Viet Nam, Bromo Tengger Semeru-Arjuno in Indonesia, Ledro Alps and Judicaria in Italy, are exploring ways to promote sustainable agricultural and livestock production while contributing to conservation goals.

MAB is an intergovernmental scientific programme set up by UNESCO in the early 1970s with the aim of improving the interaction between people and their natural environment on a global scale. The International Co-ordinating Council of the Programme meets once a year to designate new sites. [UNESCO News Release] [UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme]

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