Three Functions & Three Zones
Three Functions: Conservation, Development, and Logistic Support
Each biosphere reserve is intended to fulfill three basic functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing:
- Conservation of Biodiversity – to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
- Sustainable Development – to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable.
- Support for Logistics – to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.
The planning that goes into these activities helps residents in a biosphere reserve to identify and meet their own needs, in their own way. It also provides opportunities to draw together a broad base of support from all sectors of the community or communities associated with the biosphere reserve.
Three Zones: Core, Buffer and Transition
To carry out the complementary activities of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, biosphere reserves are traditionally organized into three interrelated zones, known as the core area, the buffer zone, and a transition zone or ‘area of cooperation.’
The zone concept is designed to be flexible and may be used in a variety of ways in order to address local needs and conditions. Ownership arrangements in a biosphere reserve vary as well. The core areas of biosphere reserves are often public lands with legal protection, such as a previously designated national park, wilderness area or wildlife refuge. However, the core area may be privately owned or belong to non-governmental organizations.
- Core area: includes protected areas, as they act as reference points on the natural state of the ecosystems represented by the biosphere reserves. Information from these core areas may be used to assess the sustainability of activities, or the maintenance of environmental quality, in surrounding areas. Managers of the core areas may contribute resources to projects developed with residents, businesses and other partners of the biosphere reserve.
- Buffer zone: surrounds or is contiguous to the core area. Activities are organized so they do not hinder the conservation objectives of the core area, but rather help to protect it. The buffer zone might be an area for experimental research, or may involve ways to manage natural vegetation, agricultural land, forests, fisheries or ranchland to enhance overall quality of production while conserving natural processes and biodiversity. This zone may also accommodate education, training, tourism, and recreation facilities. In many biosphere reserves the buffer zone is regarded as an area in which human use is less intensive than what might be found in the transition zone.
- Transition Zone, or Area of Cooperation: the large outer area of a reserve where people live and work, using the natural resources of the area in a sustainable manner. The term ‘area of cooperation’ underscores the role of cooperation as the main tool to achieve the objectives of the biosphere reserve. It is here that the local communities, conservation agencies, scientists, civil associations, cultural groups, businesses and other stakeholders agree to work together to manage and use the area in a sustainable way that will benefit the people who live there.
Banner image credit - Scenic - Jeff Bectell • Windmills - Parks Canada, Cyndi Smith • Gas Plant - Jeff Yee