WHAT ARE BIOSPHERE RESERVES?

Photo by Rebecca Pollock

Photo by Rebecca Pollock

A biosphere reserve is an area proposed by its residents, ratified by a national committee, and designated by UNESCO’s’ Man and Biosphere’ program [MAB], which demonstrates innovative approaches to living and working in harmony with nature. One of the primary objectives of MAB is to achieve a sustainable balance between the goals of conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development, and maintaining associated cultural values.

The term ‘biosphere’ refers to all of the land, water and atmosphere that supply life on earth. The word ‘reserve’ means that it is a special area recognized for balancing conservation with sustainable use. The term ‘reserve’ does not mean that these places are set aside from human use and development. In fact, the study of human use is an important part of the biosphere reserve program.

Each biosphere reserve demonstrates practical approaches to balancing conservation and human use of an area. They are excellent examples of community-based initiatives that protect our natural environment while ensuring the continued healthy growth of the local economy.

Biosphere reserves recognize that quality economies require quality environments, and that conservation is important for both.

The biosphere reserve program is entirely voluntary. Authority over land and water use does not change when a biosphere reserve is designated in Canada. Government jurisdictions and private ownership rights remain as they were before designation.

The World Biosphere Reserve Network currently consists of 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries [2017]. Canada currently has a network of 18 biosphere reserves.

Photo by Stephen Harrington

Photo by Stephen Harrington

What a biosphere is not …

  • It is not a new level of bureaucracy
  • It is not a World Heritage Site
  • It does not create new protected areas
  • It does not create any new regulations
  • It does not restrict the rights of citizens

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