Integrating biosphere and local land use management

The biosphere reserve concept was initiated in 1974 by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) to reconcile the conservation of natural and semi-natural areas with local land-use needs. Biosphere reserves consist of a strictly protected "core area" that is surrounded by a "buffer zone" and then a "transition area". Land use in a buffer zone is limited to activities that are compatible with the protection of the core area, such as certain forms of research, education, training, recreation and tourism. Appropriate economic activities are permitted in the transition area, where sustainable resource management practices can be developed. But in reality the zonation is much more complex. MAB is concerned with the conservation and monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystem processes, the sustainable management of natural resources at the ecosystem and landscape levels and the integration of the socio-cultural and ethical dimensions into land development.

The general criteria for an area to qualify for designation as a Biosphere Reserve include the following: (1) it should constitute a mosaic of ecological systems representative of major biogeographical regions, including a gradation of human interventions; (2) it should be of significance for the conservation of biodiversity; (3) it should provide an opportunity to explore and demonstrate approaches to sustainable development on a regional scale; (4) it should be able to provide all three functions of a Biosphere Reserve; (5) it should provide these functions through appropriate zonation, namely one or more legally protected core areas, buffer zones and transition areas; (6) provisions should be made for mechanisms to manage human activities in the buffer zones, a management policy or plan for the area as a Biosphere Reserve, a designated authority or mechanism to implement this policy or plan and programmes for research, monitoring, education and training.

The network of Biosphere Reserves consisted by December 1997 of 352 reserves in 87 countries. Most biosphere reserves are located in existing national parks and forest reserves and in practice often have limited capability of addressing overall rural development issues at the bioregional scale. The overall MAB programme is guided by the MAB International Coordinating Council that consists of 34 member states elected by the UNESCO General Conference. Programme activities are conducted in more than a hundred countries under the direction of their MAB National Committees or focal points.
Resource depletion
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 15: Life on Land