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What is the Purpose of a Biosphere Reserve?

JOHAN ERLANDSSON 2011-07-05        #18308

Mrs. Meriem Boumrane, MAB programme specialist

As I am new to the Man and the Biosphere program, I want to find out what the purpose of biosphere reserves is. I have scanned a few MAB webpages know, listened to a number of key note speakers at the first day of the EuroMAB 2011 conference and interviewed UNESCO programme specialist Meriem Bouamrane. But still it is not crystal clear to me.

After having scanned a number of MAB websites and having listened to key note presentations on the first day of EuroMAB 2011 I have registered a number of reasons for having a biosphere reserve:
  • Having a limited geographic area for environmental scientists to investigate to better understand nature and nature-man interactions.
  • To protect sensitive ecosystems
  • As a local initiative to sustainable development
  • To create high-value recreational areas for local residents
  • To increase tourism to the reserve (preferrably eco-tourism)
Of course it is possible to have several purposes, but to me this is a bit too disperse to be clear to understand, and I guess it must be a bit troublesome for the (often very small) biosphere reserve organisations to relate to.

UNESCO programme specialist for the MAB program, Mrs. Meriem Boumrane, was kind enough to try to clear this out for me. She explained that in the very beginning, the MAB programme was a research programme, but has over time changed. In 1995, the so called "Seville strategy" was adopted, with sustainable development as the overarching target for the biosphere reserves. The Seville strategy sets out three main functions for a biosphere reserve:
  • Conservation
  • Development
  • Logistic support (which in practice means learning)
Looking at the five reasons I listed earlier, most of them fit into the Seville strategy. From what I have seen of biosphere reserves so far, the focus is definetely on the conservation and learning functions. A unique natural habitat is protected, and visitors are invited to take part of it. The leap to work effectively with sustainable development locally is in my opinion huge, and would for example include projects on energy conservation, renewable energy, eating habits (we need to eat less meat and dairy products), sustainable food production, a less transport-dependent society, sustainable transport, new ways of measuring well-being etc. etc. 

From talking to some of the conference participants, the purpose of a biosphere reserve is not crystal clear to them either. Luckily, the conference organisers have identified this too, and right now there is a workshop on the EuroMAB identity in progress. Maybe a workshop on the entire MAB identity would have been preferrable, but I guess that will emerge in the workshop too. Hopefully, I can report back here on the outcomes of that workshop! Until then, why not take a look at the first photos from the conference?

JOHAN ERLANDSSON 2011-07-05        #18317

I met Melinda and Pierre at the first day of the conference. They have focused on the development function of biosphere reserves in their Master's thesis, which just came hot off the shelf. And what is nice, they have also built a website to make their results more accessible:

KENNETH GYLLENSTING 2011-07-06        #18345
Yes, I talked to Melinda and Pierre too, as they have completed their thesis at the Blekinge Institute of Technology, in cooperation with (among others) Blekinge Archipelago - the newest Biosphere Reserve in Sweden.

Unfortunately I had to leave the conference after two days to get back tofinish some last minute stuff before the holiday. Never got the chance to speak to you Johan!

JOHAN ERLANDSSON 2011-07-09        #18368
Yes, what a pity! Monday was packed and I didn't see you, and Tuesday I took the day off. I have invited the other Swedish biosphere reserves to present themselves and their ambitions on the Swedish Ecoprofile site, it would be very nice if you did the same for Blekinge Archipelago!

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