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What is Biosphere reserve (Complete detail). Definition of Biosphere reserve.

What is Biosphere reserve (Complete detail). Definition of Biosphere reserve. Zones in Biosphere Reserve. Main Characteristics of Biosphere Reserves. 
Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. There are 651 biosphere reserves in 120 countries, including 15 transboundary sites.
Vision and mission of Biosphere Reserves. Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. The first biosphere reserve of the world was established in 1979.

Protected areas in India (Click for the details)

List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

List of Biosphere reserves in India

List of Tiger Reserves in India

List of Elephant Reserves in India

List of Ramsar Wetland Sites in India

List of Marine Protected areas in India

List of Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas (ICMBAs) in India

State wise list of Community Reserves of Indian – updated

State wise list of Conservation Reserves of India – updated

State wise list of Wildlife Sanctuaries of India – updated 

Click here to view State wise list of Indian National Parks – updated

Biosphere Reserve

Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Biosphere reserves are ‘Science for Sustainability support sites’ – special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.

Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized.

There are 651 biosphere reserves in 120 countries, including 15 transboundary sites. They are distributed as follows:

  • 67 in 28 countries in Africa
  • 28 in 11 countries in the Arab States
  • 137 in 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific
  • 297 in 36 countries in Europe and North America
  • 122 in 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean

Zones in Biosphere Reserve

Biosphere reserves have three interrelated zones that aim to fulfil three complementary and mutually reinforcing functions:

  1. The core area(s) comprises a strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
  2. The buffer zone surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
  3. The transition area is the part of the reserve where the greatest activity is allowed, fostering economic and human development that is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable.

Main Characteristics of Biosphere Reserves

  1. Achieving the three international functions: conservation, development and logistic support.
  2. Outpacing traditional confined conservation zones, through appropriate zoning schemes combining core protected areas with zones where sustainable development is fostered by local dwellers and enterprises with often highly innovative and participative governance systems.
  3. Focusing on a multi-stakeholder approach with particular emphasis on the involvement of local communities in management;
  4. Fostering dialogue for conflict resolution of natural resource use.
  5. Integrating cultural and biological diversity, especially the role of traditional knowledge in ecosystem management.
  6. Demonstrating sound sustainable development practices and policies based on research and monitoring.
  7. Acting as sites of excellence for education and training.
  8. Participating in the World Network.


The World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the MAB Programme consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence. It fosters the harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialogue; knowledge sharing; poverty reduction and human well-being improvements; respect for cultural values and society’s ability to cope with change – thus contributing to the Millenium Development Goals. Accordingly, the WNBR is one of the main international tools to develop and implement sustainable development approaches in a wide array of contexts.


To ensure environmental, economic and social (including cultural and spiritual) sustainability through:

  1. The development and coordination of a worldwide network of places acting as demonstration areas and learning sites with the aim of maintaining and developing ecological and cultural diversity, and securing ecosystem services for human well-being;
  2. The development and integration of knowledge, including science, to advance our understanding of interactions between people and the rest of nature;
  3. Building global capacity for the management of complex socio-ecological systems, particularly through encouraging greater dialogue at the science-policy interface; environmental education; and multi-media outreach to the wider community.

The International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves

The International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves is the primary scientific and technical Committee body advising the International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the MAB Programme and its World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) and the Director General of UNESCO on matters pertaining to the WNBR.

The Committee advise the Director-General of UNESCO and the MAB-ICC on scientific and technical matters concerning the nomination of new sites and, changes and periodic reviews of sites already included in the WNBR, as well as the development, operation and monitoring of the WNBR which they constitute in accordance with the Seville Strategy and the Statutory Framework for the WNBR.

The Committee is composed of twelve members, who are appointed for four years by the Director-General, after consultation with the Member States and or the National Committees for the Man and the Biosphere Programme of the countries concerned.

The members of the Committee are selected for their scientific qualifications and for their experience in promoting and implementing the concept of biosphere reserve.

Designation of Biosphere Reserves

Article 5 of the 1995 Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserve, states the designation procedure for biosphere reserves. It reads as follows:

Article 5- Designation procedure

  1. Biosphere reserves are designated for inclusion in the Network by the International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the MAB Programme in accordance with the following procedure.
  2. a) States, through National MAB Committees where appropriate, forward nominations with supporting documentation to the secretariat after having reviewed potential sites, taking into account the criteria as defined in Article 4.
  3. b) The secretariat verifies the content and supporting documentation: in the case of incomplete nomination, the secretariat requests the missing information from the nominating State.
  4. c) Nominations will be considered by the Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves for recommendation to ICC.
  5. d) ICC of the MAB Programme takes a decision on nominations for designation.

The Director-General of UNESCO notifies the State concerned of the decision of ICC.

  1. States are encouraged to examine and improve the adequacy of any existing biosphere reserve, and to propose extension as appropriate, to enable it to function fully within the Network. Proposals for extension follow the same procedure as described above for new designations.3. Biosphere reserves which have been designated before the adoption of the present Statutory Framework are considered to be already part of the Network. The provisions of the Statutory Framework therefore apply to them.

Periodic Review Process

The periodic review is an important event in the life of a biosphere reserve. It enables a review, every ten years, of the functioning, zoning, scale of the biosphere reserve as well as the involvement of the populations living in the site. The Statutory Framework for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) makes provision under Article 9 that “the status of each biosphere reserve should be subject to a periodic review every ten years, based on a report prepared by the concerned authority, on the basis of the criteria of Article 4, and forwarded to the secretariat by the State concerned. The report will be considered by the Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves for recommendation to International Co-ordinating Council.”

The periodic review represents an opportunity to carry out a qualitative survey of the actions implemented, their results. It’s a time to take stock of progress made by the biosphere reserve, especially as concerns the updating of knowledge, skills and expertise in resource and ecosystem management. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the updating of the zonation system and assess its relevance, question the objectives and means of management policies and examine the issues and problems tied to implementation. It is also a time to discuss weak points.  Its objective is to improve the quality of the biosphere reserves and their functioning as sites for testing and demonstrating approaches to sustainable development. To date, 356 periodic review reports were received by the Secretariat and examined by the MAB International co-ordinating Council.

Biosphere reserves which are not able to meet the criteria of Article 4 have been withdrawn by the countries from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) (see Article 9 of the Statutory Framework). As of August 2013, 16 sites have been withdrawn.

Biosphere reserves are sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. The Programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated by UNESCO in 1971. The purpose of the formation of the biosphere reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality, so that it could serve as a referral system for monitoring and evaluating changes in natural ecosystems. The first biosphere reserve of the world was established in 1979, since then the network of biosphere reserves has increased to 631 in 119 countries across the world. Presently, there are 18 notified biosphere reserves in India.

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