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UNESCO Chair: Sustainable heritage and environmental management

UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments. On June 19th 2019, Norway was appointed its very first biosphere reserve - Nordhordland Biosphere.

Norway was appointed its first biosphere reserve - Nordhordland Biosphere - on June 19th at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris
Norway was appointed its first biosphere reserve - Nordhordland Biosphere - on June 19th at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris
Photo:
Arne Abrahamsen

MAB combines the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable.

Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently (2019) counts 701 sites in 124 countries all over the world, including 20 transboundary sites:

The MAB Programme develops the basis within the natural and social sciences for the rational and sustainable use and conservation of the resources of the biosphere and for the improvement of the overall relationship between people and their environment. It predicts the consequences of today’s actions on tomorrow’s world and thereby increases people’s ability to efficiently manage natural resources for the well-being of both human populations and the environment.

Biosphere reserves comprise 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.

    Three zones, one biosphere reserve:

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

    • The core area(s) comprises a strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
    • 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.
    • 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.