20 New UNESCO Biosphere Reserves Added

22 March 2016 | Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety News Release

The session of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) held in Lima, Peru, ended on 19 March with the addition of 20 new biosphere reserves on all continents. This makes a total of 669 biosphere reserves under UNESCO in 120 countries, and they all serve as model regions for implementing the global agenda for sustainable development. Another outcome of the session was the adoption of the Lima Action Plan for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme and its World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which contains almost 60 concrete actions for strengthening the world network and the individual biospheres over the next ten years.

The new biosphere reserves include the Isle of Man, the home of the Atlas cedar in Morocco, Lake Bosomtwe, a meteoric lake in Ghana, and Isle Cozumel in Mexico. Biosphere reserves are model regions for sustainable development. They represent valuable ecosystems, conserve biological diversity and promote environmentally sound management and, consequently, sustainable development. Research and education on sustainable development are also key elements. The International Coordinating Council of the MAB Programme also discussed 140 periodic reviews of biosphere reserves. During this process, two biosphere reserves were withdrawn from the world network as they no longer meet the criteria.

The 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves was held prior to the meeting of the Coordinating Council from 14 to 17 March. Germany shared its experience gained from the work carried out in its 15 UNESCO biosphere reserves with the congress. More than twenty German scientists and managers from biosphere reserves presented their activities. One of Germany’s initiatives was a position paper by the MAB National Committee and the German UNSECO Commission on the contributions of German biosphere reserves to the world network. Another one was Germany’s proposal to expand global cooperation on education for sustainable development.


Since 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme has been developing strategies for the environmentally sound and sustainable use of resources. Biosphere reserves are the key element of the programme. Administrations, businesses and residents of these model regions resolve conflicts of interest together, for example regarding climate action, road construction and land use. Every year, the International Coordinating Council decides on the recognition of new biosphere reserves and reviews those previously recognised. From South-east Rügen in Northern Germany to the Berchtesgadener Land in the South, there are 15 UNESCO biosphere reserves all over Germany. Every ten years they undergo a review process with regard to their conservation status and development.

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