These sites promote biodiversity conservation with sustainable use and are located across 134 countries, with 21 new reserves added in the past two years alone.
The rapid expansion of this network testifies to the growing awareness that our common future depends upon reconciling lifestyle with greater respect for nature, said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UN cultural agency, UNESCO, marking the International Day for Biosphere Reserves.
Tackling common challenges
“On this day, we celebrate the diversity of these sites: their resilience, the knowledge they generate and the example they set – for instance, through their support for the green economy, or their use of renewable energy sources,” she said.
“We celebrate the potential of biosphere reserves to tackle the great challenge of our times: making peace with the natural world. In this respect, biosphere reserves have much to offer.”
Biosphere reserves are not conventional protected areas but are places where over 275 million people live and work.
These sites exist wherever humans interact with nature and range in size from a single, small island community to vast, ecological corridors stretching across continents. They are also home to many indigenous peoples, who have essential understanding and knowledge of the Earth.
One example is the Serengeti-Ngorongoro Biosphere Reserve in Tanzania, which covers a surface area of more than 4.3 million hectares.
It includes the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and supports hundreds of thousands of animals such as wildebeest, gazelles, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards and antelopes. The reserve is also home to the indigenous Maasai people.
Reset and re-invent
“In these biosphere reserves, people reset and reinvent their relationship with the environment in tangible ways – by considering biodiversity conservation and sustainable development as compatible, mutually dependent goals,” said Ms. Azoulay.
Furthermore, their potential is driven by young people in particular, many of whom participate in UNESCO efforts to promote harmony with the natural world, she said.
Ms. Azoulay ended her message by inviting people everywhere to visit a biosphere reserve.
“You are sure to experience places that are truly remarkable, not only because they are home to natural wonders – but also because they are home to extraordinary people,” she said.