FAQ

Frequently asked questions

Our Southwest Biosphere Reserve Map shows the location of the Biosphere in Nova Scotia.

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the countries where they are located. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as ‘living laboratories’ for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.

For more information please see http://www.unesco.org/mab/nutshell.htm

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What is the origin of Biosphere Reserves?

The origin of Biosphere Reserves goes back to the “Biosphere Conference” organized by UNESCO in 1968, the first intergovernmental conference to seek to the conservation and use of natural resources, thereby foreshadowing the present-day notion of sustainable development. The early foundations of the Biosphere Reserve Concept derived from this conference. The aim was to establish terrestrial and coastal areas representing the main ecosystems of the planet in which genetic resources would be protected, and where research on ecosystems as well as monitoring and training work could be carried out for an intergovernmental program called for by the Conference. This “Man and the Biosphere” (MAB) Programme was officially launched by UNESCO in 1970. One of the MAB projects consisted in establishing a coordinated world network of new protected areas, to be designated as “Biosphere Reserves”, in reference to the program itself.

For more information please see http://www.unesco.org/mab/nutshell.htm

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Why do we need Biosphere Reserves?

To conserve biological diversity.
Human pressures on land and water resources are drastically reducing the diversity of genes, plant and animal species, ecosystems and landscapes of the planet. This threatens human welfare, since this biodiversity is the potential source of foods, fibers, medicines, and raw material for industry and building. It constitutes an irreplaceable wealth for research, education and recreation for the whole of humankind.

To maintain healthy ecosystems
Biosphere reserves, which may represent large areas of land and water, contribute significantly to the maintenance of the life support systems which serve to avoid soil erosion, maintain soil fertility, regulate river flow, recharge aquifers, recycle nutrients, and absorb air and water.

To learn about natural systems and how they are changing.
Research may be conducted on the structure and dynamics of the minimally disturbed natural systems of the core areas of biosphere reserves, and compared with the functioning of human-affected landscapes in the buffer and transition areas.

To learn about traditional forms of land-use.
People in many parts of the world have devised, over a long period of time, ingenious land-use practices which do not deplete the natural resources and which can provide valuable knowledge for modern production systems. Biosphere reserves are areas where such peoples can maintain their traditions, as well as improving their economic well-being through the use of culturally and environmentally appropriate technologies.

To share knowledge on how to manage natural resources in a sustainable way.

Research to find land-use practices that improve human well-being, without degrading the environment, is a central purpose of biosphere reserves. The lessons learned are transmitted at the field level through on-the-spot training and demonstrations.

To co-operate in solving natural resources problems.
A major obstacle to reconciling environment with development is the sectoral structure of our institutions. Biosphere reserves provide places where conflicts in interest can be debated by all the stakeholders concerned: local officials, landowners, nature conservation associations, government leaders, scientists, local farmers, fishermen, private enterprises, etc.

For more information please see http://www.unesco.org/mab/nutshell.htm

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Who benefits from Biosphere Reserves?

Local communities.
These range from local indigenous communities to rural societies, including country home owners. There are various potential benefits to such people, such as protection of basic land and water resources, a more stable and diverse economic base, additional employment, more influence in land-use decision-making, reduced conflict with protected area and interest groups, a continued opportunity to maintain existing traditions and lifestyles, and a more healthy environment for these local communities and their children.

Farmers, foresters, fishermen.
Biosphere reserves provide access to training and demonstration projects on alternative land-uses and management strategies which maintain natural values, such as soil fertility and water quality, which make the best use of the available human and financial resources.

Scientists.
Biosphere reserves encourage research, for example on ecological processes or on biological diversity. They are areas offering a growing database on which to build new hypotheses and experiments. In addition, biosphere reserves provide long-term security for permanent plots and monitoring activities, which serve to identify longer-term trends over short-term fluctuations, as may be caused by changes in climate, etc.

Government decision-makers and agencies.
Biosphere reserves provide them with better information on natural resources, and enhanced technical and institutional capabilities to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. They help to procure greater public support of nature conservation through demonstrating the practical benefits involved.

The world community.
Through their education and communication activities, biosphere reserves demonstrate to public opinion and the world community practical ways to resolve land-use conflicts and to ensure protection of biological diversity. They offer opportunities for education, recreation and tourism, and help create a consciousness of solidarity among all peoples of the world to sustainably manage the biosphere.

For more information please see http://www.unesco.org/mab/nutshell.htm

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How are Biosphere Reserves selected?

Biosphere reserves cover the great variety of natural areas of the biosphere, going from high mountains to greatly human-impacted plains, from coastal regions and to vast inland forests, from the deserts of the tropics to the tundra of the polar regions. To qualify for designation as a biosphere reserve, an area should normally:

  • be representative of a major biogeographic region, including a gradation of human intervention in these systems;
  • contain landscapes, ecosystems or animal and plant species, or varieties which need to be conserved
  • provide an opportunity to explore and demonstrate approaches to sustainable development within the larger region where they are located
  • be of an appropriate size to serve the three functions of biosphere reserves mentioned above;
  • have an appropriate zoning system, with a legally constituted core area or areas, devoted to long-term protection;
  • a clearly identified buffer zone or zones and an span area of cooperation
  • be of an appropriate size to serve the three functions of biosphere reserves mentioned above;
  • have an appropriate zoning system, with a legally constituted core area or areas, devoted to long-term protection; a clearly identified buffer zone or zones and an span area of cooperation

National MAB Committees or focal points are responsible for preparing biosphere reserve nominations and for involving the appropriate government agencies, relevant institutions and local authorities in preparing the nomination. Each nomination is examined by a UNESCO Advisory Committee for biosphere reserves, for recommendation to the International Co-ordinating Council of the MAB Programme. This Council takes a decision on nominations for designation and the Director-General of UNESCO notifies the country concerned of the decision. Once designated, the appropriate authorities are encouraged to publicize their biosphere reserves, for example with a commemorative plaque and distributing information material indicating this special status.

For more information please see http://www.unesco.org/mab/nutshell.htm

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Why a World Network?

Although biosphere reserves have very different geographical, economic and cultural contexts, they do have a common interest to seek concrete solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources, for the benefit of local people. The World Network fosters exchanges amongst biosphere reserves – for example, research results or experience in resolving specific issues – and facilitates co-operative activities, including scientific research and monitoring, environmental education and specialist training.

For more information please see http://www.unesco.org/mab/nutshell.htm

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Who Funds Biosphere Reserves in Canada?

Canada does not have a program of core support for Canadian biosphere reserves. One biosphere reserve was established with a federal-provincial endowment fund. The others have had to seek funding and in-kind support from a variety of sources including government programs and private foundations.

For more information please see http://www.biosphere-canada.ca/faq.htm

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Is there some pre-defined limit on the number of biosphere reserves there can be in Canada?

No. Currently, there is no planning system to distribute and limit the location of biosphere reserves to pre-defined ecoregions (such as those for national or provincial parks). Instead biosphere reserves are viewed as on-going experiments in sustainability. Because they are generated by community initiatives, and much hard work at the local level, they are welcomed whenever they can meet the UNESCO criteria. In cases where biosphere reserves are in the same general region of Canada, mutual cooperation and learning among them is encouraged.

For more information please see http://www.biosphere-canada.ca/faq.htm

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Is a biosphere reserve just another kind of park or protected area?

A biosphere reserve must include some protected area(s) for the conservation of ecosystems and native biodiversity; therefore, it shares some of the conservation goals of a park or protected area. In addition, however, it also emphasizes the importance of community-based efforts to manage, and where necessary, restore land and other resources through adoption of best practices that contribute to stable and sustainable economic activities. It recognizes that quality economies require quality environments, and that conservation is important for both.

For more information please see http://www.biosphere-canada.ca/faq.htm

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