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About Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB)

Publish Date: 2021-12-17 09:05 Views:

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.


By focusing on sites internationally recognized within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the MAB Programme strives to:


identify and assess the changes in the biosphere resulting from human and natural activities and the effects of these changes on humans and the environment, in particular in the context of climate change;

study and compare the dynamic interrelationships between natural/near-natural ecosystems and socio-economic processes, in particular in the context of accelerated loss of biological and cultural diversity with unexpected consequences that impact the ability of ecosystems to continue to provide services critical for human well-being;

ensure basic human welfare and a liveable environment in the context of rapid urbanization and energy consumption as drivers of environmental change;

promote the exchange and transfer of knowledge on environmental problems and solutions, and to foster environmental education for sustainable development.


What are Biosphere Reserves?

Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges. Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere Reserves are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO following the decisions of the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB ICC). Their status is internationally recognized. Member States can submit sites through the designation process.

In order to assist the stakeholders with the designation process, as well as periodic reviews, Technical Guidelines are being progressively created by the MAB International Co-ordinating Council.


Biosphere Reserves involve local communities and all interested stakeholders in planning and management. They integrate 3 main "functions":


Conservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity

Economic development that is socio-culturally and environmentally sustainable

Logistic support, underpinning development through research, monitoring, education and training


These three functions are pursued through the Biosphere Reserves' 3 main zones:


Core Areas

It comprises a strictly protected zone that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation


Buffer Zones

It surrounds or adjoins the core area(s), and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.


Transition Area

The transition area is where communities foster socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable economic and human activities.


World Network of Biosphere Reserves

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 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly, the Network is one of the main international tools to develop and implement sustainable development approaches in a wide array of contexts.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves promotes North-South and South-South collaboration and represents a unique tool for international co-operation through sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, building capacity and promoting best practices.

There are 701 biosphere reserves in 124  countries, including 21 transboundary sites. They are distributed as follows:

79 sites in 29 countries in Africa

33 sites in 12 countries in the Arab States

157 sites in 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific

302 sites in 38 countries in Europe and North America

130 sites in 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean


From UNESCO Official Website