About biosphere reserves

 UNESCO provides the following on biosphere reserves, for further information on specific biospheres around world click here or below on the links for specific regions.

Biosphere reserves are areas comprising 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.

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. 

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.