The zonation of mountain biosphere reserves

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Biosphere reserves (BRs) are designated by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme. According to the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), they should be “sites of excellence to explore and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development on a regional scale”.Over half the 631 members of the WNBR are in mountain areas.

Article 5(a) of the Statutory Framework states that the core area(s) of a biosphere reserve (BR) should be “legally constituted and devoted to long-term protection, according to the conservation objectives of the biosphere reserve”; Article 5(b) states that there should be “a buffer zone or zones clearly identified and surrounding or contiguous to the core areas, where only activities compatible with the conservation objectives can take place”. Recent experience, regarding both proposed BRs and periodic reviews of existing BRs, has identified core areas that are not entirely surrounded by buffer zone or transition area, particularly in mountain areas. This led to the question as to the number of BRs in which such a situation can be observed and if it affects the conservation objectives.

In order to make a first step to answering this question, zonation data from 105 BRs in Europe’s mountains were collected and reviewed, using a geographic information system (GIS). This showed that the core areas of just over half these BRs were either not on the edge of the BR or adjacent to a protected area outside the BR. However, various issues were identified for the other BRs. A second step considered 7 of these in more detail.

The study resulted in a report and two spreadsheets with information about individual biosphere reserves. It was undertaken by Katarzyna Wicher from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, while on an Erasmus+ Student Placement.

Full citation: Wicher, K. (2015). Ensuring the conservation function of Biosphere Reserves in mountain areas in Europe.