Expansion of World’s Biosphere Reserves

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November 03, 2022

Why in news?

Expanding biosphere reserves across the world will help millions of people realise a better future in harmony with nature.

What are biosphere reserves?

  • Biosphere Reserve (BR) is an international designation by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof.
  • BRs are are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each others’ needs.

Criteria for designation of BR

  • The site must contain an effectively protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation.
  • The core area should be typical of a bio-geographical unit and large enough to sustain viable populations representing all trophic levels in the ecosystem.
  • The management authority to ensure the cooperation of local communities while managing and containing the conflicts.
  • Areas potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of environment.


What are 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 was formed in 1971, as a backbone for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, and living in harmony with nature.
  • There are now 738 properties in 134 countries.
  • There are 18 biosphere reserves in India, out of which 12 are recognized internationally under the MAB programme.
  • Spain is one of the lead participating WNBR countries globally, with 53 properties.
  • The first biosphere reserve in South Asia was the Hurulu Biosphere Reserve, in Sri Lanka.
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal do not have biospheres as yet.


What is the significance of World Network of Biosphere Reserves?

  • It is a unique tool for cooperation through sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, building capacity and promoting best practices.
  • Support of members is of great importance because the ecological carrying capacity of the planet earth has been exceeded.
  • The best concept for ‘Living in Harmony with Nature’ that exists in the United Nations system, is the WNBR.
  • Concerns – The long-term threats includes biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution and population dynamics, accelerated by the blind belief in technological solutions for all problems.



  1. The Hindu│ A chance to expand the world’s biosphere footprint
  2. UNESCO│ Biosphere Reserves
  3. UNESCO│ Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme
  4. Vikaspedia│Biosphere reserves in India


Quick facts

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB)

  • UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an intergovernmental scientific programme that was launched in 1971.
  • It aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments. 
  • It proposes interdisciplinary research, demonstration and training in natural resources management.
  • MAB helps national governments with the planning and implementation of research and training programmes with technical assistance and scientific advice.
  • India is a signatory to the landscape approach supported by UNESCO's MAB programme.

Biosphere reserves in India

  • Biosphere reserves in India are announced by state and central government.
  • First biosphere reserve in India - The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
  • Largest biosphere reserve in India - Great Rann of Kutch
  • Smallest biosphere reserve in India - Dibru-Saikhowa (Assam)


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