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Building peace in the minds of men and women

Biosphere Reserves



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.



Regional and Thematic Networks

Building international, regional, sub-regional and ecosystem-specific cooperation is a key feature of the MAB programme, supported by its regional and thematic networks of biosphere reserves.

Regional and inter-regional networks

Regional and sub-regional networks have a key role to play in the exchange of information and experience regionally namely in:

The African Biosphere Reserves Network (AfriMAB) was created in 1996 and consists of 33 African countries. The network aims at promoting regional co-operation in the fields of biodiversity, conservation and sustainable development through transborder projects, which are primarily based in biosphere reserves.

To increase efficiency, five thematic sub-networks were created which correspond to:

  • zoning and improving biosphere reserve functioning;
  • biosphere reserves and local communities; stakeholders/social actors;
  • participation and income-sharing;
  • transboundary biosphere reserves;
  • logistic support function of biosphere reserves.

African MAB Network Bureau

  • Chair: Nigeria
  • Vice-Chair & Coordinator for Central Africa: Cameroon
  • Vice-Chair & Coordinator for East Africa: Kenya
  • Vice-Chair & Coordinator for Southern Africa: South Africa
  • Vice-Chair & Coordinator for West Africa: Côte d'Ivoire

The ArabMAB Network was officially launched in 1997 and represents 18 Arab countries. The overall objective of ArabMAB is to promote co-operation between Arab National MAB Committees in order to strengthen the MAB programme in the Arab Region, including through the establishment of biosphere reserves and the implementation of common research and public awareness projects.

Members of ArabMAB constitute the ArabMAB Coordinating Council that meets every two years to elect a Bureau and to adopt a work programme for the biennium. The Council meetings are usually also the venue for expert meetings and technical workshops. ArabMAB Council meetings have been held in Agadir, Morocco (1999); Damascus, Syria, (2001); Beirut, Lebanon (2004). Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (2007). El-Chouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve, Lebanon (2010) and Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan (2013).

ArabMAB Meeting 2017

The regional meeting of the ArabMAB nettork gathered from 22-24 May in Algiers and elected the following new Steering Committee for the coming two years (2017-2019):

  • Chair: Algeria - Dr. Houria Khelifi 
  • Vice-Chair: Jordan - Mr. Amer Al Roufee 
  • Rapporteur: Tunisia - Dr. Nabiha Ben M'Barek  
  • Member: Egypt - Prof. Manal Fawzy
  • Member: Saudi Arabia - Dr. Saad Al Qahtani 


The Asia and the Pacific region counts four regional network:

  • The East Asian Biosphere Reserve Network was launched in 1994. Today, it consists of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation. The Secretariat of EABRN is provided by the UNESCO Office in Beijing.
  • The Pacific Man and the Biosphere Network (PacMAB) was created in 2006 and consists of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga. The network serves as a vehicle for exchange and cooperation among new and emerging Biosphere Reserves and national MAB focal points in the Pacific. Small islands in the Asia-Pacific region, are highly vulnerable to climate change, the impacts of which cause poverty, natural disasters, depopulation, loss of traditional culture and the detrimental effect of invasive species. Biosphere reserves have an enormous potential in addressing climate change, particularly as places for learning about sustainable development and also for experimenting on mitigation and adaptation measures on climate change. 
  • The South and Central Asia MAB Network (SACAM) was created in 2002 and comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 
  • The Southeast Asian Biosphere Reserve Network (SeaBRnet) was created in 1998. Today, it includes Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam and Timor Leste. For further details contact: UNESCO Jakarta Office


EuroMAB comprises all the biosphere reserves in Europe and North America. Created in 1987, it is currently the largest MAB Regional Network with 53 countries. Meetings of the MAB National Committees and biosphere reserve co-ordinators of EuroMAB have taken place almost every two years since 1986. 

EuroMAB 2019

Date and Venue: 2 to 5 April 2019, Dublin Castle, Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve, Ireland
Web: http://euromabdublin2019.ie/
Contact: Leslie Moore, City Parks Superintendent
Email: leslie.moore@dublincity.ie 

EuroMAB Steering Committee Members 2018-2019

Günter Köck  (Austria)
Email: Guenter.Koeck@oeaw.ac.at 
Catherine Cibien  (France)
Email: catherine.cibien@mab-france.org 
Leslie Moore (Ireland)
Email: leslie.moore@dublincity.ie  
Anatolie Risina (Moldova)
Email: anatolie.risina@gmail.com

Szymon Ziobrowski (Poland) 
Email: sziobrowski@tpn.pl

EuroMAB Secretariat

Meriem Bouamrane (UNESCO/MAB, France)
Email: m.bouamrane@unesco.org



The Ibero-American MAB Network (IberoMAB) was created in 1992. It comprises 22 countries from Latin American and the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain. The Ibero-American MAB Network aims at strengthening the MAB Programme in Latin American and Caribbean countries, Spain and Portugal, notably by consolidating their MAB National Committees and co-operative links, and promoting the creation of new biosphere reserves.

The 18th Meeting of the Network, was held in the city of Santa Marta, Colombia, from 7 to 9 May 2018. The meeting was organized by the IberoMAB Network, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, the Governorate of Magdalena, the MAB Secretariat, the UNESCO Regional Office for Science for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the UNESCO Offices in San Jose and Quito. 

The Action Plan of the Ibero-American and Caribbean Network of MAB Committees and Biosphere Reserves (IberoMAB) for the period 2018-2025, including the revision of its statutes and other aspects related to governance, financing, education and training, was approved at the conclusion of the meeting.

IberoMAB Network Bureau

President: Mexico
Vice-President: Chile
Secretariat: Spain

Focal point at the MAB Secretariat: Maria Rosa Cárdenas


Ecosystem-specific networks

Ecosystem and theme-specific networks provide valuable insights into sustainable development models and climate change mitigation and adaptation possibilities. They include networks and research, capacity building and educational collaborations on:

Drylands cover more than 40% of the Earth’s total land surface and are home to more than 2 billion people. Their biodiversity plays an important role in the global fight against climate change, poverty and desertification. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), drylands are defined as: ‘areas where the potential amount of water that is transferred from the land to the atmosphere is at least 1.5 times greater than the mean precipitation: a calculation known as the aridity index. They are defined by water scarcity and characterized by seasonal climatic extremes and unpredictable rainfall patterns’.

Despite what many think, drylands contain a great variety of biodiversity. Many species and habitats found in drylands are not present in more humid ecosystems. Their biodiversity is also central to sustainable development and to the livelihoods of their inhabitants, many of whom are poor. For this reason the importance of biodiversity to poverty reduction and economic development may be greater in drylands than in many other ecosystems. Drylands also contribute a number of high-value products of global economic importance, at least 30% of the world’s cultivated plants and many livestock breeds originate in drylands. They, therefore constitute an important genetic reservoir that is becoming increasingly valuable for climate change adaptation.

In 1994, the UNCCD was created to combat further desertification of land areas, and to protect the environment and develop sustainable land management in drylands. This Convention is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. 

As of today, 70 biosphere reserves (or 9% of the WNBR) include dryland ecosystems.

Mangroves are rare but spectacular ecosystems that occupy the boundary between land and sea. They consist of trees or large shrubs, including ferns and palms, that normally grow in or adjacent to the intertidal zone. Mangroves have adapted to survive in this environment and grow in saline coastal sediment habitats. They are found in 123 tropical and sub-tropical nations of which two-thirds can be found in 12 countries. The largest areas of mangrove ecosystems are found on the wetter coastlines of South and Central America and West and Central Africa, and from northeast India through Southeast Asia to northern Australia. Globally, they cover only 152,000 square kilometres, equating to less than 1% of all tropic forests around the world, making them a rare habitat type.

The conservation of mangrove areas is of great importance. Since 1980 one-fifth of the world’s mangrove ecosystems have been lost according to the World Atlas of Mangroves. Mangroves are ecosystem engineers, exerting a direct influence and helping to shape their environment. They can function as rich stores of biomass and are highly productive, supporting complex communities and exporting nutrients to adjacent ecosystems. 
Mangroves offer a considerable array of goods and services to people, including forest products and fisheries, and they play a critical role in coastal protection. They are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and their economic values range from US$2,000 to US$9,000 per hectare per year. Unfortunately many societies have overlooked these benefits, including the indirect support they provide to offshore fishing. 

Today, 91 out of the 701 biosphere reserves that currently form the World Network of Biosphere Reserves include mangrove ecosystems.

(Updated in July 2019)

World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves (WNICBR)

Island and coastal areas biosphere reserves around the world have different natural, cultural, socio-economic and political characteristics. However, they also have similar and specific problems that can be addressed in a common way. 

These areas, especially small islands in the Caribbean and the Asia-Pacific region, are highly vulnerable to climate change, the impacts of which cause poverty, natural disasters, depopulation, loss of traditional culture and the detrimental effect of invasive species. These alter the balance of marine and terrestrial island ecosystems and cause irreversible loss of biodiversity.

Established in 2012, the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves aims to study, implement and disseminate island and coastal strategies to preserve biodiversity and heritage, promote sustainable development, and adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Its two technical headquarters coordinate the network and work together at the global level: the office in the island of Jeju (Republic of Korea) focuses on climate change issues while the other in Menorca (Spain) specializes in sustainable development. This network is formed by the representatives of twenty islands and coastal biosphere reserves around the world and is open to all islands and coastal biosphere reserves that want to join it.


    Mountain regions represent about one-quarter of the Earth's terrestrial surface, and are home to approximately 25% of the global population. Mountains are crucial for life. They offer a wealth of ecosystem functions and services including: freshwater, biodiversity, forest products, minerals, habitats for threatened species, landscapes and cultures of exceptional value.

    Mountains supply more than half of humanity with water for drinking, irrigation, industry, food and energy production. They regulate climate, air quality and water flow, and contribute to protection against natural hazards and the impacts of extreme events. In addition, a remarkably high proportion of the world’s cultural and ethno-linguistic diversity can be found in mountain areas.

    Yet, such wealth is fragile. Threatened by global and climate change, mountain regions face loss of rare and endangered species, modified water balances (including glacial melt), and changing land use altering socio-economic conditions and the livelihoods of people.

    UNESCO-MAB assesses the impacts of global and climate change on fragile mountain ecosystems, using mountain biosphere reserves as sites for study and monitoring.

    Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Dryland Biosphere Reserves in West Africa Regional Project on building scientific and technical capacity for effective management and sustainable use of biodiversity in dryland biosphere reserves in West Africa.

    The World Network of Biosphere Reserves extended to West Africa in 1977 by the creation of the park Taï in Côte d'Ivoire. If the concept of biosphere reserves emphasizes the integration of local communities into the management and evolution of the biodiversity, it also provides for the access rules required for the protection of ecosystems which, in some cases, can become sources of conflicts between villagers and reserve managers.

    The UNESCO - MAB / UNEP - GEF regional programme, which includes six biosphere reserves in West Africa, aims to improve the understanding of "societies - savannahs" interactions in order to facilitate the dialogue between different stakeholders intervening in protected areas.

    Man and his interactions with nature is at the centre of the MAB-UNESCO Project co-financed by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and the GEF (Global Environmental Facility), launched in September 2004 for a duration of four years. Land occupation, plant species collecting, and exploitation of natural resources by local communities represent different types of pressure on biodiversity. This programme aims to reduce anthropogenic pressures by means of alternative economic activities for communities living in the vicinity of the reserves, taking full advantage of methods proposed by social sciences.

    Most of the world species live in forests and in particular in tropical forests. Although some of these creatures are not obvious to all, e.g. insects, fungi and lower life forms, they play a critical role: they notably recycle nutrients and enable our ecosystems to renew themselves. It is estimated that 73% of tropical forests will have been felled by the year 2100.

    The rapid disappearance of tropical forest and their biodiversity involves a wide range of changes, well beyond the known crucial interactions between forest cover and climate. The MAB Programme promotes economically viable and ecologically sound management of these forests. The activities notably span research, conservation and training. 

    Today, 126 out of the 686 biosphere reserves that currently form the World Network of Biosphere Reserves include rainforest ecosystems.

    Wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They store water and ensure its quality, providing resilience against drought. They play a central role in sustainable development by supplying all our fresh water. According to the RAMSAR Convention, wetlands include: “all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peat lands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans”. Due to regional and local differences wetlands vary widely due to differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, human disturbance and other factors. They are found all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica. 

    Since ancient times, humanity has inhabited wetlands and used them in different ways. In fact, the ancient society of Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, was founded and thrived in wetlands. Wetlands play a major role in protecting land against floods and the impacts of storms. They provide food and diverse habitats which support genetic, species and ecosystem biodiversity. Wetlands play a key role in the life cycles of many species and in annual migration patterns. 

    Unfortunately, wetlands are being degraded and lost due to pollution, over exploitation, climate change and human population growths. In recognition of these challenges, the RAMSAR Convention, an international treaty, was adopted in 1971. The Convention was designed to address global concerns regarding wetland loss and degradation.