World network of mountain biosphere reserves secretariat kicks off activities

The recently elected technical secretariats of the World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves, jointly coordinated by the Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China) and the Biosphere Reserve of the Valles de Omaña y Luna, held its first meeting to prepare the action plan for the upcoming years.

During the meeting the secretariats discussed the main goals of the network with the representatives of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), and senior advisors. These will focus on creating research opportunities and supporting knowledge exchanges on environmental and social issues relevant to mountain biosphere reserves.

The network will also enhance the exchange of information and stimulate collaborative work and partnerships involving all actors working in mountain biosphere reserves, notably biosphere reserve managers/coordinators, mountain specialists, scientists from universities and research centres, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and local communities.

Representing one-quarter of the Earth's terrestrial surface, mountainous regions harbour relatively untouched ecosystems and habitats with a unique biodiversity. They also play a crucial life-supporting role in the water cycle, with more than half of humanity’s freshwater supply coming from mountains. In addition, they hold unique cultural value as landscapes and are home to 15% of the global population (FAO and UNCCD, 2020).

Of the 727 biosphere reserves that are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, 474 (65%) are located in mountain ecosystems.

Mountain regions are particularly threatened by global climate change, and face the loss of rare and endangered species, shifts in the water balance (including glaciers retreat) and often irreversible land use changes, altering socio-economic conditions and ultimately the livelihoods of people.

The WNMBR activities will contribute to global efforts for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in mountainous biosphere reserves, as well as to the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development, announced by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 2021.