Friday, June 27, 2008

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves

The United States was a major proponent for the decision by UNESCO to create the Man in the Biosphere (MAB) program in 1974. Even when the United States decided to withdraw from UNESCO, the Reagan administration chose to retain U.S. participation in the program. The flagship effort of the program is the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).

"Biosphere Reserve" is a term denoting an area that has been nominated by the locality and the country in which it is located for participation in the worldwide Biosphere Reserve Program. Biosphere Reserve recognition does not convey any control or jurisdiction over such sites to the United Nations or to any other entity. The United States and/or state and local communities where biosphere reserves are located continue to exercise the same jurisdiction as that in place before designation. The networking of the independent reserves provides scientific advantages, facilitates cross-border cooperation in the management of shared landscapes (such as between the United States and Mexico or the United States and Russia), as well as some assurance that globally important genetic resources will be conserved.

There are now 531 biosphere reserves in 105 countries, including 47 reserves in the U.S.. The following map shows those in the continental United States with red dots.

The program provides the most important mechanism for international scientific cooperation focused on how to manage social and economic development so as to preserve the environment -- producing knowldege that will be increasingly important in meeting the pressures on the environment in the next century. It also provides an important mechanism for the preservation for future use by mankind of genetic resources that have not yet been domesticated. Moreover, it provides a valuable source of stimulus and advice to nations (especially the poor nations in Africa and Asia) on how to manage their social and economic development to ensure that it can be sustained.

The 3rd World Congress on Biosphere Reserves was held in Madrid in February. There were 105 countries in attendance, represented by 829 participants including 20 from the United States. The Madrid Action Plan (MAP) was formally approved at the Congress. According to the plan, the overall goals of the program for the next few years are to:
(a) anchor the research, training, capacity building and demonstration agendas of MAB at the interface between the interlinked issues of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and socio-economic and cultural well-being of human communities;

(b) enable the active use of places included in the WNBR as learning sites for sustainable development, i.e. demonstrating approaches to enhance co-operation amongst epistemic (academic), political, practitioner and stakeholder communities to address and solve context specific problems to improve environmental, economic and social conditions for human and ecosystem well-being;

(c) collect, collate, synthesize and disseminate lessons learned from more than 30 years of the work of the MAB Program and the WNBR as well as their planned actions during 2008-2013 to benefit international, national and local efforts to meet global targets such as the MDGs, significantly reducing the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 (also referred to as the “CBD 2010 target”) and others that are part of the UNFCCC and Kyoto processes linked to mitigating and adapting to global climatic change; and

(d) contribute to the emergence of a new generation of professionals and practitioners who can serve as ambassadors and managers/coordinators for linking global environmental agendas to national and local development aspirations.
The plan further defines the vision of the program as follows:
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the Man and the Biosphere Program consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence. It fosters harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialog, 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 MDGs. Accordingly, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves is one of the main international tools to develop and implement sustainable development approaches in a wide array of contexts.
It defines the mission as follows:
To ensure environmental, economic, social (including cultural and spiritual) sustainability through:
  • development and coordination of a worldwide network of places acting as demonstration areas and learning sites with the aim of maintaining and developing ecological and cultural diversity, and securing ecosystem services for human well-being;
  • development and integration of knowledge including science for advancing our understanding of interactions between people and the rest of nature;
  • building global capacity for the management of complex socio-ecological systems particularly through encouraging greater dialogue at the science-policy interface, environmental education and multi-media outreach to the wider community.
In the meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in May the members formally recommended that the State Department reinforce U.S. participation in the Man and the Biosphere program. The American participants in the Congress recommended that the
"U.S. National Commission for UNESCO should reconstitute the U.S. National Committee for MAB to allow a coordinated effort to effectively interact within the national network and internationally in areas of research, ecological monitoring, land use practices and education programs. A united front will allow U.S. agencies and organizations to develop partnerships and funding strategies for national and mission-focused activities."
The George Wright Society provides a good website on the Man and the Biosphere program and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The GWS is a nonprofit association of researchers, managers, administrators, educators, and other professionals who work on behalf of the scientific and heritage values of protected areas. It is named in honor of George Melendez Wright, the first chief of the wildlife division of the U.S. National Park Service in the early 20th century, who died tragically at the age of 36.


Aditi said...

The Millennium Goals represent a global partnership for development.
The deal makes clear that it is the primary responsibility of poor countries to work
towards achieving the first seven Goals. They must do their part to ensure greater accountability
to citizens and efficient use of resources. But for poor countries to achieve the first seven Goals, it is absolutely critical that rich countries deliver on their end of the bargain with more and more effective aid, more sustainable debt relief and fairer trade rules, well in advance of 2015.
Lets all join this campaign:

John Daly said...

Sorry, I got fooled. The link suggested by aditi seems to be to an adult content site. Be careful. (I would edit the comment if I knew how.)

Still I agree that rich countries will have to pay up if the world is to reach the MDGs (or if the poorest nations are to get close to reaching them).