Biosphere reserves: important for people and nature
Many people are not familiar with the word biosphere reserve. It is also an unknown term. Yet there are already plenty of these reserves in the world. But what is it then? And what does it mean for people and the environment? This article provides the answers to these and other questions. It also makes clear that biosphere reserves are important for nature conservation.
Biosphere reserves have existed since 1968 courtesy of Unesco, the United Nations Education, Nature and Science Organization. They set up the MAB project. This stands for Man and Biosphere; in other words humans and biosphere. UNESCO researchers have designated biogeographic areas worldwide and in each of these areas designated one or more areas that were eligible to become a biosphere reserve. More than 300 biosphere reserves have now been established and many more are likely to be added.
In order to qualify for the title of a biosphere reserve, an area must meet two important conditions. The most important of course is that valuable plants and animals are present and that the living environment of these plants and animals is unique.
A second condition is that there is room in these areas for environmentally friendly agriculture, horticulture, fishing and hunting and tourism. But all in a traditional way. People are also allowed to live in these areas, but only in certain parts.
The difference with other nature reserves
The main difference with ‘normal’ nature reserves is that in a biosphere reserve there is room for the aforementioned agriculture, horticulture, hunting and fishing. The latter two do not apply to all biosphere reserves and often only in certain seasons. The boundaries between nature reserve and the inhabited world are less strict in a biosphere reserve than in other nature reserves: in general, people are not allowed to live there and do agricultural work. Never mind hunting and fishing!
The classification of a biosphere reserve
A biosphere reserve consists of one fully protected and screened core zone. No one is allowed here and farming, hunting, tourism and living are prohibited. In fact, the same rules apply in such a core zone as in any other nature reserve. In any case, this core zone ensures that the plants and animals that occur in this region always have a habitat and are preserved for the future and therefore cannot become extinct.
There are buffer zones around the core zone. In these buffer zones there is therefore room for environmentally friendly and traditional agriculture. People are also allowed to live here on a small scale. Think of the farmers who grow vegetables and fruit in an environmentally friendly way. The most important condition is that it is only environmentally friendly.
Tourists are also allowed to come to these areas. These are often very interesting areas for tourists. In this way they can still go out into nature worldwide and get to know an area.
Science and education
The over 300 biosphere reserves around the whole are all regularly surveyed. It is very interesting for scientists to see what all small-scale and environmentally friendly activities in these areas have an influence on the protected areas. Naturally, research is also being conducted into the life of plants and animals in these areas. All the information they gain is used in other and new biosphere reserves.
This information is also used for education. It is important to draw the attention of local residents and other residents of the countries and areas concerned to the benefits of nature conservation. This can be a problem, especially in the poorer parts of the world; here people want to survive, despite this being at the expense of the environment. The inhabitants also learn with all the information from the scientists what an impact their agriculture and life has on the protected areas so that they hopefully do something with it. Young people in particular benefit greatly from this information; they can change a lot and mean a lot for the environment.
Of course it sounds incredibly beautiful: reserves in which there is room for both people and nature. Yet it is not as simple as it seems. Especially in the biosphere reserves there are many problems.
One of the biggest problems is that the boundary between the buffer zones and the core zone is often not very clear. As a result, people still enter the protected areas and there is simply hunting, logging and agriculture. Another problem is that there is not as much control as in nature reserves. There are daily checks in nature reserves for people who have no business there. This is often not the case in the core zones of biosphere reserves.
There is also a lot of misunderstanding among the local population and they often do not take the core zones into account. Certainly in the poorer parts of the world, people are more aware of the disadvantages than the advantages of such an area. They want to live and eat and therefore do not take the core zones into account.
And then of course there are the poachers and the people who log trees illegally. This problem of course applies to every nature reserve in the world, but it seems to be more common in biosphere reserves. Probably due to the lack of control. It is hoped that in the future there will be more monitoring in the core zones so that these problems can be solved quickly and the biosphere reserves are preserved for the future.