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Home - Good Questions

What is a biosphere reserve?

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A biosphere reserve is a defined area with ecological significance. It promotes answers on how to protect the environment and – at the same time – live and work within the region. The goal is to achieve a sustainable way of life for all people and species within the biosphere reserve. A biosphere reserve is established by countries and recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. After the designation, a biosphere reserve remains under national sovereign jurisdiction of the state where it is located.

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How many biosphere reserves do we have?

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Collectively, biosphere reserves form the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Within this network, exchanges of information, experience and personnel are facilitated. Currently there are 598 sites in 117 countries. Canada has 16 biosphere reserves, organized together for mutual support through the Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association (CBRA).

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Why do we need biosphere reserves?

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Biosphere reserves address one of the most challenging issues we face today: How to maintain the health of natural systems while meeting needs of communities? In some ways biosphere reserves serve as "learning places" for testing and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.

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Who benefits from biosphere reserves?

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Everyone. Biosphere reserves are organized in a worldwide network. Their activities in conservation, development and education contribute to practical ways to resolve land-use conflicts and to ensure protection of biological diversity. They also help create a consciousness of solidarity among all peoples of the world to sustainably manage the biosphere. Local communities and people take advantage from the protection of species, land and water resources within their biosphere reserve. They have a continued opportunity to maintain existing traditions and lifestyles as well as a more stable and diverse local economy with additional employment. Workshops and other educational events organized by their biosphere reserve provide people knowledge on how to make their own local community a sustainable place for themselves and their children. Through their international recognition and their communication activities biosphere reserves also attract tourists who are looking for recreation. The collected data on historic events, measurements and other records encourage scientists to do new research or to build new hypotheses and experiments. For government decision-makers and agencies, these data enhance their ability and knowledge base to manage natural resources in a sustainable way.

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How are biosphere reserves funded in Canada?

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Canada does not have a program of core support for its biosphere reserves. Therefore Canadian biosphere reserves have to seek funding and in-kind support through grants, bursaries, contribution agreements and (private) donations.

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What is the difference between a biosphere reserve and a national park or other protected areas?

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The common (shared) reality is that all these areas have a protected zone for the conservation of ecosystems. Within biosphere reserves this zone is called the "core area". However, the difference from other protected areas is that biosphere reserves also emphasize the importance of community-based efforts to enabling a stable and sustainable economy.

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More information about biosphere reserves can be found on
UNESCO, MAB and CBRA websites.

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