11 new UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves

The biosphere encompasses all ecosystems (living organisms) present in the three zones of the planet. That is, the lithosphere (outer layer of the globe), the atmosphere (the gaseous layer that surrounds the globe) and the hydrosphere (all forms of water present on Earth). For 51 years, UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – has been working to list areas where the biosphere is particularly remarkable… and deserves greater protection.

The goal is “to reconcile human activity with the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity through its Program on Man and the Biosphere (MAB)”, explains Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO. In June 2022, the organization introduced eleven new biosphere reserves. They are spread across nine countries, including, for the first time, Georgia, Chad and Zambia. In total, all 738 sites identified by UNESCO now cover a protected area of ​​more than 1.3 million km² on a global scale, spread across 134 countries.

1. Sunshine Coast Biosphere Reserve (Australia)

Two surfers on Noosa Heads beach at sunset in Australia’s Sunshine Coast Biosphere. Credit: Kyle Roxas/Pexels.

The Sunshine Coast is located in south east Queensland, about 100 kilometers north of Brisbane. At the seaside, you can discover a picturesque coastline, dunes, beaches, vast rivers. But also wetlands and a mountain range inland. “Headquarters of two First Nations groups, the Kabi Kabi and the Jinibara, the biosphere reserve maintains a highly valued natural environment and rich biodiversity, especially in the 2,585 kmtwo terrestrial and marine protected areas”, explains UNESCO. Very popular, the area is visited by around 8 million tourists a year.

2. Doumba-Rey (Cameroon)

Two red-throated bee-eaters.  Credit: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.
Two red-throated bee-eaters. Credit: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.

This West Central African country already had three biosphere reserves identified by UNESCO. In June 2022, a room is added. Doumba-Rey is particularly important because it is home to a large population of birds (more than 100 species identified), but also a very diverse flora. “Located in the transition zone between savannas and forests, it plays an important role in carbon sequestration and is home to iconic species including elephants”, notes UNESCO. Within this biosphere reserve, there are around sixty villages where hunters and herders live.

3. Sena Oura Biosphere Reserve (Chad)

Two Derby eland.  Credit: Tom Junek / Wikipedia.
Two Derby eland. Credit: Tom Junek / Wikipedia.

The Sena Oura National Park was created in 2008 by the government of Chad. Located on the border with Cameroon, it has a Sudanese savannah-like ecosystem. Covering a total area of ​​173,520 hectares, these are the last intact remnants of this Sudanese savannah in Chad. Among the fauna present, we can mention derby elands, antelopes, damalisks, giraffes and elephants. “Thanks to the profusion of fertile lands and favorable agroclimatic conditions, traditional agriculture and livestock in particular guarantee the subsistence of almost 90% of the population”, says UNESCO. The region is also a producer of honey and shea oil.

4. Dedoplistskaro (Georgia)

Aerial view of beautiful textures and hills in Vashlovani National Park.  Credit: Microscope / Shutterstock.
Aerial view of beautiful textures and hills in Vashlovani National Park. Credit: Microscope / Shutterstock.

Close to the border with Azerbaijan, around the Takhti-Tepha mud volcano, is the Georgian region of Dedoplistskaro. Very sparsely populated, it is a very remote area where the biosphere peacefully flourishes. Little surprising in these conditions to count “many species of mammals (52), birds (90) and reptiles (30), including the iconic African leopard and goiter gazelle”notes UNESCO.

5. Three Rivers Alazani Biosphere Reserve (Georgia)

Landscape of beautiful green Alazani valley in Kakheti region, Georgia.  Credit: goffkein.pro / Shutterstock.
Landscape of beautiful green Alazani valley in Kakheti region, Georgia. Credit: goffkein.pro / Shutterstock.

Once again Georgia stands out with the area of ​​the three Alazani rivers. This beautiful valley is a mixture of alpine forests, floodplains and alpine meadows. “It is home to several iconic species such as the black bear, gray wolf and lynx, as well as red-listed flora and relict yew forests”, UNESCO list. Part of this biosphere is more populated and is home to many archaeological and religious sites. “The biosphere reserve aims to support and revitalize transhumant pastoralism, including the local breed of Tushetian sheep, and promote tourist visits to the vineyards”adds UNESCO.

6. Burabai (Kazakhstan)

Lake Shchuchye, in the Burabai National Park region of northern Kazakhstan.  Credit: Spot / Shutterstock.
Lake Shchuchye, in the Burabai National Park region of northern Kazakhstan. Credit: Spot / Shutterstock.

In the central highlands of Kazakhstan, the Burabai district is home to a multitude of lakes. And 14 of them have a total area of ​​more than 100 km2. “It is very representative of the biodiversity of the Eurasian forest-steppe ecotone”, explains UNESCO. Within it, the Shchuchinsk-Borovoye resort area has attracted many visitors since its inception in 2005.

7. Markakol (Kazakhstan)

A black stork flies over Lake Markakol.  Olga Rudchenko/Shutterstock.
A black stork flies over Lake Markakol. Olga Rudchenko/Shutterstock.

Also in Kazakhstan, in the southern part of western Altai, the Markakol region is included in UNESCO’s selection of biosphere reserves. On the border with China, “It covers unique and characteristic landscapes of mid-mountain taiga and high-mountain alpine landscapes of the Eurasian temperate steppe ecoregion, which is home to several endemic species including snow leopard and marten, rare and endangered species.”

8. Lake Khövsgöl Biosphere Reserve (Mongolia)

Lake Khövsgöl under ice in winter.  Credit: kisoo jung / Shutterstock.
Lake Khövsgöl under ice in winter. Credit: kisoo jung / Shutterstock.

In Mongolia, Lake Khövsgöl and its surroundings are known to be the scene of particularly dynamic biodiversity. In these vast uninhabited and still intact areas, there are many lush, aromatic and brightly colored wild plants. “Its diverse ecosystems are home to a variety of unique species, some of which are rare and endangered, such as the snow leopard, ibex, Siberian musk deer, elk, reindeer, red deer and red deer. Brown bear”says UNESCO.

9. Harrat Uwayrid (Saudi Arabia)

An Arabian leopard.  Credit: יוסי אוד / Shutterstock.
An Arabian leopard. Credit: יוסי אוד / Shutterstock.

This is Saudi Arabia’s second biosphere reserve. This one is located in the western part of the country. It is particularly important because “home to globally endangered species, including the Arabian leopard and Arabian gazelle, as well as several species of endemic flora.”

10. Kafué Marshes Biosphere Reserve (Zambia)

Elephant and zebras enjoying the sunset in the Great Kafue National Park located in Zambia, Southern Africa.  Credit: Stanley Kasompa / Shutterstock.
Elephant and zebras enjoying the sunset in the Great Kafue National Park located in Zambia, Southern Africa. Credit: Stanley Kasompa / Shutterstock.

The Kafué swamps extend over no less than 26,000 km2. This national park is the largest in Zambia. “It is home to more than 400 species of birds and various mammals, including zebras, buffalo, hippos and the endemic Kafué lechwe. It is mainly occupied by the Ila/Balundwe, transhumant herders who also practice fishing and agriculture.”reveals UNESCO.

11. Chimanimani (Zimbabwe)

Waterfall in the Chimanimani region of Zimbabwe.  Credit: Tawanda Kapikinyu/Shutterstock.
Waterfall in the Chimanimani region of Zimbabwe. Credit: Tawanda Kapikinyu/Shutterstock.

It is the second biosphere reserve identified by UNESCO in Zimbabwe. The Chimanimani area, located in the south of the country, has mountains, forests and grasslands. But also a vast freshwater system, like this waterfall here. “This biosphere reserve includes six key biodiversity areas rich in endemic plant species and 88 archaeological sites. It is inhabited by approximately 154,000 people, mainly of the Ndau culture, most of whom speak an endangered language. Local people benefit from natural resources through tourism and non-timber forest products such as honey and livestock.”explains UNESCO.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.