The International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO added 20 sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves during its meeting in the capital of Peru on 18 and 19 March. The newly adopted sites include 18 national site and one transboundary site shared between Spain and Portugal. The Council also approved 9 extensions to existing Biosphere Reserves. Following the withdrawal of two sites at the request of Austria, this brings the total number of biosphere reserves to 669 sites in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites.
The Man and the Biosphere Programme was created by UNESCO in the early 1970s as an intergovernmental scientific endeavour to improve relations between people around the world and their natural environment. Biosphere reserves are places for learning about sustainable development aiming to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources. New reserves are designated each year by the International Co-ordinating Council of the Programme, which brings together elected representatives of 34 UNESCO Member States.
The following Canadian sites joined the network this year:
Beaver Hills (Canada)—Located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, this morainic landscape developed its characteristic Boreal-zone features of abundant wetlands, shallow lakes and rock formations during the progressive retreat of glaciers some 12,000 years ago. Today, the reserve comprises a mixture of lands modified by agricultural activity, mixed wood forests, grasslands and wetlands. The diversity of forest and upland habitats provided optimal conditions for bison, deer, elk and moose, as well as diverse and abundant waterfowl, and an abundant beaver population. Thirty-six plants and six plant communities within the moraine are considered sensitive due to low distribution within the province. Agriculture provides a livelihood to most of the biosphere’s 12,000 permanent inhabitants
Tsá Tué (Canada)—Located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the area is the homeland of the Sahtúto’ine (The Bear Lake People). It includes Great Bear Lake, the last pristine arctic lake, and part of its watershed. The Taiga that covers much of the site is important to wildlife species including the muskox, general moose and caribou. The only human residents in the site are the traditional First Nation Dene Déline (whose name means “where the water flows”). Their community of 600 is established on the western shore of the lake, where they live off harvesting and limited tourism activity.
The newest international Biosphere Reserves include: Monts de Tlemcen (Algeria), Lake Bosomtwe (Ghana), La Hotte (Haiti), Agasthyamala (India), Balambangan (Indonesia), Hamoun (Iran), Collina Po (Italy), Barsakelmes (Kazakhstan), Belo-sur-Mer—Kirindy-Mitea (Madagascar), Isla Cozumel (Mexico), Atlas Cedar (Morocco), Gran Pajatén (Peru), Albay (Philippines), Fajãs de São Jorge (Portugal), Tejo/Tajo (Portugal and Spain), Jozani-Chwaka Bay (Tanzania), and Isle of Man (United Kingdom).
Extensions to existing biosphere reserves include: Trifinio Fraternidad (Honduras), Toscana (Italy), Mount Hakusan (Japan), Yakushima and Kuchinoerabu Jima (Japan), Mount Odaigahara, Mount Omine and Osugidani Biosphere Reserve (Japan), Noroeste Amotapes – Manglares (Peru), Mont Sorak (Republic of Korea), Shinan Dadohae (Republic of Korea), and Wester Ross (United Kingdom).