There are living organisms all around us and we must make a conscious effort to preserve as well as conserve this biodiversity in our environment.
Simply put, Biosphere Reserves can be defined as widespread areas of bio-diversity wherein fauna and flora are protected.
‘Biosphere’ refers to water, land, and atmosphere that supply life on our planet. The word ‘reserve’ symbolizes that it is a special area designated for creating a balance between conservation and sustainable use.
You must not misinterpret the word ‘reserve’ to be a place that is set aside from human use and development. A biosphere reserve program also aims at studying human interaction with a particular area.
Biosphere reserves are a great example of community-based initiatives aimed towards the protection of our natural environment while also ensuring consistent healthy growth of the local economy.
It can include one or more National Parks or sanctuaries. Protection is granted to all the living organisms flourishing inside the boundaries of the reserve, including flora, fauna as well as the human communities who inhabit those regions.
The biosphere reserve network was launched in 1971 by UNESCO, two years after the initiation of MAB- Man and the biosphere program.
As per the law, these regions of environmental protection related to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category V Protected areas.
- Biosphere Reserve (BR) is an international designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination of both.
- Biosphere Reserves tries to balance economic and social development and maintenance of associated cultural values along with the preservation of nature.
- Biosphere Reserves are thus special environments for both people and nature and are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each others’ needs.
- Biosphere Reserve (BR) is not covered under any law.
The first biosphere reserve of the world was established in 1979. There are 701 Biosphere reserves across 124 countries in the world which also include 21 transboundary sites.
Criteria for Designation of Biosphere Reserve
- A site must contain a protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation.
- Core area must be a bio-geographical unit and should be large enough to sustain a viable populations representing all trophic levels.
- The involvement of local communities and use of their knowledge in biodiversity preservation.
- Areas potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of the environment.
Structure of Biosphere Reserve
- Core Areas:
- It is the most protected area of a biosphere reserve. It may contain endemic plants and animals.
- They conserve the wild relatives of economic species and also represent important genetic reservoirs having exceptional scientific interest.
- A core zone is a protected region, like a National Park or Sanctuary/protected/regulated mostly under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is kept free from human interference.
- Buffer Zone:
- The buffer zone surrounds the core zone and its activities are managed in this area in the ways that help in the protection of the core zone in its natural condition.
- It includes restoration, limited tourism, fishing, grazing, etc; which are permitted to reduce its effect on the core zone.
- Research and educational activities are to be encouraged.
- Transition Zone:
- It is the outermost part of the biosphere reserve. It is the zone of cooperation where human ventures and conservation are done in harmony.
- It includes settlements, croplands, managed forests, and areas for intensive recreation and other economic uses characteristics of the region.
Functions of Biosphere Reserve
- Managing Biosphere Reserve’s genetic resources, endemic species, ecosystems, and landscapes.
- It may prevent man-animal conflict eg. death of tiger Avni who was shot dead when she turned man-eater
- Along with the wildlife, culture and customs of tribals are also protected
- Promoting economic and human growth that is sustainable on a sociocultural and ecological level. It seeks to strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic, and protection of the environment.
- Logistic support:
- Promoting research activities, environmental education, training, and monitoring in the context of local, national, and international conservation and sustainable development.
UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserves
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) covers globally chosen protected areas. It consists of a vibrant and interactive network of sites of distinction.
It promotes the harmonious assimilation of people and nature for sustainable development in different ways. If one country declares one area as a biosphere reserve, it can nominate the same under the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. If UNESCO accepts the proposal of the government, the biosphere reserve will enter into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).
The UNESCO has introduced the designation ‘Biosphere Reserve’ for natural areas to minimize conflict between development and conservation. Biosphere Reserves are nominated by the national government which meets a minimal set of criteria under the Man and Biosphere Reserve Program of UNESCO.
Man and Biosphere Programme
- Launched in 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an intergovernmental scientific program that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
- MAB combines natural and social sciences, economics, and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable.
There are total 12 biosphere reserves of India which have been recognized internationally under Man and Biosphere Reserve program:
|2001||Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve||West Bengal|
|2009||Simlipal Biosphere Reserve||Odisha|
|2009||Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve||Madhya Pradesh|
|2009||Nokrek Biosphere Reserve||Meghalaya|
|2000||Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve||Tamil Nadu|
|2004||Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve||Uttarakhand|
|2001||Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve||Tamil Nadu|
|2013||Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve||Great Nicobar|
|2012||Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve||Chhattisgarh|
|2016||Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve||Kerala and Tamil Nadu|
|2018||Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve||Part of North and West Sikkim districts|
|2020||Panna National Park||Madhya Pradesh|
Biosphere Reserves in India
Biosphere reserves are announced by the state or central governments by notification. The Governments can nominate them under the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme after its establishment as a biosphere reserve.
There are 18 biosphere reserves in India:
- Cold Desert, Himachal Pradesh
- Nanda Devi, Uttrakhand
- Khangchendzonga, Sikkim
- Dehang-Debang, Arunachal Pradesh
- Manas, Assam
- Dibru-Saikhowa, Assam
- Nokrek, Meghalaya
- Panna, Madhya Pradesh (Smallest Area)
- Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh
- Achanakmar-Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh
- Kachchh, Gujarat (Largest Area)
- Similipal, Odisha
- Sundarban, West Bengal
- Seshachalam, Andhra Pradesh
- Agasthyamalai, Tamil Nadu-Kerala
- Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu-Kerala (First to be Included)
- Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu
- Great Nicobar, Andaman & Nicobar Island
- A scheme called Biosphere Reserve is being implemented by the Government of India since 1986, in which financial assistance is given in 90:10 ratio to the North Eastern Region States and three Himalayan states and in the ratio of 60:40 to other states for maintenance, improvement, and development of certain items.
- The State Government prepares the Management Action Plan which is approved and monitored by the Central MAB Committee.
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1986, Nilgiri falls within the state boundaries of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, along the western ghats.
- The key fauna of the Nilgiris is the Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Tahr.
- It includes the Aralam, Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, Bandipur, and Silent Valley national parks, as well as the Wayanad and Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuaries.
2. Nanda Devi
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1988, Nanda Devi falls within the state boundaries of Uttarakhand, along the western Himalayas.
- Rishi Ganga river
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Himalayan Musk Deer, Mainland Serow, Himalayan Tahr
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1988, Nokrek falls within the state boundaries of Meghalaya, along the eastern Himalayas.
- Garo Hills
- The key fauna of the Nokrek is the Red Panda.
- Other species – Hoolock Gibbon, Pig-tailed macaque, stump-tailed macaque, Binturong, Clouded Leopard, Elephant, Leopard, Gaur
4. The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1989, Great Nicobar falls within the boundaries of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
- The key fauna of the Great Nicobar is the Saltwater crocodile.
- Galathea WS, Campbell Bay WS
- Nicobarese and Shompen tribe
5. Gulf Of Mannar
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1989, the Gulf of Mannar falls within the state boundaries of Tamil Nadu.
- This habitat is the feeding grounds for the largest endangered marine mammal Dugong i.e., Dugong dugon and, also, sea turtles.
- The key fauna of this coast is the dugong(sea cow).
- This area is also the last refuge of an invertebrate, the unique ‘living fossil’ Balanoglossus that links vertebrates and invertebrates.
- It is also important for crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms, fishes, turtles and many other mammals.
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1989, Sunderbans falls within the state boundaries of West Bengal, along the Gangetic delta.
- The key fauna of the Sunderbans is the royal Bengal tiger.
- Largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
- Sunderbans Delta is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site & and a Ramsar site (a wetland site designated to be of international importance).
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1989, Manas falls within the state boundaries of Assam, along the eastern Himalayas.
- It is located in the Himalayan foothills in Assam. It is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
- The key fauna of Manas is the red panda and the golden langur.
- NP, TR, ER, BR, UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Manas river flows through the west of the park. Manas is a major tributary of Brahmaputra river.
- Other species – Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur, pygmy hog
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1994, Simlipal falls within the state boundaries of Odisha, along the Deccan peninsula.
- The key faunas are the royal Bengal tiger and wild tiger.
- Park is home to the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, Gaur, and Chausingha.
- Waterfalls – Joranda and Barehipani Falls.
- Named after Semul tree, also called red silk cotton tree
- National Park, Elephant Reserve, Tiger Reserve
- It includes three protected areas Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Erenga Kharias and Mankirdias tribes
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1997, Dibru-saikhowa falls within the state boundaries of Assam, along the eastern Himalayas.
- Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers
- The key fauna is the golden langur, Rare white-winged wood duck
- The forest type of Dibru-Saikhowa comprises semi-evergreen forests, deciduous forests, littoral and swamp forests, and patches of wet evergreen forests.
- It is the largest swamp forest in north-eastern India.
- Dibru-Saikhowa National Park – It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA), notified by Birdlife International. It is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.
- Maguri Motapung wetland is a part of the Reserve.
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1998, Dehang-dibang falls within the state boundaries of Arunachal Pradesh, along the eastern Himalayas.
- Siang and Debang Valley
- Mishmi takin, Red goral, Musk deer, Red panda, Asiatic black bear
- 2 flying squirrel- 1. Mechuka Giant Flying Squirrel 2. Mishmi Hills Giant Flying Squirrel
- Mouling National Park
- Dibang Wildlife S.
- Mishmi Hills
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 1999, Panchmarhi falls within the state boundaries of Madhya Pradesh.
- The key fauna of Panchmarhi are the giant squirrel and the flying squirrel.
- Bori, Panchmarhi and Satpura National Park
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2000, Khangchendzonga falls within the state boundaries of Sikkim, along the eastern Himalayas.
- The key fauna of this region is the red panda and the snow leopard.
- Zemu glacier
- Lepcha tribe
- Tholung monastery – located in the park’s buffer zone.
- India’s first “Mixed World Heritage Site” on UNESCO World Heritage List
13. Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2001, the Agasthyamalai biosphere reserve falls within the state boundaries of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, along the western ghats.
- The key fauna here are the elephants and the Nilgiri Tahr.
- Neyyar, Peppara, and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuaries and their adjoining areas in Kerala.
- Shola Forest
- Kanikaran tribe
14. Achanakamar -Amarkantak
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2005, Achanakamar –Amarkantak falls within the state boundaries of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, along the Maikala hills.
- Narmada, Johila and Son rivers emerge from Amarkantak Plateau
- The topography of the soil in the Amarkantak plateau is bauxite rocks.
15. Great Rann of Kutch
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2008, Great Rann of Kutch falls within the state boundaries of Gujarat.
- The key fauna of this desert is the Indian Wild Ass.
- Luni, Rupen and Banas river end there
- Flamingo city is there famous for the Great Flamingo
- Indian wild ass is in Little Rann of Kutch
- Famous for Chir Batti, a strange dancing light phenomenon
- Banni Grassland is there which was thought for re-introduction of cheetah
- Chari-Dhand Wetland
- Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary
- Kutch Bustard Sanctuary
- 3 Indian bustard species– Great Indian Bustard, Greater Florican, Lesser Florican
16. Cold Desert
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2009, Cold Desert falls within the state boundaries of Himachal Pradesh along the western Himalayas.
- The key fauna here is the snow leopard.
- Pin Valley National Park
- Chandratal Ramsar site
- Sarchu and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary
17. Seshachalam Hills
- Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2010, Seshachalam hills fall within the state boundaries of Andhra Pradesh, along the eastern ghats.
- Tirumala hills, Malwadi Gundam waterfalls on Tirumala hills
- Famous for Slender Loris
- It has large reserves of red sandalwood which is used in medicines, soaps, spiritual rituals.
- It is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh. Designated as a biosphere reserve in the year 2011. This is the only Tiger Reserve in the Bundelkhand region.
- Ken River (one of the least polluted tributaries of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve and the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will also be located in it.
- The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining.
- Panna Biosphere Reserve is the third in Madhya Pradesh to be included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) after Pachmarhi and Amarkantak.
- Panna National Park has also been declared as Panna Tiger Reserve, apart from this the entire area of Panna National Park and 3 parts of Gangau Sanctuary have also been notified as Critical Tiger Habitat Area.
- The key fauna here is the Sambhar and Sloth bear, Bengal tiger, Chinkara, and Chital.
- The other 2 species of cats claim this region as their home; the Siyah Gosh (Felis caracal) and Jungle cat (Felis chaus).
- The dominating vegetation type is Miscellaneous Dry Deciduous forest inter spread with grassland areas.
Difference between Biosphere Reserves, National Park and WildLife Sanctuaries
- Biosphere Reserve
The International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of UNESCO’s designation of ‘Biosphere reserve’ for natural areas became active in November 1971.
Features of Biosphere Reserve
- These are marked areas covering a larger area of land which includes multiple National Parks, Sanctuaries, and reserves as well
- These places are meant for the conservation of biodiversity of a specific area
- The 3 areas include Core, Buffer & Marginal. There’s no outside Species allowed.
- It is used for Conservation & research purpose.
- It is internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) program and nominated by national governments.
- Wildlife Sanctuary
It is a declared area place where endangered species are kept. It restricts any activity that would put the protected animals in any state of undue stress or harm.
Features of Wildlife Sanctuary
- It is a natural area declared/protected by a governmental or private agency for the conservation of particular species.
- It is strictly designated for the protection of wild fauna.
- Only fauna is conserved. No outside activities are allowed
- It comes under the category called “Protected Areas”. The Protected Areas are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has defined its Category IV type of protected areas
- National Park
National parks are home to multiple species of birds and animals which is marked by Central And State Government for the purpose of conservation.
Features of National Park
- It is reserved land owned by the government.
- The area is protected from industrialization, human exploitation, and pollution.
- Cutting, Grazing, and Outside Species Is not Allowed
- It comes under the category called “Protected Areas”. The Protected Areas are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas, has defined its Category II type of protected areas.
Natural World Heritage Sites
- Kaziranga National Park – Assam
- Manas Wildlife Sanctuary – Assam
- Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers – Uttarakhand
- Great Himalayan National Park – Himachal Pradesh
- Sunderbans National Park – West Bengal
- Western Ghats
- Keoladeo Ghana National Park – Rajasthan
The following is a list of potential sites for Biosphere Reserves as selected by Ministry of Forests and Environment:
- Abujmarh, Chhattisgarh
- Andaman and Nicobar, North Islands
- Chintapalli, Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh
- Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
- Kovalam, Kerala
- Lakshadweep Islands, Lakshadweep
- Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
- Phawngpui (Blue Mountain), Mizoram
- Namdapha, Arunachal Pradesh
- Singhbhum, Jharkhand
- Tawang and West Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh
- Thar Desert, Rajasthan
- Tadoba National Park and Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Maharashtra