Eleven New Biosphere Reserves Designated by UNESCO

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Travel and Tourism


UNESCO recently announced the addition of 11 new biosphere reserves to its World Network of Biosphere Zones (WNBR), a list of areas around the globe that combine research, conservation and sustainable development. These areas, which include marine, terrestrial and coastal ecosystems, are selected for their ability to provide local solutions to global challenges.

The announcement was made on July 5th following the 36th annual conference of the International Coordinating Council, the council that serves as the governing body for UNESCO’s Man and the World Biosphere Program. The summit was held earlier this month in Agadir, Morocco, where nominations from UNESCO member states were reviewed for approval.

Val d’Aran Biosphere Reserve (Spain)
© Conselh Generau.Val d’Aran

This year marks the introduction of two countries that don’t have any other biosphere reserves in the WNBR, Gambia and Belgium. In addition, this year’s additions include two transboundary reserves, meaning the reserves cross the border of two neighboring countries.

Biosphere reserves don’t just include regions of land and sea and the beautiful landscapes and wildlife found there. They also consist of the local and Indigenous populations that live within the boundaries of the regions. This year’s additional biosphere reserves bring the total land area within the entirety of the WNBR to nearly 7.5 million square kilometers and the total population living within these regions to more than 275 million individuals.

Changnyeong Biosphere Reserve (Republic of Korea)
© Changnyeong-gun County

Part of UNESCO’s mission as the UN’s organization for sciences is to preserve both nature and native cultures, so this blending of nature and humans is precisely what makes these regions so important to the future of our world. To be approved, they must promote innovative local sustainable solutions, protect biodiversity and address climate disruption. In addition, these biosphere reserves must support Indigenous communities through practices like agro-ecology and water management, as well as promoting the generation of green income for individuals living within the local communities.

Niumi Biosphere Reserve (Gambia)
© Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, c/o Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, GIEPA House, Kairaba Avenue

“The new designations come at a pivotal moment for humanity as it grapples with a global biodiversity crisis intertwined with climate disruption,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General. “At a time when the international community is being called upon to increase the number of protected areas, these new biosphere reserves play an essential role in sustainably preserving the biodiversity, improving the living conditions of local populations and Indigenous Peoples and fostering scientific research.”

The newly added biosphere reserves include:

  • Kempen-Broek Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Belgium and the Netherlands
  • Darién Norte Chocoano Biosphere Reserve in Colombia
  • Madra de la Aguas Biosphere Reserve in the Dominican Republic
  • Niumi Biosphere Reserve in Gambia
  • Colli Euganei Biosphere Reserve in Italy
  • Julian Alps Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Italy and Slovenia
  • Khar Us Lake Biosphere Reserve in Mongolia
  • yApayos Biosphere Reserve in the Philippines
  • Changnyeong Biosphere Reserve in the Republic of Korea
  • Val d’Aran Biosphere Reserve in Spain
  • Irati Biosphere Reserve in Spain

The addition of these biosphere reserves brings the total number in the WNBR to 759, representing 136 countries around the world. The new reserves join three in Greece, the Asterousia Mountain Range in Crete, the Gorge of Samaria in Crete and Mount Olympus

While some biosphere reserves are primarily areas for research, most can be visited. They give us the ultimate eco-tourism opportunity by letting us explore the beauty of the world around us in places that work to preserve the things that make them unique and the people who call them home. Our responsibility is to respect what makes these places special and do our part to work with the destinations and their communities toward a sustainable future.

Julian Alps Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Italy and Slovenia)
© Julian Prealps Natur Park