Man and the Biosphere Program: What are Biosphere Regions all about?
Biosphere Regions* are defined natural areas with strong identities—a “sense of place”—perceived by both their residents and visitors. Their unique combination of geography, climate, plants and animals shapes the local cultures and produces traditional ecological knowledge, architecture, language, literature, music, art, food and tools that enable people and nature to thrive together. These areas are often the generational homes of rural and/or Indigenous peoples who depend upon the natural resource base for a wide variety of forestry, farming, fishing, tourism and other economic and cultural activities.
A Biosphere Region is a unique, place-based designation that expands on the mission of most protected areas in having three functions: landscape and seascape-level conservation of genetic resources, species, and ecosystems; promotion of sustainable development and livelihoods in communities of the surrounding region; and logistical support for broad-based collaborations to meet these goals. All three of these aims are supported by the best available science, open dialogue, and active community involvement. Biosphere Regions always remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of their home country. National governments nominate the areas and local people and organizations oversee them.
* Prior to 2021, Biosphere Regions in the US were known as Biosphere Reserves. That designation still pertains outside of the US, and there are more than 700 recognized by the international Man and the Biosphere Program, forming an international network overseen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Each has its own system of governance to ensure that it meets its functions and objectives, and, like US Biosphere Regions, remain under the jurisdiction of their home country.