Ranging from coastal mangrove forests to desert mountains chains, and stretching from Chile to Mongolia, 22 ecosystems have been added to a United Nations programme that promotes sustainable development on a scientific basis with the active involvement of local communities.
With the new additions, there are now 482 sites in 102 countries that make up the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
At each reserve, communities attempt to enhance their socio-economic development while also promoting biodiversity conservation. Community members also contribute to governance, management, research, education, training and monitoring at the sites, UNESCO says.
Reserves include the Utwe Biosphere Reserve in the Federated States of Micronesia, the nomination for which was prepared by the native Kosrae State communities, which have a long tradition of natural resource conservation through traditional laws, according to UNESCO. The reserve contains high biodiversity, with tropical rain forests, mangrove forest, sea grass beds and coral reefs.
Another such reserve is Barkindji Biosphere Reserve in Australia, north of the Murray River in New South Wales, comprising several important wetlands, homes for waterfowl and migratory birds. Local farmers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) promoted its inclusion in the network to foster both environmental conservation and sustainable development.
As opposed to those sparsely inhabited areas, 200,000 inhabitants live in Austria's Wienerwald Biosphere reserve, which is Vienna's principal recreation area, with small hills, thermal springs, watercourses, wet and dry meadows and large-scale forest, as well as extensively farmed open terrain.
Other new reserves are found in the Espinhaço Mountains in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil; on Cape Horn, Chile; on the steppes of Mongolia; on the south-east coast of Sri Lanka; along the ridge of Mount Lebanon's western chain; and at the mouth of the Senegal River between the countries of Senegal and Mauritania.