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UNESCO adds 23 new sites to global network of biosphere reserves

UNESCO adds 23 new sites to global network of biosphere reserves

Noosa Biosphere Reserve, Australia
Remote cloud forests in Viet Nam, hundreds of atolls in Micronesia and mangroves in El Salvador are featured in the 23 ecosystems which were added today to a United Nations network set up to fight biodiversity loss and promote sustainable development that helps local communities.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now has 529 sites in 105 countries after the 23 sites were added by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) following a three-day meeting this week at its Paris headquarters.

At each reserve, local communities try to enhance their socio-economic development while promoting biodiversity conservation on a scientific basis. Community members contribute to governance, management, research, education, training and monitoring at the sites.

The sites approved today include habitats in three countries which until now have not had a reserve in the Network – El Salvador, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

In El Salvador, Xiriualtique Jiquitizco is the country’s largest extension of mangroves, and home to communities that have been able to harvest crops, raise livestock and establish a tourist industry based on sustainable development. Apaneca-Llamatepec, consisting mainly of mountain vegetation over lava fields in the west of the country, is also used by local inhabitants to produce shade-grown coffee.

The Marawah biosphere reserve in the United Arab Emirates, which includes sea grass beds, coral reefs and mangroves, is home to the world’s second largest population of dugongs. At Qatar’s Al-Reem site, which includes limestone formations under which lies an oil field, locals have opened breeding centres to reintroduce native fauna – such as the Arabian oryx and desert gazelle – alongside modern oil and gas pumping stations.

The other approved sites include Viet Nam’s Western Nghe An, which comprises lowland monsoonal evergreen forests and elfin cloud forests at high altitudes and is home to numerous ethnic minorities and the Federated States of Micronesia’s And Atoll, where 607 islands and reefs spread over an area half the size of the United States to provide habitat for more than 1,000 species of fish, 350 species of coral and thousands of species of sponges.

Eight of the other new sites lie in either North, Central or South America: Manicouagan Uapishka (Canada), Fundy (Canada), Sierra de Alamos – Río Cuchujaqui (Mexico), Andino Norpatagonica (Argentina), Pereyra Iraola (Argentina), Bosques Templados Lluviosos de los Andes Australes (Chile), Agua y Paz (Costa Rica) and Podocarpus – El Condor (Ecuador).

The other new sites are: Cape Winelands (South Africa), Noosa (Australia), Jabal Al Rihane (Lebanon), Mongol Daguur (Mongolia), Chebaling (China), Xingkai Lake (China), Corvo Island (Portugal), Graciosa Island (Portugal) and Rio Eo, Oscos y Terras de Buron (Spain).

The Bureau of the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, which selected the new sites, also approved changes to two existing biosphere reserves.

The boundaries of Frontenac Arch in Canada (formerly known as Canadian Thousand Islands - Frontenac Arch) and the Great Volzhsko-Kamsky in Russia have been extended. Germany, meanwhile, has withdrawn the Bavarian Forest biosphere reserve from the Network because it no longer meets the criteria.