Biosphere Reserves (BRs) are specified areas of natural and cultural landscapes that include minimally disturbed, man-modified and degraded ecosystems. These are meant for preserving genetic diversity in various natural biomes.
History of Biosphere Reserves:
Biosphere Reserve Programme was initiated by UNESCO in 1971 under its “Man and the Biosphere (MAB)” programme. The Indian MAB committee constituted by the Govt. of India in 1979 identified a network of 13 potential sites to be protected as Biosphere Reserves.
Presently, there are 621 BRs spread over 117 countries.
The first Biosphere Reserve of the world was established in 1979. The first Biosphere Reserve in India came into being in 1986. This was Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, covering an area of 5520 km in parts of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka states of Southern India.
Objectives of Biosphere Reserves:
- Conserve the diversity and integrity of plant and animals within ecosystems.
- Safeguard genetic diversity of species through long-term in-situ conservation.
- Promote and facilitate basic and applied research and monitoring.
- Provide opportunities for education and training.
- Promote appropriate sustainable management of the living resource through most suitable technology.
Zones of a Biosphere Reserve:
Biosphere Reserve is divided into different inter-related zones:
A. Core Zone: It consists of natural and minimally disturbed ecosystems and represents important genetic reservoirs having exceptional scientific interest. It must contain suitable habitats for numerous plant and animal species, including higher order predators and may contain centers of endemism.
B. Buffer Zone: It surrounds core zone and limited human activities are allowed in this area such as resource use strategies, research, and education. These activities are managed in the ways that help in the protection of the core zone in its natural condition.
C. Transition Zone: It is the outermost part of a Biosphere Reserve. In this zone, conservation knowledge and management skills are applied and use of Biosphere Reserves are managed in harmony with the different objectives of the Biosphere Reserve.