Ever heard of a biosphere reserve? If you live in South Africa it’s likely that you have, but few people actually know what it is or the extremely beneficial influence these internationally recognised zones of land have on the country.
Here are some important things to know about biosphere reserves:
It’s not ONLY about protecting nature
The thing that sets a biosphere reserve apart from other conservation organisations, say SANParks, is that there is a strong focus on social development and sustainability. Humanity and nature intermingling to form a synergetic relationship.
In short, a biosphere reserve can be used as a framework to enhance people’s livelihoods while ensuring environmental sustainability.
Unlike traditional nature reserves biosphere reserves do not require fences to separate humans from the nature, or vice versa. UNESCO’s statutory framework stipulates that biosphere reserves consist of three zones: the core area, the buffer zone and the transition area. Only the core area requires legal protection, and often exists as part of an already protected area such as a nature reserve or national park.
Signage, booms, gates, sign-in books and other nature reserve related security measures are basically non-existent, making the transition from the ‘outside world’ into the biosphere reserve completely seamless. Residents living within the buffer zones and transition areas of a biosphere reserve are often unaware, or only partly aware, of the incredibly spectacular place that they inhabit.
All of the biosphere reserves worldwide are designated by UNESCO and form part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). While biosphere reserves are internationally recognised, they are always nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.
On a local level, biosphere reserves should be recognised as a symbol of a country’s responsibility regarding a number of international environmental and socio-economic agreements and conventions.
Biosphere reserves could hold the key to solving a host of very real crises facing the world today – food security, climate change, water pollution and the protection of threatened and endangered species, just to name a few. This concept seems to suggest that perhaps the only way to move forward would be to retrace our steps to a time where the divide between civilisation and wilderness was less clear cut.