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What are Biosphere Reserves with examples

In the early 1970s, UNESCO launched the Man and the Biosphere (MaB) Program . It is an intergovernmental program whose objective is to establish a scientific basis to improve the long-term relationship of people with their natural environment.

The MaB program focuses its actions on the World Network of Biosphere Reserves , promoting the exchange of knowledge between reserves, research and monitoring, education and participatory decision-making. Keep reading and in AgroCorrn you will discover what Biosphere Reserves are with examples from Spain.

You may also be interested in: What are natural and artificial water reserves

What are Biosphere Reserves

The definition of Biosphere Reserves are natural spaces where the conservation of biological resources coexists with the cultural, social and economic development of human populations. They are established in terrestrial and / or aquatic areas with a special biological interest or unique ecosystems and where there is a great tradition of human presence with productive activities that are not very harmful to the natural environment, for example, the extraction of cork from cork oaks .

In addition, they are zones created with the intention of evaluating different approaches to understand and manage changes and interactions between human and natural systems , integrating conflict prevention and biodiversity management .

Functions and zoning of Biosphere Reserves

Both the functions and the areas into which the Biosphere Reserves are divided are specified in the Man and the Biosphere (MaB) Program. It is briefly summarized below.

Biosphere Reserves fulfill three main functions :

  • Conservation: both biodiversity and ecosystems . It is based on the protection of genetic resources, species, ecosystems and landscapes.
  • Development: economic and human growth is sought from the sociocultural and ecological perspective of the local population centers.
  • Logistical support: through research, environmental education and communication.

In the Biosphere Reserves three zones are differentiated. The delimitation of the areas responds to the degree of protection and the human presence, although this delimitation is not usually physical since it is necessary that the spaces are connected in a way that complements and reinforces each other.

  • Core zone: it is a strongly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, species and their genetics and ecological processes. There may be more than one core zone in the same Biosphere Reserve. Only research activities and others of less impact are allowed.
  • Buffer zone, protection of the nucleus or buffer zones: it is the zone following the nucleus. The existence of this zone is focused on minimizing the effects that human activities may have on the core zone. Here human activities take place with little impact on the environment, such as those related to environmental education, sustainable ecotourism and scientific research.
  • Transition zone: it is the zone where most of the local economic activities take place. These should be as sustainable as possible, such as organic farming and organic farming practices .

The idea of ​​Biosphere Reserves is to promote sustainable development at the regional and global level . In addition, these reserves serve as educational spaces and where politicians, scientists and researchers, managers and other groups must carry out a cooperative exercise to implement local practices that translate into the foundations of sustainable development. For this reason, the figure of the Biosphere Reserve directly involves the local population.

Currently, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves has 669 declared reserves spread over 120 countries. Spain tops the list with a total of 48 reservations, followed by the United States with 47 and Mexico with 42.

What is the Spanish Network of Biosphere Reserves – with examples

Due to the number of Biosphere Reserves in Spain, the need has arisen to create its own network of reserves. The Spanish Network of Biosphere Reserves (RERB) is made up of a total of 48 Biosphere Reserves previously named by UNESCO . Four of them are cross-border, three of them are shared with Portugal and the other is also intercontinental as it is shared with Morocco. The rest of the Biosphere Reserves are distributed among 15 autonomous communities, and in some cases these reserves include territories of several communities.

This network of reserves is managed by the Autonomous National Parks Organization (OAPN), which belongs to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Ministry for Ecological Transition.

These 48 Biosphere Reserves can be classified according to their theme in six classes.

Water as the main element

Whether due to their abundance or absence or due to their natural characteristics we find the reserves of La Mancha Húmeda (Castilla La-Mancha), Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo (A Coruña), Terras do Miño (Lugo), Río Eo, Oscos and Terras do Burón (Lugo, Asturias), Urdaibai (Basque Country), Las Bardenas Reales (Navarra, Aragon), Terres de l’Elbre (Tarragona), Marismas de Odiel (Huelva), Doñana (Cádiz), Cabo de Gata-Níjar (Almería) ).


Lands of distant plants, animals and cultures. That, together with the natural insulation are the ingredients to generate its particular wealth and worthy of conservation. The Biosphere Reserves are: Menorca, La Palma, the island of El Hierro, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, the Macizo de Anaga (Tenerife) and Gran Canaria.

Cantabrian mountain

It contains 12 of the 40 Spanish reserves forming a green carpet for almost its entire extension. Habitat of the bear and the grouse, and land with a great cattle tradition. There are the reserves of Las Ubiñas-La Mesa (Asturias), Redes (Asturias), Babia (León), Somiedo (Asturias), Muniellos (Asturias), Ancares Lucenses (Lugo), Allariz Area (Ourense), Ancares Leoneses ( León), Laciana Valley (León), Valleys of Omaña and Luna (León), Alto Bernesga (León), Los Argüellos (León), Picos de Europa (Asturias, Cantabria and León).

Mediterranean atmosphere

The mountains, places of difficult access and less productivity than the plains, have allowed the conservation of natural values. The reserves located in these locations offer a model of union between these inherited values ​​and the possibility of socioeconomic growth. We find the Valleys of Leza, Jubera, Cidacos and Alhama (La Rioja), Montseny (Girona), Sierra del Rincón (Guadalajara), Real Sitio de San Idelfonso- El Espinar (Ávila), Upper Basin of the Manzanares River (Madrid), Sierras de Béjar and Francia (Salamanca), Monfragüe (Cáceres), Dehesas de Sierra Morena (Huelva, Seville and Córdoba), Sierra de Grazalema (Cádiz, Málaga), Sierra de las Nieves and its surroundings (Málaga) and Cazorla, Segura and the Villas (Jaén).

High mountain

Shepherds and cattle share the territory with hikers and high-risk sports fans with vegetables and animals adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of the high mountains. We have the Ordesa-Villamala (Huesca) and Sierra Nevada (Granada, Almería) Biosphere Reserves.


Established between two or more countries to facilitate the integration of conservation and development on both sides of the border and favor cooperation. We have the Gêrés-Xurés Cross-Border Reserve (Galicia-Portugal), the Iberian Plateau (Zamora, Salamanca, Portugal), the Tajo-Tejo (Extremadura-Portugal) and the Intercontinental Mediterranean (Andalusia-Morocco).

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