UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MaB Programme)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established the Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1970, as an intergovernmental scientific programme that promotes the importance of achieving the balance between conserving biodiversity on one hand and development needs of local communities on the other hand.
Within the Programme, a worldwide network of representative significant ecosystems on Earth was created in 1974. Within, the genetic diversity is conserved as a prerequisite for biological diversity, research of ecological systems is conducted, their condition is monitored and education is provided. Certain areas within this network are called biosphere reserves and these are internationally recognized within the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme as areas that promote solutions for a balanced relationship between protection of biological diversity and its sustainable use through the fulfillment of three basic biosphere functions:
- Conservation function - they contribute to the preservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variability;
- Development function – they foster economic and human development which is socially, culturally and ecologically sustainable;
- Logistics function – they provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and sustainable development.
Velebit Mountain was our first biosphere reserve, proclaimed in 1978, immediately upon establishment of the world network of biosphere reserves. Our second biosphere reserve, Mura-Drava-Danube, was proclaimed in 2012. It is a transboundary reserve, stretching over the territory of Croatia and Hungary.
It should be clear that the term “biosphere reserve” does not imply strict protection of the area. It is a name of the area management concept which includes three zones: core area, buffer zone and transition zone.
Core area must be legally protected; it comprises ecologically most valuable areas and it is intended for scientific research and monitoring (areas within national parks, strict nature reserves and special nature reserves).
Buffer zone surrounds the core area and it has to be clearly identified (area of the Nature Park Velebit). It shelters the core area from potential negative influence and sustains the activities harmonized with conservation objectives (mostly sustainable tourism, agricultural and forest management with applied protection measures).
Transition zone mostly comprises populated areas next to the buffer zone, where educational activities are conducted and sustainable development is promoted as part of economic development.
There are many benefits pertaining to the proclamation of a biosphere reserve. The concept of biosphere reserve can be used as a framework for guiding and strengthening the projects which improve people’s lives and ensure environmental sustainability. UNESCO’s recognition can emphasize and award such individual efforts. Designation of a biosphere reserve can raise the awareness of the local population and the authorities on environmental protection within sustainable development. It can help attract additional resources from different sources. On the national level, a biosphere reserve can serve as a pilot area or “learning point” for research and demonstration of an approach to conservation and sustainable development, as well as their application in other areas.
The MAB Programme was among the first in the world which put an emphasis on achieving the balance between conserving biodiversity on one hand and development needs of local communities on the other, which is why it was supported by the World Park Congress and today it greatly contributes to the application of the Convention on Biological Diversity and UN Millennium Development Goals.