A biosphere reserve is organised into three area or zones. Each area has a different level of status importance, conservation value, land use activities and human density, and are assigned to relevant areas within the zonation of the biosphere.
Core areas are securely protected areas for conserving biodiversity, monitoring ecosystems, and undertaking research or education, e.g. existing National Parks, Nature Reserves, World Heritage Sites and Ramsar Sites.
Buffer zones usually surrounds or adjoins the core areas. Activities are managed to help protect the core area and land use is conducted, based upon and agreed to ecological principles and practices, e.g. environmental education, recreation, ecotourism and basic research.
Transitional areas link all the zones together to form a contiguous reserve, and may surround the core area and buffer zone affording greater protection to these areas, e.g. urban and agricultural areas with many land uses and stakeholders. The main objective in this zone is to develop sustainable management of the area’s resources.
There are three basic functions that all biosphere reserves must fulfil -
A conservation function: to contribute to the conservation of the full hierarchy of biodiversity, including landscapes, ecosystems, species and genes.
A development function: to foster economic and human development, which is socio-culturally and ecologically sensitive.
A logistical function: to foster support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development
The reserves have to be selected based on strict criteria set out by UNESCO and MaB.
These criteria are:
It should encompass a mosaic of ecological systems representative of major biogeographic regions, including a gradation of human interventions.
It should be of significance for biological diversity conservation.
It should provide an opportunity to explore and demonstrate approaches to sustainable development on a regional scale.
It should serve the three functions of biosphere reserves.
It should have appropriate zoning of area into core, buffer and transition zones.
Suitable stakeholders should be involved and have long term participation, from sectors such as public authorities, local communities, and private interest.
Formulation of a Management Plan for the biosphere reserve, mechanism to manage activities, designated authority to implement the Management Plan and formation or support of programmes for research, monitoring, education and training.
(Source: Terms of Reference document for biosphere reserves)
Read more about the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve at www.waterbergbiosphere.org.za