Biosphere Reserve

Introduction

Biosphere reserve in simple terms is an habitant area comprising both terrestrial and coastal ecosystems providing a pathway for sustainable use. The biosphere reserves are thoroughly maintained by the state governments and are well recognized internationally. These are majorly utilized for experimentation purposes on land and water. The maintenance of the biosphere reserve started in 1968 which was the first conference discussing the usage of natural resources. The main purpose of this is to protect all forms of life in its natural way which helps to be a referral system for evaluating the changes in other natural ecosystems. 

The number of biosphere reserves varies according to the region. In total, more than 600 biosphere reserves are available in over 100 countries. In India, the government has secured 18 Biosphere Reserves which has the sole purpose of protecting the natural habitats.  In these areas, all the flora, fauna, and humans are protected thoroughly. The first program in India was launched in 1971 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The main purpose of this program is to achieve a sustainable balance between natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

The following must be considered for designing a Biosphere Reserve:

  • The site should be properly protected and minimally used core area with nature conservation.

  • The core area should be a bio-geographical unit with an area that includes a viable population and all trophic levels.

  • Presence of local population and use of their knowledge in improving and preserving biodiversity.

  • Preservation of traditional tribal and rural modes of living for maintaining a harmonious balance in the environment.

Biosphere Structure

The Biosphere Reserve is categorized into 3 zones:

  • Core

  • Buffer

  • Manipulation

Core Zone:

The involvement of humans is completely prohibited in this zone and is treated without any disturbance. Maintaining a close watch on these zones helps to understand the sustainability of activities or maintenance of environmental quality in surrounding areas.

Buffer Zone:

The layer or zone next to the core zone is the Buffer zone. This is used for research and educational purposes without intervening in the core zone. Activities such as natural vegetation, agriculture, fisheries, or forests can be performed. Recreational and tourism activists are continued in a restricted format.

Manipulation Zone:

The outer area of the biosphere reserve where activities like cropping and forestry are allowed with the help of reserve management bodies and localities. These activities help in improving the damaged area.

A sustainable usage by local communities, scientists, conservation agencies, cultural groups, and other stakeholders are operated by the humans living in the area.

Biosphere Reserves Importance

There are numerous benefits of maintaining it and has its own benefits such as:

  • Conservation: This safeguards the species, ecosystems, genetic diversities, and landscapes without altering the living beings associated with these.

  • Development: By associating with the reserves there will be overall growth in terms of economic, cultural, and social.

  • Restoration: Proper rectification is provided for any damaged ecosystems and habitats.

  • Education and Research: Knowledge about conserving, restoring, and developing the ecosystem is provided along with the steps to recreate the landscapes which are affected by human activities.

  • Land Use Planning: Different groups of people come together to look for comprehensive land management.

  • Healthy Ecosystems: Natural problems such as soil erosion, water springs, soil quality should be checked regularly and protected accordingly. 

Example of Preservation of Natural Inhabitants

As an example, we can look at the fauna named Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)  is a large bird usually present in the Mediterranean regions and specifically along the coast, from the Siberian Peninsula to Iran, alongside the Indian sub-continent and in Southern China and Indonesia found to be drastically decreasing in its population. This differs from the normal eagle in its physical appearance with distinctive beak, dark wings, and white body. The life expectancy compared with other species is more and known as the top predator in natural beings. As these feed mainly on hares, it also benefits in controlling the population and thus helping the farmers by protecting the agricultural area.

Considering these facts, proper measures have been taken to conserve the Eagle’s population as it also benefits other species in these communities.

Biosphere Reserves in India

There are 18 biosphere reserves in India:

  • Cold Desert, Himachal Pradesh

  • Nanda Devi, Uttrakhand

  • Khangchendzonga, Sikkim

  • Dehang-Debang, Arunachal Pradesh

  • Manas, Assam

  • Dibru-Saikhowa, Assam

  • Nokrek, Meghalaya

  • Panna, Madhya Pradesh

  • Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh