A biosphere reserve is an international conservation designation given by UNESCO under its Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). The World Network of Biosphere Reserves is the collection of all 531 biosphere reserves in 105 countries (as of May, 2008).
According to “The Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves,” biosphere reserves are created “to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere.” Under article 4, biosphere reserves must “encompass a mosaic of ecological systems,” and thus consist of combinations of terrestrial, coastal, or marine ecosystems.
Through appropriate zoning and management, the conservation of these ecosystems and their biodiversity is sought to be maintained.
The design of the reserve must include a legally protected core area, a buffer area where non-conservation activities are prohibited, and a transition zone where approved practices are permitted. This is done with regard for the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of local communities. This effort requires relevant research, monitoring, education and training.
All the above are tools for implementing Agenda 21, the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements.