Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
Biosphere reserves are ‘Science for Sustainability support sites’ – special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.
Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized.
There are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries, including 20 transboundary sites. They are distributed as follows:

75 sites in 28 countries in Africa
31 sites in 11 countries in the Arab States
147 sites in 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific
287 sites in 36 countries in Europe and North America
129 sites in 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Three zones, one biosphere reserve!
Biosphere reserves have three interrelated zones that aim to fulfill three complementary and mutually reinforcing functions:

  • The core area(s) comprises a strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
  • The buffer zone surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
  • The transition area is the part of the reserve where the greatest activity is allowed, fostering economic and human development that is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable.