Top 10 biosphere reserves
Biosphere reserves are places that seek to reconcile both cultural and natural heritage preservation with the people´s sustainable development. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves gathers for the purpose of naming new biosphere reserves, which are then approved by UNESCO.
“It is necessary to manage and arrange prudently all living creatures and natural resources, in accordance with sustainable development principles. Only in this way will we be able to preserve and pass on to our descendants the incommensurable richness which nature offers us.” (UN Millennium Declaration, 2000).
The first biosphere reserves date from 1976. In 2014 there were already 631 all over the world, spread throughout 119 countries, forming the World Network.
Would you like to know about the most amazing biosphere reserves in the world?
1. Mexico: Guadalupe Island
Guadalupe Island is an area of 253.8 km2 which belongs to Mexico. It is 241 km away from the coast of Lower California Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. An impressive thing about this island is its great diversity of marine flora and fauna. Guadalupe Island was the only refuge for several marine populations of birds and mammals which were unrestrictedly exploited, thus almost causing their extinction.
This island is also the home to the greatest colony of elephant seals in the Pacific, and many of the land or marine species living there are unique. Guadalupe is now considered one of the best places in the world for the great white shark sightings. The island has been a wildlife sanctuary since 1975.
2. Spain: Picos de Europa
Picos de Europa National Park is located on the central part of the Cantabrian Mountains with 4,600 inhabitants. Both Beyos and Cares gorges, which are inside this park, are two of the most impressive hoces in the country.
As regards the Park´s wildlife, there are many protected species, such as the Cantabrian capercaillie, the bearded vulture and the brown bear. One of the most iconic animals at Picos de Europa is the Cantabrian chamois, which are very much seen along its paths. The Spanish ibex has been reintroduced in the park, which had previously disappeared from the area, and you can always sight the ever-fascinating Iberian wolf.
Regarding its flora, we can find several types of forests. We should highlight the survival of Atlantic mixed forests, which are scarce in the peninsula; they can be found in the lowest areas of the mountain, with species like oaks and hazelnut trees mixing with maples, lime, ash, chestnut and walnut trees.
The most characteristic inhabitants in this type of forests are: the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and the wild boar (Sus scrofa); the badger (Meles meles), which leaves its lair at sunset looking for food; the marten (Martes martes); the stoat (Mustela ermine), and the weasel (Mustela nivalis).
3. Colombia: Andean Belt
Located on the Andean Mountain Range in southern Colombia, it consists of three national parks: Parque Nacional Cueva de los Guácharos, Parque Nacional Puracé and Parque Nacional Nevado del Huila; this one includes snow-capped peaks of up to 5,750 m high.
The Andean Belt is especially rich in birds, such as the condor –Colombia´s national emblem –, the golden eagle and the tapir. Parque Nacional de Puracé is a volcanic belt with 7 craters, hot springs, lagoons and waterfalls. There also several ethnic groups living on this Andean strip (Guambianos, Paeces, Yanconas, Kokonucos, Polindaras and Ingas) preserving their traditions and culture.
A sustainable agrosytem management for the area has now started to be designed, with this being the aim of the Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve.
4. Venezuela: Orinoco Delta
This privileged place in Venezuela has got a great biological diversity, both in its land and aquatic ecosystem. There are over 2,000 kinds of plants, 151 mammals, and nearly 500 bird species.
Basically made up of estuary and coastal mangroves, among its extraordinary wealth of the fauna, we can find some wonderful mammals, such as sea cows, and big and small water dogs. We can also find birds, such as roseate spoonbills, ospreys, and reptiles that are very characteristic of the area like anacondas.
The Orinoco Delta Reserve is also the land of the Warao indigenous people. Their name means “water inhabitants” (“waha”, lower riverbank and “arao”, people or inhabitants). They are considered the oldest population in Venezuela, so respecting their habitat, culture and traditions is one of the purposes of this reserve located on the banks of the large Orinoco.
5. Peru: Huascarán
Founded as a national park in 1975 and Biosphere reserve since 1977, this area, also known as “High Park”, is one of the most important protected natural areas in Peru. It is bordered by the highest and largest tropical mountain range in the whole world.
It has forests perfectly preserved and more than 700 glaciers which have formed lagoons and provide water for a huge biological and economic chain. Seasonal thaws turn this area into a hotbed of biodiversity and opportunities –the water is used by animals and humans, brings energy to people´s houses and irrigates sowed fields.
For the purpose of keeping this area protected, tourism is now being practised in a sustainable way with activities like environmental education or reforestation, benefitting the local population.
6. Germany: Bavarian Forest
The Bavarian Forest is a spectacular mid-high mountain system located in eastern Bavaria. Its hills have a considerable number of trees, extending as far as Bohemia and Austria. The Bavarian Forest National Park was created as the first of its kind in Germany in 1970, and it is the biggest one in the country. Beyond its borders it joins another national park on the Czech side, and together are the largest forest reserve in Europe.
“Keeping nature intact” is the motto of the Bavarian Rainforest National Park. This can be seen in the free and untrammelled development of nature in coexistence with human beings. In addition to the natural aspect, it offers up to 300 km of hiking routes, 200 km of lanes for cycle tourism and an 80 km ice rink, in one of the most spectacular forests of Europe.
7. United States: Congaree National Park
The lush trees growing in this fluvial-terrain forest are among the highest ones in the east of the US (South Caroline), forming one of the highest deciduous and mild forest canopies that remain in the world. The Congaree River flows all through the park where 60.7 km2 (57%) is a national wildlife area.
It has camping sites and offers hiking activities, canoeing, kayaking, bird sighting, and so on. The bald cypress is the most common tree in the park. It is also possible to find big animals, such as bobcats, deer, wild swine, coyotes, armadillos and turkeys. Its waters contain interesting creatures, such as amphibians, turtles, serpents, alligators and many fish species.
8. China: Huanglong
Huanglong is a region located in the north-eastern part of the Sichuan province, in China, in the southern part of Minshan Mountains. The area is known for its colourful pools formed by calcite deposits, especially in Huanglongou (Yellow Dragon Gully), as well as for its diverse forest ecosystems, snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and hot springs.
This region is also the habitat of several endangered species, such as the giant panda and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey. Huanglong was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1992 and a Biosphere Reserve in 2000.
9. Russia: Lapland
The Lapland biosphere reserve is beyond the Arctic Circle and has therefore a subarctic climate, though permafrost-free (a permanent ice cover on the superficial levels of the ground in very cold regions which accumulates organic carbon).
With a breathtaking scenery, mysterious northern auroras and ever-white forests, the wild reindeer is one of the most important animals of this reserve and the main object of study and protection. Its inhabitants, the Sami people, live as in ancient times, in perfect coexistence with their surrounding freezing nature.
Indonesia: Komodo National Park
This national park is located on the Indonesian archipelago, and is made up of three big islands, Komodo, Rinca, Padar and Gili, as well as many other small islands. These are of volcanic origin and 4,000 people live there.
The national park was created in 1980 with the aim of protecting the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). It later became a place for protecting the local flora and fauna, including sea areas.
On 11th November, 2011, the Komodo National Park was declared one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Komodo dragon, the great symbol of this biosphere reserve, is a 3 m long creature weighing around 70 kg.
Many wooded areas in Indonesia are now rapidly dwindling away because of those deforested areas used for growing crops (especially palm oil) and lumber trafficking. That is why it has become so necessary to take protection action for keeping its biodiversity.
How did you like these places? Would you like to share with us some other Biosphere Reserve you may know?