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UNESCO marks 50th anniversary of biosphere preservation

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UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has commemorated the 50th anniversary of its Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), created in 1971 to promote a long-lasting connection between people and nature.

Mr Miguel Godt, UNESCO MAB Programme Secretary, said that the Biosphere preservation was a programme that combined the natural and social sciences to improving human livelihoods.

“This is really a programme for the people, because people are part of nature…so they are incorporated in nature protection but also in sustainable use of natural resources,” Godt said on the UNESCO website.”

Today, 727 biosphere reserves integrate nature conservation and sustainable development in 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites.

In Africa, there are 86 sites in 31 countries; Arab States, 35 sites in 14 countries; Asia and the Pacific, 168 sites in 40 countries; Europe and North America, 306 sites in 24 countries; and 132 sites in 24 Latin American and the Caribbean countries.

If bioreserves worldwide are put together, Godt said that they would be equivalent to about 5 per cent of the world’s surface, spanning 6,812,000 km² or “around the size of Australia”.

The diverse vegetation and unique fauna in Tanzania’s Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve is also home to the largest chimpanzee community in the country and includes the Gombe National Park, forest land reserves and part of Lake Tanganyika.

Faunal species in the area include African elephants, ornate frogs and eight primate species.

Flora there includes a species discovered in, and named after, Gombe, while the biodiversity of Lake Tanganyika encompasses over 300 fish species, 250 bird species, and reptiles, such as the water cobra and the Tanganyika water snake.

The Maolan in China was listed as a biosphere reserve in 1996. It lies in the Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Guizhou Province and covers an area of 20,000 hectares, with a forest coverage of 88.61 per cent.

Renowned for its “hugging trees” which cling tenaciously to the rocks of the mountain landscape, the rich biodiversity also includes pheasants, orchids and magnolias.

The local Yao, Buyi and Shui indigenous peoples value their region’s environment and cohabit harmoniously with nature. As the trees provide them with vital resources, for over 1,000 years local communities have performed ceremonial practices and rituals to care for the trees.

Cecilia Ologunagba

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