by Dr Barbara Corker

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Biosphere Reserves
Special Places for People and Nature

UNESCO, Paris 2002

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If you want to know about biosphere reserves, then this is the book for you!


This 208 page, A4 book gives a comprehensive overview of biosphere reserves. These are special natural areas of international importance, which are designated by UNESCO. Biosphere reserves take into account conservation interests, while at the same time recognizing the need for compatible human use.

The book includes the rationale behind the development of the concept, as well as the functions of biosphere reserves. The regional and international collaboration involved in current reserves are discussed. Future prospects for the concept are also covered, as well as all the relevant information that anyone with a general interest is likely to need.

For teachers and students, the most useful feature of the book may be the great number and variety of different projects that are described. There are many examples of conservation from around the world. These include details of local research projects on sustainable development, as well as interpretive and educational materials based on particular reserves. The collation of all these project descriptions into one book could save a great deal of research time. A particularly useful feature is the inclusion of the web site addresses for particular projects and organisations. However, one drawback of the printed medium versus digital, is that these may quite quickly become out of date.

Examples are drawn from around Africa, Asia, North & South America, Australasia and Europe, although examples from the UK are conspicuously lacking. There is a brief mention of 'Dyfi', which is the only biosphere reserve in Wales. There is no significant mention of any of the biosphere reserves in England or Scotland. This 'omission' is likely to be due to the fact that when the book was being written (2001), the situation regarding UK reserves was under major review.

The book is divided into four main sections:

  • Introduction and Overview
  • Dimensions and Functions, including;

    Conserving Diversity
    Testing approaches to sustainable development
    Biosphere reserves as research spaces

    Learning through Biosphere reserves;
    (This includes a list of the study grants funded by UNESCO, as well as examples of interpretive and educational materials developed for particular reserves.)
  • Making things work, including;

    National building blocks
    Regional and sub-regional collaboration
    International connections
    Communication and Information

  • For the Future - biosphere reserves as examples of sustainable development.
  • Annexes include a list of biosphere reserves. From a UK perspective this is now out of date. There is a very useful glossary of acronyms. A bibliography is included which is extensive enough to be of value, without being overwhelming.

This is a book for dipping into and for researching particular topics, rather than a book that one would read from cover to cover. Every page is packed full of information requiring careful attention. The format is visually interesting, with a wealth of photographs, drawings, maps and diagrams.

It would be a significant advantage if all this information was digitally available on the internet. This would ensure its widest dissemination and ease of access. It would also provide a means for ensuring that in a rapidly changing world, the information can be kept up to date.


View UNESCO's own overview of the book, access two chapters of the book on-line and order from UNESCO here.


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