UNESCO designates 24 new sites as part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves

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The last meeting of the International Coordinating Council (ICC) of the UNESCO MAB (Man and the Biosphere) Programme, was held in Palembang, Indonesia from 23 to 28 July 2018.

During this meeting, 24 new biosphere reserves were designated and therefore added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) that at present comprises 686 sites in 122 countries. Two countries have joined the WNBR for the first time, namely Moldova and Mozambique. These countries have not been part of the MAB network in the past, but have joined now with their first designated biosphere reserves, which are the Quirimbas Biosphere Reserve in Northern Mozambique and the Lower Prut Biosphere Reserve in the south of Moldova (an eastern European country located between Romania and Ukraine). 

Of the 24 new biosphere reserves (BR), five are located in Africa. These are Quirimbas BR in Mozambique, Arly BR in Burkina Faso, Tsimanampesotse–Nosy Ve Androka BR in Madagascar, Gombe Masito Ugalla BR in Tanzania, and Marico BR in South Africa. 

Marico BR is located in the North West Province, covering 447 269 ha and assisting in protecting the broader dolomitic aquifer system of the Province. The Marico River is recognised as one of the last free flowing pristine river systems in South Africa and the only one in the North West and Gauteng Provinces. It is one of a small number of rivers where the sources are eye springs fed from dolomitic aquifers and there are a number of rare tufa waterfall formations.  Heritage components include both historic and pre-historic sites and structures. The area encompasses one of the most biodiverse regions in South Africa, with the second highest number of recorded bird species. It is also home to multiple endangered and several unique species. The Marico Biosphere Reserve is managed by the Marico BR Non-profit Company. With the designation of Marico BR, South Africa now boasts ten biosphere reserves, collectively covering approximately 9.5% of South Africa’s total land area. This is clearly not an insignificant figure and demonstrates the MAB Programme’s contribution to the South African conservation estate.