UNESCO World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves hosts workshop in Spain


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme organized a workshop on mountain biosphere reserves on 18 and 19 April 2022 in Torla, Spain, in partnership and within the Ordesa-Viñamala Biosphere Reserve.

The objective of the workshop was to present the World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves, launched on 9 December 2022, whose technical secretariats are represented by the Biosphere Reserve of the Omaña and Luna Valleys (Spain) and the Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China).

The workshop was attended by managers of the Ordino Biosphere Reserve in Andorra; several Spanish biosphere reserves, such as Valles de Omaña y Luna, Ordesa-Viñamala, Valles de Leza, Jubera, Cidacos and Alhama; the MAB focal points of Chile (Corporación Nacional Forestal) and Spain (Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales de España - OAPN); representatives of the Mountain Adventure and Nature Tourism programme; representatives of the Regional Strategic Programme for "Santiago, Capital of Mountain Tourism" of the Chilean Production Development Corporation; representatives of Naturgy and Iberdrola; as well as representatives of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and the UNESCO MAB Programme.

The discussions focused on prioritising the main work themes for the World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves, taking into consideration that mountain biosphere reserves are rich in culture, biodiversity, endemism and multiple ecosystem services. The participants also addressed the challenges faced by mountain biosphere reserves in the face of climate change, the impact on their ecosystems, and how these changes affect socio-economic activities and dynamics in mountain areas and their areas of influence. In this regard, the main issues identified during the workshop were isolation, lack of basic infrastructure, depopulation, and poverty – particularly faced by some countries.

The participants highlighted the importance of investing in the development of new technologies that can support sustainable management, productive activities and tourism, as well as the adaptation and mitigation of climate change impacts. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of integrating universities and research centres, with a view to generating a "dialogue of knowledge" between the scientific community and local knowledge, as a fundamental axis for a better understanding and management of biosphere reserves.

Regarding management issues, the participants identified a need for a legal structure for biosphere reserves, which would ensure autonomy and flexibility in their management. It was concluded that political support at different levels (national, regional and local) is fundamental to gain institutional support and raise sufficient funds for their basic functioning.

The importance of participation and cooperation between the different public and private actors was also highlighted as a key element for the proper functioning of a biosphere reserve. There is an imperative need to develop guidelines for working with the private sector, especially with extractive and energy companies that could give rise to contention, and with private companies that are beneficiaries of ecosystem services derived from the conservation and sustainable use of these biosphere reserves.

To promote the financial sustainability of mountain biosphere reserves, technical support should be given appropriate project funding and complemented with public-private partnerships. During the workshop, successful cases of public-private partnerships in Spanish biosphere reserves were presented, including funding tools from the OAPN, municipalities and autonomous regions, European funds and private companies, such as Volkswagen, Naturgy and Iberdrola.

Finally, the process of creating a biosphere reserve in the metropolitan area of Santiago de Chile was presented to showcase how a mountain biosphere reserve can present an opportunity for tourism and with a view to achieving sustainable development in the region, highlighting the importance of this type of ecosystem.

The first virtual meeting of the World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves will take place on 12 May 2022 at 13.00 (CEST). Those interested can register here until 10 May.

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News and photo by UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme

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