Australia's Biosphere Reserves


What is a Biosphere Reserve?

A biosphere reserve is a unique concept which includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

  • Each biosphere reserve conserves examples of characteristic ecosystems of one of the world's natural regions, managed for their protection and study.
  • It is a land and/or coastal/marine area in which people are an integral component, and which is managed for objectives ranging from complete protection to intensive yet sustainable production.
  • It is a regional centre for monitoring, research, education and training on natural and managed ecosystems.
  • It is a place where government decision makers, scientists, managers and local people cooperate in developing a model program for managing land and water to meet human needs while conserving natural processes and biological resources.
  • Finally, each biosphere reserve is a symbol of voluntary cooperation to conserve and use resources for the well being of people everywhere.

International Significance

'Biosphere Reserve' is an international designation made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the basis of nominations submitted by countries participating in the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB).

MAB was launched in 1971 to catalyse a greater understanding and provision of knowledge and skills to support sustainable relationships between people and their environment. Biosphere Reserves act as a keystone of MAB by providing a global network of sites for cooperative research toward this end. They also aim to demonstrate the sustainable use goals of the World Conservation Strategy.

Biosphere Reserves in Australia

Australia currently has 14 Biosphere Reserves:

The Department of the Environment - Focal Point

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) includes provisions for the development of cooperative arrangements between the Commonwealth, states and territories in the development of biosphere reserves. The Department through Parks Australia acts as the national focal point for biosphere reserves in Australia while the Australian National Commission for UNESCO has overall responsibility for UNESCO activities in Australia.

The Director of National Parks is responsible for the management of two areas with Biosphere Reserve status: Calperum and Taylorville Stations, areas of open mallee bushland and Murray River floodplain which form part of the Riverland Biosphere Reserve, near Renmark in South Australia and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.