Biosphere Reserves

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1.  Definition: 

          Biosphere Reserves (BRs) are representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof and representative examples of bio-geographic zones/provinces.


2.  Criteria for designation of BR

  • A site that must contain an effectively protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation.
  • The core area should be typical of a bio-geographical unit and large enough to sustain viable populations representing all trophic levels in the ecosystem.
  • The management authority to ensure the involvement/cooperation of local communities to bring variety of knowledge and experiences to link biodiversity conservation and  socio-economic development while managing and containing the conflicts.
  • Areas potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of environment.

3.  International Status of Biosphere Reserves (BR)

The UNESCO has introduced the designation ‘Biosphere Reserve’ for natural areas to minimize conflict between development and conservation. BRs are nominated by national government which meet a minimal set of criteria and adhere to minimal set of conditions for inclusion in the world network of Biosphere reserves under the Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme of UNESCO. Globally 621 BRs representing from 117 countries included in the network so far.


4.  Structure and functions of BR:

Biosphere reserves are demarcated into following 3 inter-related zones:

Core Zone

Core zone must contain suitable habitat for numerous plant and animal species, including higher order predators and may contain centres of endemism. Core areas often conserve the wild relatives of economic species and also represent important genetic reservoirs having exceptional scientific interest. A core zone being National Park or Sanctuary/protected/regulated mostly under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Whilst realizing that perturbation is an ingredient of ecosystem functioning, the core zone is to be kept free from l human pressures external to the system.

Buffer Zone

The buffer zone, adjoins or surrounds core zone, uses and activities are managed in this area in the ways that help in protection of core zone in its natural condition. These uses and activities include restoration, demonstration sites for enhancing value addition to the resources, limited recreation, tourism, fishing, grazing, etc; which are permitted to reduce its effect on core zone. Research and educational activities are to be encouraged. Human activities, if natural within BR, are likely to continue if these do not adversely affect the ecological diversity.

Transition Zone

The transition area is the outermost part of a biosphere reserve. This is usually not delimited one and is a zone of cooperation where conservation knowledge and management skills are applied and uses are managed in harmony with the purpose of the biosphere reserve.  This includes settlements, crop lands, managed forests and area for intensive recreation and other economic uses characteristics of the region.


5.   Tripartite functions of BR (Conservation, Development and logistic support)

  • To conserve the diversity and integrity of plants and animals within natural ecosystems
  • To safeguard genetic diversity of species on which their continuing evolution depends
  • To ensure sustainable use of natural resources through most appropriate technology for improvement of economic well-being of the local people
  • To provide areas for multi-faceted research and monitoring
  • To provide facilities for education and training

6.    Management

100% grant-in-aid is provided under the Biosphere Reserve scheme for the approved items of activities for implementation of Management Action Plans submitted by the concerned States/UT. The activities permitted under the scheme are broadly under the following areas:

  • Value addition activities
  • Sustainable use of threatened resources
  • Rehabilitation of landscapes of threatened species and ecosystems
  • Socio-economic upliftment of local communities
  • Maintenance and protection of corridor areas
  • Development of communication system and Networking
  • Development of Eco-tourism

BR scheme is different from other conservation related schemes. It has the focus on the welfare of local inhabitants through provision of supplementary and alternate livelihood support to the people in the buffer and transition zones in order to reduce biotic pressure on biodiversity of the natural reserves of core zone.


  1. Protection, Development, Maintenance and Research in Biosphere Reserves in India.PDF (1448 KB)
  2. Indicative list of Core and Ancillary activities for release of funds under the MAP of the Biosphere Reserves.PDF (75.1 KB)
  3. List of Biosphere Reserves, their area, date of designation and its location.PDF (41.2 KB)
  4. Indian National Man and the Biosphere (MAB) CommitteePDF (53.9 KB)