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UNESCO Adds 12 Sites To World Biosphere Reserve Network

The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB), which met in Paris, has added 12 sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The additions bring the total number of biosphere reserves to 621 in 117 countries.

Biosphere Reserves are sites chosen by the MAB Program to experiment with different approaches to the management of terrestrial, marine and coastal resources as well as fresh water. They also serve as in situ laboratories for sustainable development.

The United Kingdom sought the withdrawal of Loch Druidibeg, on the Scottish island of South Uist, from the World Network saying that the site, designated as biosphere reserve in 1976, no longer met the criteria required to be part of the Network today.

The new Reserves are Alakol (Kazakhstan), Gochang (South Korea), Great Nicobar (India), Macizo de Cajas (Ecuador), Marais Audomarois and Mont-Viso (both France), Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo, Real Sitio de San Ildefonso-El Espinar, Ordesa-Vinamala, and Terres de l'Ebre, Catalonia (all Spain), Monteviso Area della Biosfera del Monviso (Italy), Snake Island, Laotie Mountain, (China) and Ziarat Juniper Forest (Pakistan).

The Alakol reserve covers 193,089 hectares, including wetlands of world significance. It is an important Indian bird migration route, a water bird habitat and aggregation site. The bird population includes endangered species.

Covering 670 square kilometers, Gochang is composed of forest, coastal and freshwater ecosystems. The tidal flats are major stopover sites for migratory birds, especially longbill and plover.

The Great Nicobar island biosphere reserve, covering 103,870 hectares, is characterized by tropical wet evergreen forest. It is home to 1,800 animal species, including 200 species of meiofauna in the coastal zone. The island is also home to the indigenous Shompen people, semi-nomadic hunters living inland, and the Nicobarese, who are coastal dwellers dependent on fishing and horticulture.

Situated in the south-west of Ecuador, the Macizo de Cajas biosphere reserve includes a large number of ecosystems ranging from high mountains down to coastal and marine areas along the Pacific.

Covering some 22,300 hectares in the north or France, Marais Audomarois includes the city of art and history of Saint Omer and its wetland, a Ramsar site. There are more than 1,700 species of flora, birds and fungi in the Reserve. Together they account for more than one third of France's aquatic diversity. The reserve has a permanent population of 69,000 residents and one of France's two remaining wetland floating gardens.

The Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo biosphere reserve, located in the littoral Cantabric-Atlantic region, covers an area of 116,724 hectares and has about 190,000 inhabitants. It encompasses two main river watersheds, Mero and Mandeo, and contains ecosystems from coastal zones to mountain regions with high biodiversity.

Situated in a transition between Alpine and Mediterranean influences, the French territory of the Mont-Viso Biosphere Reserve is a glacial cirque surrounded by river valleys and high altitude lakes with a dry and sunny climate.

Monteviso Area della Biosfera del Monviso is situated in the northern Alpine part of Italy near the French border. It encompasses a mosaic of ecosystems that run along a steep altitude gradient climbing from 450 to 3,841 meters above sea level.

Located in Segovia Province, 50 kilometers from Spanish capital Madrid, Real Sitio de San Ildefonso-El Espinar covers 35,414 hectares, and has a population of almost 14,000. The mountain of Valsain constitutes an important woodland area in the country and is of important ecological, economic, aesthetic and social value.

The Chinese Snake Island is home to the Gloydius shedaoensis, an endemic species of the Viperidae family, inscribed on the Chinese list of endangered species since 2004. The venom of this snake has medicinal properties.

Terres de l'Ebre is a Spanish biosphere reserve in the Catalunya region, which includes the delta and watershed of the Ebro River, Spain's largest river in terms of volume.

Pakistan's largest Juniper forest is located in the Ziarat Juniper Forest reserve. The juniper forest ecosystem is of inestimable value for biodiversity conservation.

First designated in 1977, Ordesa-Vinamala was one of the first Spanish biosphere reserves. It is located in the central Pyrenees and encompasses the Ordesa and Mont Perdido National Park, the natural monument of Pyrenees glaciers and the World Heritage site of Pirineso-Mont Perdido, Circos y Canones.

by RTT Staff Writer

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