What are Biosphere Reserves (BR)?
Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal/ marine ecosystems. They are multipurpose protected areas where both flora and fauna are protected. They are ‘Science for Sustainability support sites.’ – promoting research in ecological conservation and environmental preservation.
The concept of Biosphere Reserves was launched in 1971 as a, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s ‘Man and Biosphere Programme’.
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Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme
- It is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
- It was launched by UNESCO in 1971.
- Under the program, UNESCO has established the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments. If selected by UNESCO, they are included in the WNBR.
- There are 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries
Aim of Biosphere Reserves:
- conservation of genetic resources, species, and ecosystems;
- scientific research and monitoring; and
- Promoting sustainable development in communities of the surrounding region.
Functions of Biosphere Reserves:
Zonation of Biosphere Reserves:
Divided into 3 zones:
- Core Areas:
- Includes protected areas-these act as reference points on the natural state of the ecosystems represented by the biosphere reserves
- non-destructive research and other low-impact activities(such as ecotourism) are generally undertaken
- Buffer Zone:
- Surrounds or is contiguous to the core area.
- Activities are organized, so they do not hinder the conservation objectives of the core area, but rather help to protect it.
- It is used for cooperative activities compatible with sound ecological practices
- Human activities are less intensive than that in the transition zone
- Transition Zone or Area of Cooperation:
- May contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements, and other uses and in which local communities, management agencies, scientists, NGOs, and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area’s resources.
- The term ‘area of cooperation’ underscores the role of cooperation as the main tool to achieve the objectives of the biosphere reserve.
Biosphere Reserves in India
- There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India. Of these, 11 are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
- First Biosphere Reserve: Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (Est. 1986)
- Largest Biosphere Reserve: Gulf of Mannar
- Smallest Biosphere Reserve: Panna
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|National Biosphere Reserve Programme:|
Initiated in 1986, the programme aims at conservation of all living resources and their ecological foundations, in addition, to already established protected area network system. It also seeks to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources for the improvement of the economic well-being of local inhabitants.
Similipal Biosphere Reserve
About Similipal Biosphere Reserve: It was formally designated a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in May 1973. It was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1979 with an area of 2750 sq. Km.
Origin of Name: The park derives its name from ‘Simul’, which are red silk cotton trees growing in the area.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: The park was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India in 1994. It is a part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.
Location: Simlipal biosphere reserve located in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. It is the 7th largest national park in India and Asia’s second-largest Biosphere Reserve. It lies in the eastern end of the Eastern Ghat.
Part of: Similipal is part of the Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve. Other Protected Areas Include:
- Similipal Tiger Reserve,
- Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
- Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary
Flora: The park has a high biodiversity with about 94 species of orchids and 3,000 species of plants. Among them, Sal is a dominant tree species in the park.
Fauna: The park is home to the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, gaur, and chausingha. It also has a sizeable population of reptiles, which includes the longest venomous snake, the King cobra, and the Tricarinate hill turtle.
Rivers: At least 12 rivers cut across the plain area, all of which drain into the Bay of Bengal. The prominent among them are Burhabalanga, Palpala Bandan, Salandi, Kahairi and Deo. It is also home to some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani Falls.
Tribes: The two tribes namely Erenga Kharias and the Mankirdias inhabit the reserve’s forests. Other dominant tribes include the Ho, Gonda, and Munda among others.
Forest Fires in the Simlipal National Park: The forest fires seemed to be both due to natural causes and human-made causes.
- Natural causes: lighting or even soaring temperatures can sometimes result in these fires. Moreover, the forests of Similipal are of a dry deciduous type and the fallen leaves become highly inflammable if there is no precipitation.
- Poaching and hunting: the poachers set a small patch of forest on fire to divert the wild animals. It can lead to forest fires.
- Sometimes, Forest areas are set on fire by the villagers to clear the dry leaves on the ground for easy collection of mahua flowers. These flowers are used to prepare a drink that is addictive in nature.
Nilgiris Elephant Corridor and Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
About Nilgiris elephant corridor: It is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau. The plateau connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats. Apart from that, the plateau also sustains elephant populations and their genetic diversity.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve: The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected forest area in India.
Location: The Biosphere Reserve spreads across three states. Namely, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.
Flora: It hosts forest systems, ranging from seasonal rain forests in the low hills, tropical montane Shola forests and grasslands in the higher reaches, and moist deciduous to scrub through dry-deciduous towards the plains in the Eastern end.
Endemic Flora: Vanda, Liparis, Bulbophyllum, Spiranthes, Thrixspermum
Fauna: Important faunal elements include Tiger, Elephant, Gaur, Lion tail macaque, Cheethal, Sambar, Wild Boar, Barking deer, Nilgiri Tahr, etc.
Hills and Wildlife Sanctuaries:
- The reserve includes the Aralam, Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, Bandipur, and Silent Valley national parks. Similarly, the reserve also includes the Wayanad, Karimpuzha, and Sathyamangam wildlife sanctuaries.
- It has the Nilgiri Hills on its southwestern side and the Moyar River Valley on its north-eastern side. The elephants cross the plateau in search of food and water.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Nilgiri Sub-Cluster is a part of the Western Ghats which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.
Significance: About 80% of flowering plants reported from the Western Ghats occur in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Panna Biosphere Reserve
UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program has included the Panna Biosphere Reserve to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Location: Madhya Pradesh
About Panna Biosphere Reserve: The Panna Biosphere Reserve in India encompasses Panna National Park, three sections of the Gangau Sanctuary.
Forest and vegetation: The major vegetation of the park is miscellaneous dry deciduous forest mixed with grassland area. The site is characterized by forests, seasonal as well as aquatic, and marshy vegetation.
Rivers: Ken River flows through this reserve and creates beautiful waterfalls on its way to the valley.
Flora: Characterized by forests and marshy vegetation. It has an abundance of rare medicinal plants as well as other non-timber forestry products such as Kattha, gum, and resins.
- Endangered animals like Tiger, Leopard and Chinkara.
- It is also home to the Siyah Gosh (Felis caracal) and Jungle cat (Felis chaus).
- Other exotic animals like Chital, Nilgai, Sloth Bear, Sambhar.
- More than 200 species of birds including the King vulture, Indian Vulture, and bar-headed goose.
Significance: Panna National Park was declared as the 22nd Tiger Reserve of India and the 5th in Madhya Pradesh in the year of 1994. It is a critical tiger habitat area and hosts the Panna Tiger Reserve, as well as the World Heritage site of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.
Read More – Other Biosphere Reserves
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve
Location: Meghalaya (part of Garo Hills)
Rivers: Ganol, Dareng and Simsang
Climate: Tropical- High humidity, Monsoon Rains, High Temperature
Forest Type: Evergreen and semi-evergreen deciduous forests
Endemic Flora: Grand rasamala, White meranti, Lali, Chempaka, Wild lemon
Endemic Fauna: Stump tailed macaque, Pig-tailed macaque, Giant flying squirrel
Protected areas: Nokrek National Park
Great Nicobar bioshpere reserve
Location: Anadaman & Nicobar Islands
Tropical and Sub-tropical Moist Broad-leafed Forest
Endemic Flora: Screw pine, Nipa palm, Ceylon iron wood
Endemic Fauna: Crab-eating macaque, Nicobar megapode, Giant robber crab, Nicobar serpent eagle
Gulf of Mannar
Location: Tamil Nadu (Indian part of Gulf of Manna
Ecosystem types: Tropical Dry Broad-leafed forest, seaweed communities, sea grass communities, coral reefs, salt marshes, and mangrove forests.
Endemic Flora: Endemic Flora: Morning glory, Jatropha, Halophila grass
Endemic Fauna: Sea Cow, Sea Anemone, Sea fans
Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
First marine Biosphere Reserve in India
Falls within the Indo-Malayan realm
Manas biosphere reserve
Climate: Tropical Monsoon
Flora: The monsoon forests of Manas lie in the Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests ecoregion.
Main Forest types: semi-evergreen forests mixed moist and dry deciduous forests, alluvial grasslands, creeper swamp forest, Eastern seasonal Swamp Forest, Cane and bamboo brakes
Endemic Flora: Catechu tree, Sissoo, White siris
Endemic Fauna: Pygmy hog, Golden lungur , Assam roofed turtle
World Natural Heritage site
Sunderbans biosphere reserve
Location: West Bengal
Climate: Tropical Monsoon
Forest Types: Tidal Swamp Forests, Saline Water Type Mixed Forests, Brackish Water Type Mixed Forests, Palm Swamp Type
Endemic Flora: Sundari, Passur, Nypa
Endemic Fauna: Bengal tiger, Bengal monitor lizard, Salvator lizard
Others: Gangetic dolphin, , estuarine crocodile, river terrapin, olive ridley turtle,
1.Sundarban National Park /Sundarban tiger Reserve
2. Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary
3. Lothian Wildlife Sanctuary
4. Haliday Wildlife Sanctuary
World Natural Heritage Site
Dibru-Saikhowa biosphere reserve
Rivers: Dibru, Bramhaputra
Climate: Tropical monsoon
Forest Type: semi-wet evergreen forests, tropical moist deciduous forest, bamboo, swamp forests, cane brakes, and grasslands.
Endemic Flora: Rauvolfia (Sarpagandhi), Benteak, Livistona (orchid)
Endemic Fauna: White-winged wood duck, Hollock-gibbon, Wild buffalo
- Dibru-SaikhowaNational Park
(was declared wildlife sanctuary in 1986)
Dehang-Dibang biosphere reserve
Location: Arunachal Pradesh
Rivers: Dehang, Debang and their tributaries
Vegetation Types: sub-tropical broad-leaved, sub-tropical pine, temperate broad-leaved, temperate conifer, sub-alpine woody shrub, alpine meadow (monton), bamboo brakes and grassland.
Endemic Flora: Tree fern, Begonia, Lady’s slipper orchid
Fauna: Endemic Fauna: Red panda, Himalayan black bear, Green pit viper, Takin
- MoulingNational Park
- DibangWildlife Sanctuary
Panchmarhi biosphere reserve
Location: Madhya Pradesh
Tropical Monsoon climate
The Panchmarhi plateau is cool in summer and has heavy rainfall in the rainy season, whereas low lands in the Narmada basin are uncomfortably hot in summer with less rainfall
Forest Types: moist deciduous, dry deciduous, central Indian subtropical hill forest.
Endemic Flora: Sal tree, Selaginella fern, Palimorpha bamboo
Endemic Fauna: Barasinga, Wild buffalo, Red jungle fowl
1. Bori Sanctuary,
2. Pachmarhi Sanctuary
3. SatpuraNational Park
These altogether have also been notified as Satpura Tiger Reserve
Pachmarhi BR area is often recognized as “Genetic Express Highway” linking two biological hot spots of the country viz. Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, also as a confluence of northern and southern type of vegetation.
Climate: Varies with altitude, aspect
Forest Type: Sub-tropical broad leaved hill forest, Himalayan wet temperate forest, and temperate broad leaved forest, mixed coniferous forest, sub-alpine a forests and dry alpine forest
Endemic Flora: Anemone, Uvaria, Sikkim Rhododendron, Sikkim Mahonia
Endemic Fauna: Tibetan sheep, Musk deer, Monal pheasant, Snow patridge
Kanchenjunga National Park
India’s first Mixed Heritage Site
Kerala, Tamil Nadu
Climate: Tropical Monsoon
Forest Types: thorn, moist deciduous and semi-evergreens
Endemic Flora: Rudraksha tree, Black plums, Gaub tree, Wild dhaman
Endemic Fauna: Lion-tailed macaque, Slender loris, Great pied hornbill
1.Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary
2.Peppara Wildlife sanctuary
3.Shendumey wildlife Sanctuary
- KalakadMundanthurai Tiger Reserve.
World Natural Heritage Site
Part of “Hottest biodiversity hotspots”
Narmada, Johilla and Sone, Ama Nallah
Climate: Tropical Monsoon
Forest Type: Tropical deciduous vegetation. Further classified into Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous and Southern Dry Mixed Deciduous forests
Several thallophyte, bryophyte, pteridophyte, gymnosperm, and angiosperm species found.
Fauna: Tigers, panthers, Chitals, blackbuck, giant squirrels etc
Luni, Rupen, West Banas drains into the area
Climate: Arid, Desert like conditions
Two major ecosystems: Great Rann of Kachchh (GRK) and Little Rann of Kachchh (LRK)
mixed scrub, thorn, savannah in GRK
Mangroves in the eastern border of Banni grassland, inside the GRK a place locally known as Shrawan Kavadia
Fauna: Indian wild ass, Greater and Lesser Flamingos
1.Kachchh Desert Sanctuary
2.Wild Ass Sanctuary (for conservation of wild ass)
Pin, Chandrabhaga, Spiti
Climate: Cold, harsh climate with low mean annual rainfall-creating desert like conditions
Flora: Herbs, shrub species
Fauna: Tibetan gazzle, red fox, weasel, marmot, griffon, lammergeyer, golden eagle, snow cock, snow leopard, brown and black bear,ibex etc
- Pin Valley National Park
- KibberWildlife Sanctuary
- ChandratalWildlife Sanctuary
- SarchuWildlife Sanctuary
Climate: tropical Monsoon
Forest type: Both dry and Moist deciduous Type
Endemic Flora: Red Sanders and Slender Loris
Jungle cat, Great Mouse Deer, golden Gekos
- Sri Venkateswara National Park
- Sri Venkateshwara wildlife Sanctuary
Location: Madhya Pradesh
Climate: semi-Arid to Dry Sub-humid
Vegetation types: Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Dry Teak Forest, Northern Tropical Dry Deciduous Mixed Forest, Dry Deciduous Scrub Forest, Boswellia Forest, Dry Bamboo Brakes, Anogeissus pendula Forest.
Panna represents the northern boundary of the natural distribution of teak, and the eastern limits of teak-kardhai mixed forests.
Tiger, chinkara, tree shrew, long-snouted crocodile, mugger
Links the eastern and western wildlife populations of the Vindhyan ranges.
1.Panna National Park/Panna Tiger Reserve
2.Gangau Wildlife Sanctuary
3. Ken-Gharial Wildlife sanctuary (dedicated to breeding programs and proper housing ofGharials)