The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu and Kerala has made it to top 20 new sites added by the UN to its list of UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
The International Co-ordinating Council, which met in Lima, Peru on Saturday said with the addition of 20 more reserves, the total number of biosphere reserves will be 669 sites in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites. This year’s transboundary site is shared between Spain and Portugal.
“Located in the Western Ghats, in the south of India, the Agasthyamala biosphere reserve includes peaks reaching 1,868 metres above sea level. Consisting mostly of tropical forests, the site is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic,” UNESCO said. “It is also a unique genetic reservoir of cultivated plants especially cardamom, jamun, nutmeg, pepper and plantain. Three wildlife sanctuaries, Shendurney, Peppara, Neyyar and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve are included in the site,” it said.
Set up in 2001, the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR) in Kerala and Tamil Nadu with several tribal settlements and biosphere. Other biosphere in India included in the list are the Nilgiris, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Gulf of Mannar, Sundarban, and Great Nicobar. New biosphere reserves are designated by the International Co-ordinating Council of the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and its representatives come from 34 UNESCO Member States.
Under the biosphere program, protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna but also to the human, especially the tribal settlements in these reserves.
The following site joined the network this year:
Agasthyamala (India)—Located in the Western Ghats, in the south of the country, the biosphere reserve includes peaks reaching 1,868m above sea level. Consisting mostly of tropical forests, the site is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic.
It is also a unique genetic reservoir of cultivated plants especially cardamom, jamune, nutmeg, pepper and plantain. Three wildlife sanctuaries, Shendurney, Peppara, Neyyar and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve are included in the site.
A number of tribal settlements with a total population of 3,000 are located in the biosphere reserve.
Others in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves List 2016 include:
Monts de Tlemcen (Algeria)—The 8,225 ha reserve is situated in the Province of Tlemcen, an area of great biodiversity, which also has major archaeological sites, cultural landscapes and caves and covers the same area as the Tlemcen National Park.
Beaver Hills (Canada)—Located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, the reserve comprises a mixture of lands modified by agricultural activity, mixed wood forests, grasslands and wetlands.
Tsá Tué (Canada)—Located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the area is the homeland of the Sahtúto’ine (The Bear Lake People). It includes Great Bear Lake, the last pristine arctic lake, and part of its watershed.
Lake Bosomtwe (Ghana)—Situated in the Ashanti region of Ghana, Bosomtwe comprises one of six meteoritic lakes in the world. The southernmost section of the site overlaps with the northern section of the Bosomtwe Range Forest Reserve creating a combination of forest, wetland and mountain ecosystems.
La Hotte (Haiti)—Located in the south-east of the country the biosphere reserve encompasses both terrestrial and marine areas. The region is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its wide climate range: from humid to subtropical dry. The reserve covers six mountain peaks culminating at 2,347m, as well as a coastal and marine ecosystem in the north (Iles Cayemites) and south (Ile-à-Vache). It is home to more than 850,000 inhabitants.
Balambangan (Indonesia)—The biosphere reserve in the province of East Java encompasses three national parks (Alas Purwo, Baluran and Meru) and one nature reserve (Kawah Ijen) with terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Hamoun (Iran)—Located in the southeast of the country, the biosphere reserve includes terrestrial and wetland ecosystems with a total of seven habitat types, including desert and semi-desert areas, as well as Hamoun Lake, with its marshlands and watersheds. The area is a hot spot for migratory birds (183 species) and home to 30 mammal species, and 55 plant species.
Collina Po (Italy)—The biosphere reserve is located in the north Italian Piedmont Region and covers the whole Turin stretch of the River Po with its main tributaries and the Collina Torinese hillside.
Barsakelmes (Kazakhstan)—The biosphere reserve is situated in the Sahara-Gobi Desert zone of the Aral Sea basin. It numbers approximately 2,000 species of invertebrates, 30 mammal species, 178 bird species, and 20 reptile species. The reserve also includes four nomadic Kazakhs medieval archaeological sites that were part of the Silk Roads.
Belo-sur-Mer—Kirindy-Mitea (Madagascar)—Situated on the western coast of the island, the site includes watershed upstream and marine and coastal ecosystems downstream.
Isla Cozumel (Mexico)—Situated off the south-eastern coast of the country, Cozumel Island encompasses diverse marine and terrestrial ecosystems rich in amphibian and reptile species. Nearly 80,000 people live in the biosphere reserve, mainly in the city of San Miguel. Tourism is the most developed sector on the island, which numbers close to 40 Mayan archaeological sites.
Atlas Cedar (Morocco)—Situated in the central Atlas Mountains, the biosphere reserve is home to 75% of the world’s majestic Atlas cedar tree population. This part of the Atlas Mountains is rich in ecosystems and its peaks, reaching up to 3,700 metres.
Gran Pajatén (Peru)—Located in the Central Cordillera, the biosphere reserve is characterized by high altitudes and a pristine ecosystem. It encompasses the National Park del Río Abiseo, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Albay (Philippines)—Located at the southern end of the Luzon Island, the biosphere covers some 250,000 hectares. The terrestrial elevation of the site culminates at 2,462 metres and its marine part reaches a depth of 223 metres below sea level.
Fajãs de São Jorge (Portugal)—The biosphere reserve covers the entire Island of São Jorge, the fourth largest in the Azores Archipelago. At 1,053m, the Pico da Esperança is island’s highest elevation. Close to 9,000 people live on the Island.
Tejo/Tajo (Portugal and Spain)—The biosphere reserve is located in the western part of the Iberian Peninsula shared between Spain and Portugal with the Tajo River as its main axis.
Jozani-Chwaka Bay (Tanzania)—The biosphere reserve encompasses the only national park on the island of Zanzibar. Its landscape consists of mosaics of mangroves, tropical forests and coral rug forests as well as groundwater, salt marshes, and both agricultural and residential areas.
Isle of Man (United Kingdom)—Located in the Irish Sea, the Island is home to more than 80,000 people. Its coastline features cliffs, stacks, islets, and long beaches. The hills hold important peat reserves and are deeply cut by wooded glens in the east.