UNESCO adds Russian Mexican sites to global network of biosphere reserves

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now has 531 reserves in 105 countries after the two sites were added yesterday by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during this week’s meeting in Madrid of the Bureau of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB).The Rostovsky Biosphere Reserve, located in the south-east of the Rostov region of Russia, provides a habitat for more than 460 species of plants, 30 species of mammals and 200 species of birds.Local communities are attempting to revive steppe horse breeding and other traditional uses of natural resources that are environmentally safe and sustainable.The Islas Marietas Biosphere Reserve, comprising two islands and two islets off Mexico’s western coast, is home to many species of coral as well as mammals, birds and fish. It is also a critical home for the humpback whale, considered an at-risk species.While there are no human settlements in the Islas Marietas, mainland coastal communities have fished in the area for many years and ecotourism – especially kayaking and snorkelling – is emerging as a major economic opportunity.At each reserve listed in the network, local communities try to enhance their socio-economic development while promoting biodiversity conservation on a scientific basis. Community members contribute to governance, management, research, education, training and monitoring at the sites. 6 February 2008Ecological reserves in Russia and Mexico have been added to a United Nations network set up to fight biodiversity loss and promote sustainable development that helps local communities.