Biosphere Reserve (BR)


Biosphere Reserve (BR) is an international designation by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof. BRs are designated to deal with one of the most important questions of reconciling the conservation of biodiversity, the quest for economic and social development and maintenance of associated cultural values. BRs are thus special environments for both people and the nature and are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each others’ needs.

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.


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.


Biosphere reserves in India

There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in the country.

S. No.NameDate of NotificationArea (in km2)Location (State)

(Core 1240 & Buffer 4280)

Part of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Madumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley and Siruvani hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka).
2Nanda Devi18.01.19885860.69

(Core 712.12, Buffer 5,148.570) & T. 546.34)

Part of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts (Uttarakhand).

(Core 47.48 & Buffer 227.92, Transition Zone 544.60)

Part of Garo hills (Meghalaya).
4Great Nicobar06.01.1989885 (Core 705 & Buffer 180)Southern most islands of Andaman And Nicobar (A&N Islands).
5Gulf of Mannar18.02.198910,500 km2

Total Gulf area(area of Islands 5.55 km2)

Indian part of Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka (Tamil Nadu).

(Core 391 & Buffer 2,446)

Part of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamprup and Darang districts (Assam)

(Core 1700 & Buffer  7900)

Part of delta of Ganges and Brahamaputra river system  (West Bengal).

(Core 845, Buffer 2129 & Transition 1400

Part of Mayurbhanj district (Odisha).

(Core 340 & Buffer 425)

Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts (Assam)

(Core 4094.80 &Buffer 1016.70)

Part of Siang and Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
11Pachmarhi03.03.19994926Parts of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh.

(Core 1819.34 & Buffer 835.92)

Parts of Khangchendzonga hills and Sikkim.
13Agasthyamalai12.11.20013500.36Part of Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvanthapuram, Kollam and Pathanmthitta districts in Kerala.
14Achanakamar –    Amarkantak30.3.20053835.51

(Core 551.55 & Buffer  3283.86)

Covers parts of Anupur and Dindori districts of M.P. and parts of Bilaspur districts of Chhattishgarh State.
15Kachchh29.01.200812,454 km2Part of Kachchh, Rajkot, Surendra Nagar and Patan Civil Districts of Gujarat State
16Cold Desert28.08.20097770Pin Valley National Park and surroundings; Chandratal and Sarchu&Kibber Wildlife Sancturary in Himachal Pradesh
17Seshachalam Hills20.09.20104755.997Seshachalam Hill Ranges covering parts of Chittoor and Kadapa districts of Andhra Pradesh
18Panna25.08.20112998.98Part of Panna and Chhattarpur districts in Madhya Pradesh

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, there are 686 biosphere reserves in 122 countries, including 20 transboundary sites.

India has 12 internationally recognised BRs. They are as follows.

  1. Nilgiri
  2. Gulf of Mannar
  3. Sunderban
  4. Nanda Devi
  5. Nokrek
  6. Pachmarhi
  7. Similipal
  8. Achanakmar-Amarkantak
  9. Great Nicobar
  10. Agasthyamala
  11. Khangchendzonga
  12. Panna