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The Unesco Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme (MAB)

The Unesco Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme (MAB) was established in 1977 to promote an interdisciplinary approach to research, training and communications in ecosystem conservation and rational use of natural resources.

As of December 2009, the World Heritage List includes 890 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 689 cultural, 176 natural and 25 mixed properties in 148 States Parties. As of April 2009, 186 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention.

States Parties are countries which have adhered to the World Heritage Convention. They thereby agree to identify and nominate properties on their national territory to be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List. When a State Party nominates a property, it gives details of how a property is protected and provides a management plan for its upkeep. States Parties are also expected to protect the World Heritage values of the properties inscribed and are encouraged to report periodically on their condition.

Biosphere reserves are sites recognized under MAB Programme, which innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development. They are of course under national sovereign jurisdiction, yet share their experience and ideas nationally, regionally and internationally within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as 'living laboratories' for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. Collectively, biosphere reserves form a world network: the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Within this network, exchanges of information, experience and personnel are facilitated.

Each biosphere reserve is intended to fulfil 3 basic functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing:

- a conservation function - to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation;

- a development function - to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable;

- a logistic function - to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.

Biosphere reserves are organized into 3 interrelated zones
 
- the core area
- the buffer zone
- the transition area

The biosphere reserves programme brings some benefits. The biosphere reserve concept can be used as a framework to guide and reinforce projects to enhance people's livelihoods and ensure environmental sustainability. Unesco's recognition can serve to highlight and reward such individual efforts. The designation of a site as a biosphere reserve can raise awareness among local people, citizens and government authorities on environmental and development issues. It can help to attract additional funding from different sources. At the national level, biosphere reserves can serve as pilot sites or ‘learning places’ to explore and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development, providing lessons which can be applied elsewhere.

In addition, they are a concrete means for countries to implement Agenda 21, the Convention on Biological Diversity (for example the Ecosystem Approach), many Millennium Development Goals (for example on environmental sustainability), and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

In the case of large natural areas which straddle national boundaries, transboundary biosphere reserves can be established jointly by the countries concerned, testifying to long-term cooperative efforts.

The programme’s primary output comes in the form of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves - a listing of local units, known as biosphere reserves, found in different countries across all the regions of the world. Biosphere reserves are protected areas that are meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between man and nature (e.g. sustainable development).

Inclusion in the World Network starts with nominations as prepared by national governments. Benefits gained from being part of the network include the integration of conservation, development and scientific research concerns to sustainably manage the shared ecosystems.

Owing to the program’s focus to man’s relationship with nature, MAB has gradually been seen as Unesco’s, and the United Nations’s, response to the issues raised by succeeding international dialogues dedicated to environmental concerns, such as the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Unced 92 or Rio 92) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

During the initial years of the program, the designation of biosphere reserves has focused more on the conservation of the environment per se. Hence, among areas that have been included in the network are national parks encompassing isolated wilderness with outstanding biodiversity values. Through the years, the program’s focus has shifted from the idea of isolated natural environs to one that allows for the interaction with man in terms of sustainable living and education. Hence, places where livelihood is sustained, including urban greenbelts have increasingly figured in the World Network.

In 1995, an International Conference on Biosphere Reserves held in Seville formally defined and designated a set procedure in the recognition and inclusion of potential biosphere reserves based on this newfound purpose into the World Network. Criteria have also been rigidly set to ensure that the objectives of the programme will be met.
(Click to download: The Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves )

Thus, some biosphere reserves which have been included during the early phase of the program have either been withdrawn from the network or redefined so as to remain relevant to this new setting.


Brazil's properties inscribed on the World Heritage List

Cultural

1.   Brasilia (1987)
2.   Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia (1985)
3.   Historic Centre of São Luís (1997)
4.   Historic Centre of the Town of Diamantina (1999)
5.   Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás (2001)
6.   Historic Centre of the Town of Olinda (1982)
7.   Historic Town of Ouro Preto (1980)
8.   Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis (1983)
9.   Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas (1985)
10. Serra da Capivara National Park (1991)

Natural

11. Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves (1999)
12. Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves (2001)
13. Central Amazon Conservation Complex (2000)
14. Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks (2001)
15. Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves (1999)
16. Iguaçu National Park (1986)
17. Pantanal Conservation Area (2000)

Atlantic Rainforest's Ecosystems

The Atlantic Forest region includes forests of several variations.

The Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica in Portuguese) is a region of tropical and subtropical moist forest, tropical dry forest, tropical savannas, and mangrove forests which extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the north to Rio Grande do Sul state in the south, and inland as far as Paraguay and the Misiones Province of Argentina.

During glacial periods, however, the Atlantic Forest is known to have shrunk to extremely small refugia in highly sheltered gullies, with most of the land area more recently occupied by the characteristic Atlantic Forest being occupied by dry forest or even semi-desert. Some maps even suggest the forest actually survived in moist pockets well away from the coastline, where its endemic rainforest species mixed with much cooler-climate species.

- The coastal restingas are low forests which grow on stabilized coastal dunes.

- The coastal forests, also known as Atlantic moist forests, are evergreen tropical forests with structures.

- Inland are the interior forests, also known as the Atlantic semi-deciduous forests, where many trees drop their leaves during the dry season.

- Further inland are the Atlantic dry forests, which form a transition between the arid Caatinga to the northeast and the Cerrado savannas to the east.

- Montane moist forests occur in the Serra do Mar and across the mountains and plateaus of southern Brazil, and are home to Araucaria and evergreen trees of the laurel (Lauraceae) and myrtle (Myrtaceae) families.

- Shrubby montane savannas occur at the highest elevations.

The Atlantic Forest is unusual in that it extends as a true tropical rainforest to latitudes as high as 24°S. This is because the trade winds produce precipitation throughout the southern winter. In fact, the northern Zona da Mata of northeastern Brazil receives much more rainfall between May and August than during the southern summer. The Dunas Park in Rio Grande do Norte is one of the largest units of conservation of atlantic forest in Brazil.

The Atlantic Forest is now designated a World Biosphere Reserve, which contains a large number of highly endangered species including the well known marmosets and lion tamarins. It has been extensively cleared since colonial times, mainly for the farming of sugar cane and for urban settlements. The remnant is estimated to be less than 10% of the original and that is often broken into hilltop islands.

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests:
- Araucaria moist forests
- Atlantic Coast restingas
- Bahia coastal forests
- Bahia interior forests
- Caatinga enclaves moist forests
- Paraná-Paraíba interior forests
- Pernambuco coastal forests
- Pernambuco interior forests
- Serra do Mar coastal forests

Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests
- Atlantic dry forests

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands
- Campos Rupestres montane savanna

Mangroves
- Bahia mangroves
- Ilha Grande mangroves
- Rio Piranhas mangroves
- Rio São Francisco mangroves



To know more:

:. Atlantic Forest - Conservation International CI

:. Atlantic Forest - The Nature Conservancy TNC

:. The New York Botanic Garden: Atlantic Coastal Forest

Unesco's World Nature Heritages in Atlantic Rainforest

The Brazilian Natural World Heritage Sites Program is a 10-year initiative, supported by Unesco and a group of Brazilian agencies. Three of the seven Natural Heritage Sites in Brazil are in the Atlantic Forest, and this program seeks to develop mechanisms, competencies and skills to support key protected areas and enable local communities to pursue development goals that are compatible with biodiversity conservation.

:. Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves
The Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, in the states of Paraná and São Paulo, contain some of the best and most extensive examples of Atlantic forest in Brazil. The 25 protected areas that make up the site (some 470,000 ha in total) display the biological wealth and evolutionary history of the last remaining Atlantic forests. From mountains covered by dense forests, down to wetlands, coastal islands with isolated mountains and dunes, the area comprises a rich natural environment of great scenic beauty.

:. Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves
The Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves, in the states of Bahia and Espírito Santo, consist of eight separate protected areas containing 112,000 ha of Atlantic forest and associated shrub (restingas). The rainforests of Brazil’s Atlantic coast are the world’s richest in terms of biodiversity. The site contains a distinct range of species with a high level of endemism and reveals a pattern of evolution that is not only of great scientific interest but is also of importance for conservation.

:. Iguassu National Park
The park shares with Iguazú National Park in Argentina one of the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls, extending over some 2,700 m. It is home to many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, among them the giant otter and the giant anteater. The clouds of spray produced by the waterfall are conducive to the growth of lush vegetation.



Brazil's properties inscribed on the World Heritage List

Cultural

1.   Brasilia (1987)
2.   Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia (1985)
3.   Historic Centre of São Luís (1997)
4.   Historic Centre of the Town of Diamantina (1999)
5.   Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás (2001)
6.   Historic Centre of the Town of Olinda (1982)
7.   Historic Town of Ouro Preto (1980)
8.   Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis (1983)
9.   Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas (1985)
10. Serra da Capivara National Park (1991)

Natural

11. Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves (1999)
12. Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves (2001)
13. Central Amazon Conservation Complex (2000)
14. Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks (2001)
15. Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves (1999)
16. Iguaçu National Park (1986)
17. Pantanal Conservation Area (2000)

The Atlantic Rainforest 

The Atlantic Forest is one of the most threatened rainforests in the world.

It used to stretch all along the Brazilian coast occupying an area of about
1.1 million square kilometers. Covering such a large area it is composed of a number of sub-ecosystems: tableland rainforest (Bahia), subtropical forest (interior of São Paulo, Parana), lowland forest, slope forest, cloud forest and high altitude plains.

One can also find marshes, mangroves,
restingas and beaches, where the forest meets the sea The forest overwhelmed visitors like the 16th century discoverer Americo Vespucci and scientist Charles Darwin with its spectacular natural beauty and biological richness. But five centuries of colonization have taken their toll and little - less than 10% - of this great forest remains. One can only guess how many species have disappeared because of the clearing of the land for timber, plantations, pastures and human settlements.

Yet, even today, the still impressive remnants of forest attest to its past glory and some still rival the Amazon in biological diversity and surpass it in beauty. As the remaining forest is mostly located on slopes and mountains, more light penetrates to the different forest strata and many trees are dripping with epiphytes. The enormous variety of orchids and bromeliads is typical for well preserved Atlantic Forest. Half of the trees species and two-thirds of the bromeliad and palm species are endemic, they are only found in this ecosystem.

There are more than 800 bird species recorded for the Atlantic Forest, ranging from the very rare majestic Harpy Eagle to the tiny Reddish Hermit (a 8 cm hummingbird). Colourful groups of tanagers fly from tree to tree looking for edible fruits. Woodcreepers and antbirds search trunks and branches for insects and the sad whistle of the black-and-cotinga sounds through the cloud forest.

The mammal list for the Atlantic Forest has over 150 species, but many are nocturnal and shy. More than a third of critically endangered mammals in Brazil are endemic to this unique ecosystem. Prominent amongst these are the highly threatened lion tamarins and South America’s largest monkey, the "muriqui" or woolly spider monkey. The Atlantic forest is also rich in reptiles, amphibians and butterflies.

Most of the forest cover in the states North of Salvador is gone. The states of Rio, São Paulo and Paraná have the most remaining forest thanks, in part, to the inaccessibility of some of these areas. In Southern Bahia, shade-living cocoa has helped some impressive stands survive, as only the undergrowth is cleared for making the plantations.

Many conservation groups are working to protect the remaining forest and - importantly - promoting the creation of ecological corridors, which are essential for the survival of endemic species, which have become isolated in small patches of forest.

For the visitor the Atlantic Rainforest offers spectacular mountain scenery (some of the highest mountains of Brazil are found in its domain),
exuberant forest full of hidden treasures like bridal veil waterfalls, a delicate orchid or the beautiful golden lion tamarin monkey.

There are many nice properties to stay from where you can venture out into the rainforest. Birdwatchers will discover an enormous variety of birds, including endangered endemics. And for the adventurous, there are a myriad of activities like trekking, mountain-biking, rappel and canyoning, rafting and canoeing and horseback riding.


Atlantic Rainforest in Figures (2002)

Approximate original area: 1.100.000 sq km
Average Annual Rainfall: 1500 - 3000 mm
Average Annual Temperature: 14 - 21ºC
Amphibians: 49
Birds: 837
Fish species: 185
Mammals: 161
Reptiles: 120
Vascular Plants: 10.000 (44% endemics)

Source: ecobrasil.org.br/brazilfortravelers