Nicobar islands declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO

6/02/2013
UNESCO
The highly threatened Nicobar islands of India - home to 1,800 animal species and some of the world's most endangered tribes, has now been designated as a world biosphere reserve.

The island is home to the indigenous Shompen people, semi-nomadic hunters living inland and the Nicobarese, who are coastal dwellers dependent on fishing and horticulture.

The International Coordinating Council of Unesco's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) which is meeting in Paris added 12 sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves on Thursday.

Biosphere Reserves are sites chosen by the MAB programme to experiment with different approaches to the management of terrestrial, marine and coastal resources as well as fresh water.

They also serve as in situ laboratories for sustainable development.

The additions bring the total number of biosphere reserves to 621 in 117 countries.

Talking about why the Nicobar Islands were chosen, UNESCO said, "This island biosphere reserve, covering 103,870 hectares, is characterized by tropical wet evergreen forest. It is home to 200 species of meiofauna in the coastal zone. The 6,381 inhabitants derive a wide variety of biological resources from their environment such as medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products."

The Ziarat Juniper forest of Pakistan too have been accorded the same status.

It said "Pakistan's largest Juniper forest is located in this reserve. The juniper forest ecosystem is of inestimable value for biodiversity conservation. It is also of great ecological significance, providing local, regional and global benefits."

China hasn't been left behind.

The 9,808 hectare Snake Island in the Laotie Mountain of China is home to the Gloydius shedaoensis, an endemic species of the Viperidae family, inscribed on the Chinese list of endangered species since 2004.

The venom of this snake has medicinal properties and hence been recognized by Unesco.

The site also provides shelter to 307 bird species and ten million birds use it as stopover during migration.

Mont-Viso in France has also been deemed a world biosphere reserve.

This is a glacial cirque surrounded by river valleys and high altitude lakes with a dry and sunny climate.

Terres de l'Ebre in Catalonia (Spain) is another biosphere reserve covering 367,729 hectares and has a population of 190,000.

Located in the Catalunya region, it includes the delta and watershed of the Ebro River, which is Spain's largest river in terms of volume.

It has a large number of different ecosystems ranging from inland to coastal areas. The main part of the land is used for cattle. Alternative energy sources such as hydrological, solar and wind power, are being developed in the region, respecting biological conservation and landscape values.

The other entries include Monteviso Area della Biosfera del Monviso (Italy), Real Sitio de San Ildefonso-El Espinar (Spain), Alakol (Kazakhstan), Gochang (Republic of Korea), Macizo de Cajas (Ecuador) and Marais Audomarois (France).
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