Biosphere areas consider nature conservation and sustainable development in a new way. People must be able to live in and develop an area while at the same time ensuring that nature is preserved. Biosphere areas belong to UNESCO’s scientific programme ‘Man and the Biosphere’ (MAB), with the goal of improving the relation between people and the environment globally. The identification of a biosphere area is the most important tool within the framework for UNESCO’s MAB programme.
Biosphere areas can be seen as a type of model area for sustainable development where new knowledge can be tested in practice with regard to sustainable management of the relation between people and nature – to use and preserve at the same time. The biosphere is that part of the planet which supports organic life, human and all other. A biosphere area must be so large in size that it can satisfy three fundamental and interactively supportive functions:
• contribute to preserving biological diversity (genes, species, ecosystems, landscape),
• support economic development that is ecological and socially sustainable,
• support social development that is ecological and socially sustainable.
Biosphere areas must have three ecological zones: core area, buffer zone and developmental areas.
Core areas must be protected by law, e.g. nature and cultural reserves, Natura 2000 areas, or a national park. Threatened and valuable species and environments must be preserved. Distinctive cultural areas can also be part of a core area.
Buffer zones must surround or bind together core areas. Only those activities and use of resources that are in accordance with the protection of the core areas are allowed to be carried out. Restrictions in the buffer zone must be based on voluntary local agreements concerning, for example, financial steering and spending.
Developmental areas are a biosphere area’s outer zone. Local anchorage and long-term sustainability must be a priority. Therefore, this outer zone is of importance for the economical and social development on a local and regional level.
In Sweden, biosphere areas are a complement to cultural and nature reserves, national parks and other appointed areas of high natural and cultural value. A decision about a biosphere area does not in itself provide legal protection, nor does it involve any form of restrictions or increased demands on the existing protected area. Today there are two biosphere areas in Sweden: the Torneträsk area and Kristianstad’s rich waters.