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Logo of MAB
Walkway in Zuvintas Biosphere Reserve

Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an intergovernmental scientific program, launched in 1971 by UNESCO, that aims to establish a scientific basis for the 'improvement of relationships' between people and their environments.

MAB engages with the international development agenda, especially the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The MAB programme provides a platform for cooperation in research and development. As of January 2021, 727 biosphere reserves in 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites, have been included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.[1]

Biosphere reserves

Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Its biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized. Biosphere reserves are 'Science for Sustainability support sites'.

Biosphere reserves have three zones:

IUCN classification

In 1996, the IUCN and MAB published a guideline for how to assess UNESCO biosphere reserves in the IUCN classification system. The IUCN distinguishes between the biosphere core area, buffer zones, transition zones, and each individual biosphere reserve. Biosphere core zones are in IUCN category I; either Ia (strict nature reserve) or Ib (wilderness area). Biosphere buffer zones would fall into categories IV, V or VI, and transition zones would be categorized as either V or VI, if possible.[3]

Programme's structure

Further information: World Network of Biosphere Reserves

Participating countries establish MAB National Committees that define and implement each country's activities. MAB currently operates through 158 national committees established among the 195 member states and nine associate member states of UNESCO.

The agenda of the MAB programme is defined by its main governing body, the International Coordinating Council. The MAB Council consists of 34 member states elected by UNESCO's General Conference. The council elects a chair and five vice-chairs from each of UNESCO's geopolitical regions, one of which functions as a rapporteur. These constitute the MAB Bureau.

The MAB Secretariat is based at UNESCO's Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris, and works with field offices at national and regional levels. MAB is funded by UNESCO and mobilizes funds in trust granted by Member States, bilateral and multilateral sources, and extra-budgetary funds provided by countries, the private sector and private institutions.

The latest World Congress of Biosphere Reserves took place in Lima, Peru, from March 14–17, 2016. This will be the 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves.[4]


The World Network of Biosphere Reserves are as follows:

See also


  1. ^ "Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme". UNESCO. January 7, 2019.
  2. ^ "MAB leaflet 2015" (PDF).
  3. ^ Biosphere reserves and the IUCN system of protected area management categories. IUCN Man and the Biosphere Programme, World Conservation Union and Australian Nature Conservation Agency. 1996. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  4. ^ "4th World Congress | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization".