Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere Reserves are ecosystems covering land, marine, and coastal areas of unusual scientific and natural interest.  The sites are nominated by countries and recognised under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme that promotes sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.

The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) currently counts 686 biosphere reserves in 122 countries all over the world. 

CS4ESD is undertaking work within three Biosphere Reserves; the Dyfi Biosphere in Wales (UK), Mt Olympus in Greece, and Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve in the Basque Country (Spain). Use the links and the map below to find out more about these three biosphere reserves.

Urdaibai is located on the Bay of Biscay coast, in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Urdaibai covers an area of 220 km2 (85 sq mi) with some 45,000 inhabitants, most of them concentrated in the towns of Bermeo and Gernika. The territory is characterized by a hydrographic basin of small streams that merge in a great salt marsh surrounded by high sheer cliffs. The surrounding countryside is occupied by meadowland, oak groves, leafy woods and specially by plantations of fast-growing conifers (Pinus radiata). The coastal landscape is covered with Cantabrian woods of Holm Oak and Strawberry Trees.

The estuary, together with Santoña´s natural park, is arguably the most important wetland in the Iberian Peninsula. The estuary is the heart of the Biosphere Reserve, which is a habitat for a wide variety of migratory and resident birds. As regards migrating birds, the attractions of the biosphere reserve, and in particular the Urdaibai Bird Center in Gautegiz Arteaga, are promoted to birdwatchers as part of the international “Bird Flyway” project. The flora that is developed in Urdabai, is clearly an Atlantic base. There are a lot of meadows, holm oaks on both sides of the estuary, oak groves, lush forests and especially plenty of Monterey pine trees. The coastal area is covered by cantabrian forests.

The vegetable world that can be found here, is formed by 615 species of plants. Human activity has substantially modified the space, but the agricultural works have allowed the recuperation of original vegetation. The vegetation has, mainly in the marsh, a degree of singularity because of the specialization and also and its particular appearance. However, at the same time it has a high grade of diversity originated by the salinity. The area of Urdaibai is composed by different environments, each of which has its own vegetation and animals that create their own ecosystem. The area contains remnants of the Prehistoric, Roman and the Middle Ages. Particularly notable is the Santimamiñe cave, which has yielded archeological artifacts from the Mousterian (Middle Paleolithic Age) to the Iron Age. The economy is based on metallurgy, fishing, farming and forestry. An important tourist sector is based on the quality of the local beaches. Mundaka is especially appealing for surfers around the world.

Further information on the reserve can be found on this website.

The Dyfi Biosphere was designated in 1977, and is the first in Wales. The extent of the reserve itself was extended and redefined in 2009. This involved including Aberystwyth as a major town. It has an active bilingual community of around 26,000 inhabitants and is comprised of various areas of importance, notably the Dyfi estuary, which forms one of the most important wildfowl and shorebird centres in Wales. Cors Fochno or Borth Bog is one of the largest and finest examples of a raised peat bog in Britain, and Coed Cwm Einion, which has has remnants of native oak woodland.  However, most of the Dyfi Biosphere is not a conservation area, simply places where people live and work.

For more information on the biosphere go to the official webpage: https://www.dyfibiosphere.wales/

Mount Olympus is a legendary area (place of the 12 Gods of Greek mythology). The highest tree-line (timber-line) in Europe occurs on this mountain (Pinus heldreichii at 2500 m). The great concentration of rare plants and animals makes this site a real natural paradise for the conservation of rare fauna and flora of Greece and Europe. At the top, it is the core zone of the 4000 ha National Park established in 1938. There is a Management Agency of the National Park that is also included in the NAtura 2000 network. Due to its outstanding natural and cultural importance, mount Olympus National Park is recognised as part of the international network of Biosphere Reserves (15/12/1981). This biosphere reserve is situated on the eastern part of the Greece mainland and covers the eastern limestone foothills and the summit of Mount Olympus (2,914 metres above sea level). The landscape comprises maquis and Mediterranean sclerophyll shrublands, beech and oak woodlands, pine (Pinus nigra) forests, as well as montane grasslands and alpine areas.

The region of the park is mountainous with Mount Olympus – the highest mountain in Greece – standing out from the surrounding area. In the north and east, alluvial plains ascend gradually to an altitude of around 300 metres, and from there the foothills of the mountain rise steeply. Deep valleys, especially in the east and north, dissect the massif.

The biosphere reserve is uninhabited but there are several communities living in the areas around it. Tourism and agriculture are the main economic activities around Mount Olympus. The entire Pierian Olympus has been declared an archaeological and historical site in order to preserve its monumental and historical physiognomy.

For more information on the biosphere check out the national park agency website here and the Mount Olympus unesco website here.

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