Biosphere reserves represent a new approach to nature conservation. They are model areas for new techniques and knowledge for sustainable relationship between man and nature.
The Swedish programme "Man and the Biosphere" aim to encourage interdisciplinary research, demonstration of best practice locally and training in sustainable cultural and natural resource management. The programme contributes not only to a better understanding of the environment, including global change, but also to a greater interaction between science, local knowledge and regional and local governance. A beacon is the interaction between actors at different levels of society and that the initiative to establish biosphere reserves must come from local and regional levels.
Declarations of Biosphere reserves, in Swedish: biosfärområde (Biosphere Area), does not by itself provide a protection in a legal sense or any further restrictions or additional demands on existing protected areas.
Biosphere reserves are closely linked to the UNESCO scientific programme entitled "Man and the Biosphere" (MAB). The MAB programme aims to improve the relationship between man and the environment across the globe. Biosphere reserves are the most important means of achieving this under the programme.
The biosphere is the zone in which man and other organisms can live. Unesco uses the term "biosphere reserves" for areas combining nature conservation with human development. They are model areas where it is possible to test new knowledge and practical approaches to achieving a sustainable relationship between man and nature, and between use and conservation.
The area covered by a biosphere reserve must be large enough for it to fulfil three functions:
Biosphere reserves are organised into three geographical zones, known as core areas, buffer zones and transition areas.
In april 2016, there are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries around the world, a number that is growing with some twenty each year. The biosphere reserves form a global network: the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
In the Nordic countries, we have had biosphere reserves since the 1970s. There are currently seven biosphere reserves in the Nordic countries, five of which are located in Sweden.
Lake Torneträsk, formed in 1986, was the first Swedish biosphere reserve. As it did not meet the criteria laid down in 1995 by the Seville Strategy and the framework for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, it was withdrawn from the world network in 2010.
The Swedish EPA has played an active part in the MAB programme for many years. The EPA hosts the Swedish MAB committee and provide a base funding for seven biosphere reserves and biosphere candidate areas.