Victoria Heritage Observatory

The UNESCO Urban Biosphere Project

In collaboration with Greater Victoria NatureHood

What is an Urban Biosphere Reserve? 

At the moment this is an experimental initiative within the Biosphere Reserve Programme. A working definition for “urban biosphere reserve”  has been proposed:

An Urban Biosphere is a proposed subcategory of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

“A Biosphere Reserve is characterized by important urban areas within or adjacent to its boundaries where the natural, socio-economic and cultural environments are shaped by urban influences and pressures, and are set up and managed to mitigate these pressures for improved urban and regional sustainability.


Three main functions are expected from an urban biosphere reserve. They are conservation, development and logistic support. It is expected that an urban biosphere reserve would contribute to conservation of its landscape and ecosystem, and foster both economical and cultural development. It is also expected that it would support demonstration projects, environmental education and training, and research on sustainable development issues.” (Source)

Fact: Greater Victoria hosts over 300 watersheds.
(Click to enlarge map. Source: CRD)

What is an example of an Urban Biosphere Reserve?

Brighton & Lewes Down Biosphere Reserve, United Kingdom (1916)

See UNESCO: Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Reserve


How do we become a Biosphere Reserve?

To become part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, individual countries nominate areas which they identify as meeting the requirements of a biosphere reserve. In order for a biosphere reserve to be nominated, land must already have been set aside for conservation within the area under consideration. It is also essential to have a local proponent group to champion the idea of a biosphere reserve and be involved in its implementation. Ideally, this group should include people that are known and respected within the community. The group should first ensure that the area under consideration meets the three zone criteria and that the organizational potential is there to develop the capacity to carry out the functions of a biosphere reserve.

See A Guide to Being a Biosphere Reserve in Canada for more info.

How many Biosphere Reserves are there today?

There are 738 Biosphere Reserves in 134 Countries. Together they form the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). There are overseen by the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves (IACBRA) under this International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (ICC).

Ottawa, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; and Kandy, Sri Lanka are exploring Urban Biosphere Reserve designations.

Biosphere Reserves in 134 Countries

How many Biosphere Reserves are there in Canada?

There are 19 Biosphere Reserves, including 3 in British Columbia and 2 on Vancouver Island (Mount Arrowsmith and Clayoquot Sound).

Canadian Reserves belong to the Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association (CBRA). They are overseen by Canadian Man and Biosphere Committee (CCMAB) of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO).

Biosphere Reserves in Canada

What is the relationship between UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites?

World-wide, about 50% of World Heritage Sites are contained within, or are adjacent to a Biosphere Reserve.


World Heritage Sites contained within, or adjacent to a Biosphere Reserve

Learn more about Biosphere Reserves:

Learn more about the Greater Victoria NatureHood:

Visit https://www.gvnaturehood.com/

Explore Nature in the City Map: A Guide to Many Adventures