Biosphere Reserves

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Become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Why apply?

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are learning areas for sustainable development under diverse ecological, social and economic contexts, touching the lives of more than 250 million people.

There are over 700 biosphere reserves in more than 125 countries, including around 20 transboundary sites, that belong to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves

The UK National Commission for UNESCO works closely with the UK Committee for Man and the Biosphere (UK MAB) in the nomination of new Biosphere Reserves in the UK. All organisations wishing to apply to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve must submit their official application through the UK MAB Committee.



Before starting the application process, organisations considering establishing a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve should first consult the Technical Guidelines for Biosphere Reserves.

The process

Step 1: Contact

Individuals or organisations who have an interest in establishing a biosphere reserve in their area are encouraged to engage in dialogue with the UKNC and the UK MAB Committee. The coordinators of existing UK UNESCO Biosphere Reserves may also be able to provide useful advice. 

Step 2: Initial development of concept

The individuals or organisations interested in establishing a biosphere reserve should discuss their ideas with a range of stakeholders (e.g., local government, conservation and economic development agencies, NGOs) in their area and develop an initial concept. Once this emerges, supported by a partnership of stakeholders, a maximum of two representatives will be invited to attend a meeting of the UK MAB Committee to present their ideas and learn more about the network and the application process. These meetings take place twice a year.

Step 3: Expression of Interest

Ahead of any formal application, the partnership developing the concept should submit an expression of interest to the UK MAB Committee. If the Committee considers that the concept has reached an acceptable stage of development, they will recognise the area as a candidate biosphere reserve.

Step 4: Development of Nomination Form

The MAB Programme requires a detailed nomination form, available here. In addition to the required detail, the nomination form must include the signatures of the authorities responsible for the different zones of the biosphere, and also the Chair of the UK MAB Committee.

The process of developing this nomination must be participatory and usually takes some years, depending on a number of factors including the complexity of local authority and land ownership boundaries, the types of land uses in the area, the diversity of stakeholders and economic actors, and the availability of financial and human resources. It is desirable that one individual should be tasked with coordinating this process. Such a coordinator may already work for one of the interested organisations or be hired on a consultancy basis.

During the process, it is strongly recommended that the coordinator arranges a visit to the area by the Chair (and/or one or more other members) of the UK MAB Committee, to undertake an on-site assessment and meet key stakeholders.

Draft nomination forms must be submitted to the UK MAB Committee for review, usually in the early summer of the year in which it is planned to send the nomination form to UNESCO, in time for the annual deadline of 30 September.

Step 5: Review

Following review, the Committee will decide what stage the nomination form is at, and if it is ready to be formally recommended to the UKNC for onward support and submission to UNESCO.

The possible outcomes of the review are:


Deemed to have potential but that further work is needed before submission can be approved, in which case feedback and further support and advice will be given. A mentor can be appointed if appropriate.


Deemed to have met the requirements for submission to UKNC for our support prior to formal submission to UNESCO. However, in advance of submission recommended further revisions may be made to add strength and clarity to the application.


Deemed to have met the requirements for submission for UK MAB support prior to formal submission to UNESCO.

Step 6: Submission to UNESCO

If the nomination form meets the requirements, it is submitted to UNESCO for consideration. The Secretariat of the MAB Programme verifies the content and supporting documentation and requests any missing information.

Step 7: Examination by the IACBR-recommendations

The International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves (IACBR) considers the nomination and prepares a recommendation to the International Coordinating Council of the MAB Programme (MAB ICC). The IACBR may request additional information or actions.

Step 8: Review by the Bureau of the MAB ICC

The Bureau of the MAB ICC considers the nomination and then recommends it to the MAB ICC to consider at their annual session.

Step 9: Decision on the nomination by MAB ICC

The annual session of the MAB ICC is usually held in summer. During this meeting, the MAB ICC decides on whether to accept the nomination, so that the area becomes a new member of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Key Information

Please make sure you read the important information on this page before you apply to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

To become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the UK, you must apply through the UK Man and the Biosphere Committee (details on this page), but you can submit an Expression of Interest via the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

STATUS:   Ongoing

UK DEADLINE:   Ongoing

FOR WHO:   UK Organisations



This accreditation is currently open for applications. If you have any questions, get in touch with the UK National Commission for UNESCO via our contact form

Begin your application

Make sure you have checked you are eligible for this accreditation before applying. Get in touch with us if you have any questions.

Submit your Expression of Interest     

Accreditation type: Biosphere Reserve

Begin your application to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Submit your Expression of Interest