Biosphere reserves are an international designation under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). They are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems designated to promote solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The concept establishes a broad framework for promoting voluntary community engagement in ecologically sustainable development (ESD) and for achieving ESD across the landscape regardless of ownership. Biosphere reserves are places where approaches to conservation and sustainable development can be explored and demonstrated on a regional scale. They have three functions:
- sustainable development
- logistic support (in the form of demonstration projects, environmental education and training, research and monitoring related to issues of conservation and sustainable development).
- a core area (e.g. a national park) to give long-term legal protection to the natural environment
- a buffer zone where activities which do not hinder the conservation objectives may occur
- a transition area where sustainable resource management practices are promoted and developed through cooperative programs involving the local community and other stakeholders (the transition area would in many cases comprise freehold land and may include areas of major human intervention such as farming or urban development).
Currently there are 554 biosphere reserves in 109 countries. Collectively they form the World Biosphere Network which encourages the exchange of ideas, information and personnel. A biosphere reserve may be removed from the World Network at the request of the national government. In Australia there are 15 biosphere reserves.
Further information on Australian Biosphere reserves can be found at the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts website.
Victorian Biosphere ReservesIn Victoria there are 4 Biosphere Reserves:
- The Croajingolong National Park was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1977. The reserve of approximately 87,500 ha is situated in far east Gippsland, 430 km east of Melbourne. It extends as a wide tract of land along some 100 km of coast from Sydenham Inlet in the west to the New South Wales border in the east.
- The Hattah-Kulkyne National Park and Murray-Kulkyne Park were designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 in recognition of their outstanding natural values. The reserve of approximately 51,500 ha in total has river frontage to the Murray River
- Wilsons Promontory National Park was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1981. The reserve of approximately 40,000 ha is the oldest existing national park in Victoria and is renowned for its spectacular coastal scenery
- The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve was designated a Biosphere Reserve in November 2002, the first in more than 20 years and it has a combined area of 2,142 square kilometres, approximately one third of which covers coastal areas and the waters of Western Port.
Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Evaluation studyIn 2010 an evaluation study was conducted as required by Victoria's Biosphere Reserve Policy. A copy of the full report is now available.
Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Evaluation Report 2010
Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Evaluation Report 2010 (accessible version)
Frequently asked questions about the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Evaluation report and studyWhy was this area chosen for a biosphere?
The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port area satisfied all the UNESCO criteria for such a reserve.
It contains a mix of landscapes: natural (national parks, and other parks and forests of international, national, regional and local significance), rural (farm, pastoral and other agricultural) and urban (cities, towns, industries and related infrastructure).
The area has active conservation networks and there was wide community support for the biosphere reserve to embrace sustainable urban growth and responsible stewardship.
What is the purpose of the report?
The evaluation study (and subsequent report) was conducted as required by Victoria’s Biosphere Reserve Policy. The purpose was to determine the effectiveness of the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve since its designation in 2002.
Who did the report?
The study and report was completed by Roberts Evaluation Pty Ltd, an independent consultant with considerable experience in evaluation studies.
Who was consulted for the report?
More than 90 people, covering a range of stakeholders, took part in the study. Those consulted included the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Foundation members; groups representing the municipalities and other interests in the biosphere reserve area; a research/advisory group; local business groups; local environment groups; and government agencies with an interest in the reserve.
What are the key findings of the report?
The report found that there is strong local support in the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port area for the concept of the biosphere reserve and that sustainability achievements, particularly environmental and social, are in line with the amount of investment that has been available for the implementation of the biosphere reserve. The study also found that there is potential to achieve more within the reserve over time with more resources and more engagement of groups, especially industry and councils.
What are the next steps for the project?
The findings from the study will be used by the Victorian Government as part of its review of the current Victorian Biosphere Reserve Policy. The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation Ltd, will also consider the findings of the report and build on the Foundation’s good work to date.
For more information about the reserve or the foundation, visit the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation website.
NominationsNominations to create a Biosphere reserve must be endorsed by the State within which the nominated area is located and other authorities concerned such as local councils. Nomination forms are available on-line from the UNESCO website.
Nominations for Biosphere reserves within the State of Victoria must also comply with the State Government Policy on Biosphere Reserve Proposals.
Biosphere Reserves Proposals - State Government Policy