Biosphere reserves are sites recognized by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme and are models of a sustainable future that protect and celebrate cultural and biological diversity, and that empower people to engage with one another and with nature in healthier ways. Biosphere reserves in Canada are designated areas where communities are actively working to conserve biodiversity and implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals supported by Canada. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts 738 sites in 134 countries all over the world.
Biosphere reserves in Canada
There are nineteen biosphere reserves across Canada. They reflect the geographic diversity of Canada and some of its most iconic landscapes, and bring people together at a regional level in support of domestic and international environmental and sustainable development goals and principles. Biosphere reserves are located in areas with high conservation value and potential; all but one are located in southern Canada. There is a biosphere reserve in Northwest Territories and there is at least one in every province, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
From east to west:
Each of the Canadian Biosphere Reserves have received Enhanced Nature Legacy funding to help increase biodiversity conservation efforts across the country. Here are some examples of the great work they’re doing:
Manicouagan-Uapishka Biosphere Reserve in Quebec
The Manicouagan-Uapishka Biosphere Reserve in the Baie-Comeau region of Quebec was first recognized in 2007. It came together through collaboration and partnership with the Regional Tourism Association (ATR) of Manicouagan (now Tourisme Côte-Nord), the Regional County Municipality (MRC) of Manicouagan, the Council of the Innu of Pessamit, the City of Baie-Comeau, Hydro-Québec, and the Kruger Company.
It is located east of Québec City, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, and covers 5.5 million hectares, making it the second largest biosphere reserve in Canada. The landscapes are diverse and include steep cliffs on the water’s edge, vast tracts of boreal forest, and the Uapishka Mountains to the north. The salt marshes of the Manicouagan-Uapishka reserve are among the most productive habitats on the planet, acting as important resting places for more than 200 migratory birds. It is also home to many species at risk, including woodland caribou.
- Ma Ville, Ma Voix: annual community-driven consultation and engagement process for sustainable development projects in Baie-Comeau.
- Co-developing and implementing a minimum Monitoring and Research Program with the Innu Community of Pessamit and research partners: UQAR (University of Quebec at Rimouski) and INQ (Institut nordique du Québec).
- Working with the Pessamit Innu Guardians to enforce the new snowmobiling rules and protect their traditional territory.
- Managing ecotourism and consultation activities within a protected area with the Government of Quebec and community stakeholders, such as the Innu community of Pessamit, and the snowmobiling and hiking communities. This is helping to protect wildlife, like caribou, and their habitat.
- Supporting and enabling research: the Canadian Forest Service has undertaken a four-year research project to study woodland caribou habitat and food sources.
Biosphere reserves in Nova Scotia
Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve in Ontario
Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound Biosphere Reserve in British Columbia
Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound Biosphere Region (AHSBR) received its official UNESCO designation in September 2021, becoming Canada’s newest biosphere region and the third in British Columbia.
Though Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound inlet and the surrounding mountains are on the edge of bustling Metro Vancouver, the biosphere region is abundant with nature and wildlife, including rare and fragile glass sponge reefs. Residents and visitors alike can explore the outdoors, learn about the region’s unique ecology, and discover the rich culture of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and other Coast Salish peoples, who have existed and prospered from this shared territory since time immemorial.
AHSBR extends from the sea floor to the mountaintops, encompassing a 218,723-hectare swath of terrain that begins near Point Atkinson (Sk’íẃitsut) in West Vancouver, running north to Black Tusk (T’ekt’akmúỳin tl’a In7inỳáxa7en) near Whistler, and as far west as Gower Point on the Sunshine Coast. An estimated 42 percent of the land within AHSBR is under some form of conservation management, while less than 5 percent of the marine area is protected.
Biosphere reserves have three distinct zones:
- a core protected area, consisting of a strictly protected ecosystem (e.g. national wildlife area, migratory bird sanctuary, or national park) that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species, and genetic variation;
- a buffer zone, used for limited activities, compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training, and education; and
- a transition area, where greater activity is allowed, fostering socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable economic and human development.
- Minister Guilbeault announces more than $926,000 for the Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound Biosphere Region to protect nature and help meet Canada’s conservation goals - Canada.ca
- Canada invests more than $585,000 in Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve to increase biodiversity conservation in Ontario - Canada.ca
- Minister Guilbeault announces more than $1 million for two Nova Scotia biosphere reserves to protect nature and help meet Canada’s conservation goals - Canada.ca
- Canada invests $11.3 million to increase biodiversity conservation in UNESCO biosphere reserves - Canada.ca
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