By Rizvana Khan

THE MAB (Man and the Biosphere) Programme is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme providing a platform for the enhancement of the relationships between people and their environment on scientific basis. It was established under the umbrella of UNESCO in early 1970s with main secretariat in Paris. This interdisciplinary programme is based on research targeting ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and the reduction of this loss.

MAB supports novel ideas to improve the human livelihoods and safeguard natural ecosystems through combining natural and social sciences, economics and education. MAB programme also promotes to global efforts for education, capacity building as well as addressing biodiversity and climate change challenges. Among these climatic changes has a crucial rule for biodiversity loss. It is widely accepted that biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates a 0.2° C increase in temperature for each future decade (IPCC, 2007). This increase in temperature would have harmful consequences for ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). One of the recent research in Pakistan on climatic changes effect showed that organism particularly Plants from moderate altitude and climate would suffer more habitat loss from climate change compared to others.

About the MAB governing body, the International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, usually referred to as the MAB Council or ICC, encompasses 34 member states selected by UNESCOs biennial General Conference. The role of MAB ICC ranges from supervision of MAB programme to co-ordinate national, regional activities under this programme. The MAB ICC also decides upon new Biosphere Reserves and gives recommendations on periodic review reports of Biosphere Reserves. The members of MAB ICC meet after every two years and thus MAB Bureau deals regular issues comprising of six members (among the 34 selected members). All of matters which have been proposed by MAB-UNESCO national committee linked with different regional ones would be considered and forwarded to MAB ICC.

The policies and regulations of MAB-UNESCO have been reviewed variously and updated according to recent global issues like World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) was established in 1974 but the Seville Conference in 1995 reformed it through incorporating unique strategy called “Seville stategy” (The main approaches were to review the previous experience in implementing the new concept of the biosphere reserve as well as explore the new functions of conservation, development and logistical support with prospect of future). Recently, the third World Congress of Biosphere Reserves adopted the Madrid Action Plan, setting out the agenda for the MAB Programme for the period 2008-2013: focusing sustainable development of biosphere reserve considering climatic changes, using advices from MAB Networks for addressing the key issues and further develop various scientific programmes for protection of major ecosystems.

Among the focus areas of MAB-UNESCO, the Biosphere Reserves is one of the priorities. While considering the Biosphere Reserves (sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCOs MAB Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and novel science).  Biospheres provide sites for learning, analysis and demonstration of scientifically tested nature and human activities. Currently there are total 610 Biosphere Reserves Networks active in 117 countries all over the world. the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) is divided into five main regions like Africa , Arab States, Asia and the Pacific , Europe and North America , Latin America and the Caribbean. There are 119 Biosphere Reserves in 23 countries (including Pakistan) of Asia and the Pacific. According to latest update India has eight Biosphere Reserves, Iran (10), Sri-Lanaka (4) Maldives (1), Pakistan (1), Kazakhstan (1) etc. The only declared Biosphere Reserves of Pakistan is Lal Suhanra  (designated in 1977). According to the recent happenings, Pakistan Museum of Natural History/Pakistan Science Foundation has been declared as “Focal Point” for UNESCOs Pakistan MAB Programme.

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