The idea of a Biosphere Reserve

The term biosphere reserve is comprised of biosphere (= a habitat) and reserve (= to preserve). In biosphere reserves, it is not so much about conserving what is already there but about showing how humans can use nature without destroying it.

 

The 461 km² UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape is not far from the Elbe metropolis of Hamburg between the small port cities of Boizenburg in the north and Dömitz in the south. In addition to the relatively natural Elbe stream, the numerous tributaries, steep Elbe bank slopes and sandy inland dunes are characteristic of the vast river landscape.

Das UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V bei Boizenburg © D. Foitlänger

Biosphere reserves are model regions for sustainable development. They are appointed by the UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in connection with the programme Man and the Biosphere (MAB). They comprise a global network of particularly valuable cultural landscapes. Different to national parks, which protect untouched natural landscapes, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves protect cultural landscapes. Through economic usages like grazing or forestry the scenical character and ecological richness of cultural landscapes are influenced in a precise manner.

Markante Kiefer auf der Binnendüne bei Klein Schmölen im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © LerchUlmer
Inland dune near Klein Schmölen

Since 1997, the Mecklenburg part of the transnational UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape has been part of this global network of 714 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in 129 states (as of December 2020). There are 18 biosphere reserves in Germany. 16 of them are recognized by UNESCO. These areas represent important German landscape types and are representative of the diversity of habitats and fauna and flora in this country. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are reviewed every ten years. This is to determine whether they continue to meet the international requirements. 

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape is part of the global network of biosphere reserves for the habitats of rivers, floodplain grassland, backwaters, as well as adjacent deciduous and mixed forests, valley sand, dune and geest areas. Extensive floodplains, brackish water, extensive meadow landscapes, sandy banks, inland dunes and steep edges of the Geest shape the centuries-old cultural landscape.

Alte Weide auf einer Überschwemmungsfläche entlang des Elbstroms im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © B. Fellner
Floodplains along the river Elbe.
Floodplains along the river Elbe.
 Die Binnendüne Klein Schmölen im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © I. Valentin
Inland dune near Klein Schmölen.
Inland dune near Klein Schmölen.
Ausgedehnte blühende Wiesenfläche mit Kuckuckslichtnelke im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © R. Colell
Blooming meadow with cuckoo-light carnation near Blücher.
Blooming meadow with cuckoo-light carnation near Blücher.
Markanter steiler Elbhang an der Mündung der Sude in die Elbe bei Boizenburg-Vier im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © S. Teuber
Steep slope at the confluence of the Sude into the river Elbe near Boizenburg.
Steep slope at the confluence of the Sude into the river Elbe near Boizenburg.
Altwasser mit Teichmummeln im Vorland der Elbe UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V.. © R. Colell
Backwater with yellow water-lilies in the foreland of the river Elbe.
Backwater with yellow water-lilies in the foreland of the river Elbe.
Sandufer sind typisch für den Elbstrom im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe. © D. Foitlänger
Sandbanks are typical in the river Elbe.
Sandbanks are typical in the river Elbe.
Das Brodarer Brack zwischen Rüterberg und Dömitz im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © A. Hollerbach
The Brodarer Brack between Rüterberg and Dömitz.
The Brodarer Brack between Rüterberg and Dömitz.
Kiefernwald auf kuppigen Binnendünen im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © D. Foitlänger
Pine forest on hilly inland dunes.
Pine forest on hilly inland dunes.
Wanderweg durch den herbstlichen Laub- und Mischwälder im Vierwald bei Boizenburg im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V. © D. Foitlänger
Deciduous and mixed forests in the Vierwald near Boizenburg.
Deciduous and mixed forests in the Vierwald near Boizenburg.

Titelseite des Rahmenkonzepts des UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Flusslandschaft Elbe. © Biosphärenreservatsamt
Framework concept only in German.

In 2006 the framework concept for the cross-border UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape was adopted.

It includes the presentation of the supraregional key objectives, the value-determining characteristics and the zoning for the entire area. Based on an evaluation of the basics compiled for each country, similarities and peculiarities of the natural area equipment as well as spatially relevant activities from the areas of regional, tourism development, information, social affairs, culture, education and research are documented.

The framework concept is an expert opinion and has no legal obligation, not even towards owners and authorized users. However, it is an indispensable guideline for the sustainable development of the Biosphere Reserve. For the Mecklenburg- Vorpommern sub-area, the biosphere plan has been drawn up together with a wide range of stakeholders since 2020.

 Rahmenkonzept (German version) [pdf 2,8 MB]

Each global UNESCO Biosphere Reserve follows three functions:


Protective function

The goal is to contribute to the conservation of the natural process and the biological diversity. Negative developments, like the rapidly progressing extinction of species, should be worked against. The focus of nature conservation is the maintaining of landscapes and their ecosystems, the protection of genetic resources und the diversity of the ecosystem. Furthermore, sustainable usage of the available natural goods, like water, soil and air are of importance.


Developmental function

In supporting a sustainable development, the societal and economic developments of the region should be strengthened. This includes the formation of regional value creation chains as well as close to nature and location appropriate farming of the landscape. Biosphere reserves as model regions offer the possibility to venture on new paths, to try innovative environmentally friendly technologies and to develop sustainable ways of land use.


Logistic Support

The interaction of economic usage and the development of sustainable habitats is important for research and education. Through monitoring, the effects of anthropogenic influences on representative ecosystems are researched. Biosphere reserves are understood as educational hubs. The people of the region are offered a chance to actively participate in the model region of the biosphere reserve.

Schutzzonen eines Biosphärenreservates © Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission
Protective Zones of a Biosphere Reserve (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.de)

The development zone covers 36,677 ha (79.57 %) of the area of ​​the Biosphere Reserve. It is the economic and recreational area, in which an environmentally friendly regional development is in the foreground and the settlement areas are included.

The maintenance zone covers 7,922 ha (17.19 %) of the area of ​​the Biosphere Reserve. It protects particularly valuable areas of the cultural landscape with its unique animal and plant species, which are to be preserved or developed through careful land use.

The core zone covers 1,493 ha (3.24 %) of the area of ​​the Biosphere Reserve. The particularly sensitive core zone consists of two sub-areas: the former military training area at Lübtheen (1,440 ha) and the Vierwald near Boizenburg (53 ha). Here the development of nature remains in the foreground without the anthropogenic influence, so that wilderness can arise. (All data as of 2020)

The tasks of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve go beyond the protection of nature and environment. Sustainable development of the region as well as education and research are also among the core tasks.

In order to be able to equally work on the extensive tasks, biosphere reserves are divided into three zones: the development zone, the maintenance zone and the core zone. The tasks of nature conservation are primarily performed in the maintenance zone and the core zone, while sustainable regional development focuses on the development zone. Research and monitoring as well as education take place in all three zones.

The idea of a Biosphere Reserve in detail - Implementation in the Biosphere Reserve Flusslandschaft Elbe M-V

Rotbauchunke schwimmt rufend im Wasser. Dabei blähen sich die Männchen weit auf. © S. Jansen
The male fire-bellied toad expands widely during its mating calls.

Nature- and Environmental Protection

In accordance with the zoning of the Biosphere Reserve and the European protected area categories (area of ​​community importance and bird sanctuary), the projects focuses on the areas of renaturation projects as well as biotope and species protection.

The spawning waters of the Europe-wide protected toad species are preserved and improved through the project 'Restoration of habitats for the fire-bellied toad in the fortress moat Dömitz'. The fortress moat is now the only body of water in the Mecklenburg part of the lower reaches of the Elbe in which the fire-bellied toad reproduces regularly and thus functions as an important link between the toad populations in the transnational UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape.

Auswahl verschiedenster Produkte der Partner des Biosphaerenreservates Flusslandschaft Elbe Mecklenburg-Vorpommern © C. Goepel
Variety of different products by the partners of the Biosphere Reserve

Development of the Region

Biosphere reserves see themselves as model regions in which a balanced relationship between the conservation of natural resources, economic use and development is tested. Environmental and nature protection is understood as a development opportunity for the region; especially since an intact natural and cultural landscape is increasingly becoming a scarce commodity from which economic values ​​can also be drawn.

Through various projects the administrative office of the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee-Elbe supports the people and local businesses living here in developing nature-friendly tourism, economically viable structures and regional economic cycles. Their offers stand for quality, environmental friendliness and regionality.

Junior Ranger auf einer Wiese mit Büchern und Lupengläsern. © N. Luckner
Junior Ranger in action, variety of species through geo-tag

Education 

Education is one of the core tasks of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The aim of education for sustainable development is to enable people to think and act in a sustainable way. In the Biosphere Reserve Elbe River Landscape M-V, special attention is therefore paid to long-term educational projects. The rangers coordinate several junior-ranger groups, in which children and adolescents get to know nature on their doorstep, ecological relationships and their own ways of influencing things. There are also long-term partnerships with schools and kindergartens or brook sponsorships, in which groups of children take on the sponsorship of a body of water in their hometown.

Further information on UNESCO Biosphere Reserves can be found on the following pages:

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation