Garden Route is now a biosphere reserve, says Unesco


The Garden Route in South Africa has been added, along with other areas around the world, to Unesco’s list of biosphere reserves.

Garden Route
Unesco declared the Garden Route a biosphere reserve, in June 2017. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Priya Pitamber

South Africa’s Garden Route had been included on a list of global biosphere reserves, said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Unesco members voted in favour of the inclusion of the Garden Route as a biosphere reserve at a meeting in Paris, France, on 14 June 2017.

“Biosphere reserves are learning places for sustainable development whose aim is to reconcile biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources,” said Unesco.

“New sites are designated every year by the International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) which is composed of representatives of 34 elected Unesco members.”


South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, welcomed the news. “The positive response to the application to declare the Garden Route a biosphere reserve is most encouraging, not just for us as a country, but also for the people of the region,” she said.

“The Garden Route, one of South Africa’s prime tourism regions, is an area rich in terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems where conservation of the rich biodiverse region is ably reconciled with sustainable use practices.”

It is the ninth reserve in the country. Sites are nominated by national governments and are voted for by the MAB council, but they remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states in which they are located.

The status of such sites is internationally recognised. The official launch of the Garden Route biosphere reserve will take place later in the year.

The Garden Route

The Garden Route biosphere reserve, located within the Cape Floristic biodiversity hotspot region, has a total area of 698,363ha and the population sits at 450,624 people.

The area includes the Tsitsikamma, Goukamma and Robberg Marine protected areas, Wilderness Lake Ramsar site, Garden Route National Park and two components of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage site: the Nelson Bay Cave and the Langkloof Valley, the latter being critically endangered.

“The Knysna estuary is of great importance for the conservation of this biodiversity,” said Unesco. “The eastern part of the biosphere reserve is characterised by the presence of wetlands in which farming practices and urban development could have a negative impact. Faunal diversity includes large mammals such as elephants, rhino and buffalo.”

Other reserves around the world

Sites across the globe have also been included in Unesco’s list, some crossing national borders and spilling over two countries:

  • Mono Biosphere Reserve in Benin
  • Mono Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Benin and Togo
  • Savegre Biosphere Reserve in Costa Rica
  • Moen Biosphere Reserve in Denmark
  • La Selle / Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Dominican Republic and Haiti
  • Bosques de Paz Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador and Peru
  • Majang Forest Biosphere Reserve in Ethiopia
  • Black Forest Biosphere Reserve in Germany
  • San Marcos de Colón Biosphere Reserve in Honduras
  • Tepilora, Rio Posada and Montalbo Biosphere Reserve in Italy
  • Sobo, Katamuki and Okue Biosphere Reserve in Japan
  • Minakami Biosphere Reserve in Japan
  • Altyn Emel Biosphere Reserve in Kazakhstan
  • Indawgyi Biosphere Reserve in Myanmar
  • Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve in Niger
  • Itaipu Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay
  • Castro Verde Biosphere Reserve in Portugal
  • Khakassky Biosphere Reserve in Russia
  • Kizlyar Bay Biosphere Reserve in Russia
  • Metsola Biosphere Reserve in Russia
  • Great Altay Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Russia and Kazakhstan
  • Backo Podunavlje Biosphere Reserve in Serbia
  • Jebel Al Dair Biosphere Reserve in Sudan
  • Mono Biosphere Reserve in Togo

See images of the Garden Route:

Garden Route
(Images: South African Tourism, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

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