7 Major Biosphere Reserves in India

  • Post last modified:21 January 2023
  • Reading time:12 mins read

A Biosphere Reserve is a protected area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote sustainable development. In India, there are currently 18 Biosphere Reserves, which are spread across different regions of the country and encompass a diverse range of ecosystems, including tropical rainforests, wetlands, and deserts. These reserves aim to conserve the biodiversity of the area, promote sustainable use of natural resources, and support the livelihoods of local communities.

Each biosphere has 3 functions to do. They are:

  • A conservation function,
  • A development function, and
  • A logistic function

Biosphere reserves are organized into 3 interrelated zones or areas, namely:

  • The core zone
  • The buffer zone
  • The transition/ cultural area

The core zone requires legal permission to enter the area and permission is provided only on special considerations such as research. The buffer zone includes the indigenous settlements and their habitat. The transition zone is open for public commutes, usually where the tourist activities take place. The biosphere reserve concept can be used as a framework to guide and reinforce projects to enhance people’s livelihoods and ensure environmental sustainability.


Biosphere Reserves in India

There are 18 biosphere reserves in India, which are spread across different regions of the country and encompass a diverse range of ecosystems, including tropical rainforests, wetlands, and deserts.

Biosphere Reserves in India
Biosphere Reserves in India (Source: mapsofindia)

Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve

The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve encompasses a large part (about 85%) of the island of Great Nicobar in the Indian Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Great Nicobar Island is the southernmost island of Andaman & Nicobar archipelago and also the southernmost part of India. It lies between 6°45’ and 7°15’N latitudes and 93°38’ and 93°55’E longitudes and is about 482 kms south of Port Blair. The Reserve has a total core area of approximately 885 km2, surrounded by a 12km-wide “forest buffer zone”.

The Reserve was declared in January 1989 with the objectives of:

  • Conservation of the representative samples of an ecosystem;
  • Provision of long-term conservation of genetic diversity in situ;
  • Promotion of basic and applied research work and its monitoring; and
  • Dissemination of experience for education and training.

The Biosphere Reserve incorporates two National parks of India, which were gazetted in 1992, the larger Campbell Bay National Park on the northern part of the island, and Galathea National Park in the southern interior. The non-Biosphere portions of the island are confined to the southwestern and south-eastern coastal reaches.

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR)

A fascinating Ecosystem of the hill ranges of Nilgiris and its surrounding environments covering a tract of over 5000 Square kilometers was constituted as Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in September 1986 under Man and Biosphere Programme. Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is India’s first and foremost biosphere reserves with a heritage, rich in flora and fauna. Altitude within the NBR varies from 250 m to 2670 m, and the reserve has a diversity of vegetation, ranging from tropical evergreen to thorny scrub.

The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park Biosphere reserve

The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a protected area of India consisting of 21 small islands and adjacent coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar in the Indian Ocean. It lies 1 to 10 km away from the east coast of Tamil Nadu. It is the core area of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve which includes a 10 km buffer zone around the park. The park has a high diversity of plants and animals in its marine, intertidal and near shore habitats. Public can access the inside of the Park only through glass bottom boat rides.

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve was designated as biosphere reserve in 2004 including the core areas of both Nanda Devi National park and Valley of Flowers National Park. The reserve is one of the beautiful areas of Western Himalayas covering an area of 6407.03 sq.km. The biosphere reserve has very diverse fauna and flora. The Valley of Flowers National Park, one of the core areas is well renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers where more than 600 Himalayan species grow in an area of less than 2,500 hectares. The reserve is also the habitat of the endangered snow leopard, Asiatic black bear, brown bear, Himalayan musk deer and bharal.

Valley of Flowers National Park

The valley of Flowers National Park is one of the most beautiful high altitude national park in the west Himalayas. It is situated near Badrinath in the state of Uttrakhand in India at a height of 11000 feet to 14000 feet above sea level. The park stretches over an area of 87.50 km2. The valley of flowers changes its colour almost every day as it blooms with hundreds of different flowers with various shades of colours.

It was declared a national park in the year 1982 and was listed in the list of UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2004. The locals believed that it was inhabited by fairies. The valley is home to many flowers like the Brahmakamal, the Blue Poppy and the Cobra Lily. It is a much sought after haunt for flower- lovers, botanists and trekkers.

Nokrek Biosphere

Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is located 2km from Tura Peak in the Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. Nokrek National Park with an area of 47.48 sq km is the core zone of the reserve which is an important source of many perennial rivers and streams. A green canopy of thick, tall and lush forests covers the reserve. At an altitude of 4650 ft above sea level, Nokrek is the highest peak in the Garo Hills and home to rare species of orange locally known as Memang Narang. The area also have many rare endangered and endemic fauna species like hillock gibbon, binturong, stump tailed macaque, pig tailed macaque, Himalayan black bear, tiger, leopard, elephant and giant flying squirrel.

Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve

This is biosphere reserve is situated in the foothills of Northern Satpura Range in the State of Madhya Pradesh. The biosphere reserve has an area of 1427 sq km. The tiger is an indicator species of the biosphere while other tertiary carnivore is the leopard. Major mammals present in this reserve are bison, Sambar, Chital, barking deer, Chinkara, Chausingha or Four Horned Deer, jungle cat, jackal, wild boar, mouse deer and Nilgai. Other interesting animals are Sloth bear, Langurs, Wild dog, wolf and rhesus macaque. Among nocturnal animals are civet, porcupine, ratel, fox and hyena. Giant squirrels and flying squirrels are often seen.


Main Objectives of Biosphere Reserves in India

The main objectives of Biosphere Reserves in India are to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainable use of natural resources, and support the livelihoods of local communities. In order to achieve these goals, certain activities are encouraged within the reserves, while others are restricted.

Some of the things that are encouraged within Biosphere Reserves in India include:

  • Scientific research and monitoring of the ecosystems and biodiversity within the reserve
  • Sustainable development and conservation activities that benefit local communities
  • Ecotourism and nature education activities that raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation
  • Traditional practices and livelihoods that are in harmony with the ecosystem

On the other hand, activities that are restricted within Biosphere Reserves in India include:

  • Industrial and commercial activities that may damage the ecosystem or harm biodiversity
  • Conversion of natural habitat for agriculture or other human uses
  • Over-exploitation of natural resources
  • Hunting or poaching of wild animals
  • Development of large-scale infrastructure projects

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