Muscat – Oman is preparing to designate two sites as part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).
The sultanate, led by the Environment Authority, has started the process of evaluating Jabal al Akhdar Nature Reserve and Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve as potential biosphere reserves.
There are 727 biosphere reserves in 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites. Of these, 35 biosphere reserves are in the Arab region spread over 14 countries, with the maximum – eight – in Algeria.
The WNBR covers internationally designated protected areas, known as biosphere reserves, which aim to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature, encouraging sustainable development.
The Environment Authority works in partnership with the German Succow Stiftung, through its Succow Foundation, which is involved in the development and protection of national parks and biosphere reserves in many countries.
Kirsten Meuer of the Succow Foundation’s International Nature Conservation Unit, told Muscat Daily that the aim of the project is to assess the two sites for their potential for biosphere reserve development. “We are doing a potential analysis, assessing which site would be suitable,” she said.
Kirsten added that initially the company will consider criteria established by Unesco, such as the importance of the conservation of biological diversity, the potential for sustainable economic development on a regional scale, the cultural significance of the region, stakeholder cooperation and zoning options.
“We will assess which criteria are already met and give recommendations on what needs to be done to meet them. It is possible that another project will follow later, where the biosphere reserve will be established,” she said.
Elaborating on the purpose and benefits of establishing biosphere reserves, Kirsten said UNESCO Biosphere Reserves follow an integrated approach that balances conservation goals with local livelihood needs.
“They aim to be model sites for sustainable development and to foster innovation and mutual learning. Cooperation is the key to this concept. In this case, the sustainable development potential of tourism or ecotourism for local income generation is an important aspect to consider. »
In its brief on the Oman project, the company said that currently the use of land and natural resources in Oman is intensifying with potential threats to the maintenance of many ecosystem services.
“Biosphere reserves, as recognized models and learning sites for sustainable development, can play an important role in testing proven approaches and developing suitable approaches for sustainable alternative incomes in Oman. This will support rural livelihoods and reduce pressure on natural ecosystems.