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Man and the Biosphere

Launched in 1971 by UNESCO, the ‘Man and the Biosphere’ (MAB) programme encourages interdisciplinary research, demonstration and training in natural resource management.

Its aim is to promote respect for ecological diversity and associated cultural values by involving local populations and adopting an appropriate scientific approach. It is supported by a global network of experimental Biosphere reserves.
 Biosphere reserves are ideal places to test and implement sustainable development practices at the regional level, while balancing social and economic development needs with environmental protection objectives.

"What does sustainable development look like where you live?"


In 2018 the global network comprised 686 Biosphere reserves in 122 countries, including 20 Transboundary sites, and new Reserves are proposed every year.
 MAB France coordinates and manages the French network of 14 Biosphere reserves, assists in setting up new sites, as well as liaising and cooperating with the international network.

For further information: UNESCO Ecological sciences

The French MAB Committee was established to oversee the Man and the Biosphere programme in France, with the support of the French Agency for Biodiversity. Managing and strengthening the national network of Biosphere reserves, the Committee liaises and develops collaborations with both French and international communities interested in the programme (e.g. scientific, educational, management and conservation of biodiversity).

Managing the network of Biosphere reserves

  • MAB facilitates the exchange of experience and information, as well as developing joint projects between Biosphere reserves by creating and managing cross-cutting networks
  • Biosphere reserves annual meetings
  • Thematic groups: Pedagogy Group, Forest Group, Communications Group, Charter Group
  • Participation in university courses
  • Produces and disseminates information on Biosphere reserves: the French ‘Biosphere Letter’, fact sheets on Biosphere reserve activities (pdf), Biosphere reserves general fact sheets (pdf), Biosphere reserves technical notes, a practical guide to management, the website Agir pour la biodiversité (Act for biodiversity), etc.

Strengthening the French network of Biosphere reserves

  • MAB France assists in the creation of new Biosphere reserves
  • Supports French biosphere reserves during the periodic reviews conducted every 10 years
  • Provides scientific and technical support to the network of Biosphere reserves and participates in their various bodies.

Developing international collaborations

The MAB Committee and French Biosphere reserves actively participate in the regional EUROMAB network that includes the MAB committees and Biosphere reserves of Europe and North America. The network meets regularly, organizes training courses and the exchange of best practices and experience.
Other collaborations exist, including with Biosphere reserves in French-speaking Africa. Many French Biosphere reserves have lasting partnerships with sites overseas.



The Co'MAB association brings together the current and graduate students of the MAB Master and all those interested in its activities.

Co'MAB projects

  • Promote the Man and Biosphere (MAB) Master's degree from the University of Toulouse, as well as the values promoted by UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme
  • Facilitate the orientation and professional integration of former and current MAB Master students.
  • Encourage feedback and sharing of good practices within the community.
  • Represent the MAB Master at events and conferences, give more visibility to the training.
  • Establish cooperation projects and partnerships with other youth associations or organizations involved in the MAB Programme.
  • Set up sponsorships between promotions, in order to best welcome the new Master students


Territories committed to sustainable development and biodiversity 

We are already committed to

  • We encourage dialogue between residents, elected officials, associations, public and private socio-economic actors
  • We promote permanent interactions between researchers, managers and users of territories and the world of education
  • We develop and disseminate methods of governance and participatory management of territories
  • We encourage actors of positive change and approaches to progress: Biosphere Reserve Trophies, eco-actors' charters,.....
  • We facilitate and support interdisciplinary research related to territorial issues through the co-construction of projects between research teams and managers, and the dissemination and valorisation of results
  • We participate in civic education and training, in particular through the MAB Master's degree (University of Toulouse), its promotion abroad under the auspices of a UNESCO Chair and we participate in many university courses
  • We bring our expertise to international projects to create or strengthen Biosphere Reserves.


Our strengths

  • Adapting the Biosphere Reserves’ governance modes to local social, economic and ecological contexts
  • Looking for local solutions to worldwide issues, through dialogue and participation, based on the understanding and respect of cultures
  • Working with researchers in sustainable sciences
  • Mobilizing socio-economic players who can bring about change
  • Involving the young generation in our governance, as they are the driving force behind the ecological and social transition, through the Co’MAB association
  • Drawing on skills from other countries through exchanges in the worldwide network.

Our objectives

Reinforcing the implementation of all the sustainable development aims in the Biosphere Reserves

  • Continuing to promote new adaptive governances
  • Supporting and accompanying local exemplary initiatives
  • Promoting and expanding the Biosphere Reserve trophies
  • Strengthening the network of eco-players, in France and beyond
  • Contributing to ambitious research programmes in the territories, in order to evaluate social interdependencies and the contribution of nature to human well-being.

Multiplying and disseminating our knowledge and practices for the social and ecological transition 

  • Establishing a wide-reaching and effective communication strategy, based on the worldwide MAB strategy
  • Invigorating and developing the current Biosphere reserve network in metropolitan and overseas France, as well as across the borders
  • Helping to exchange experiences between model territories in France and throughout the world  
  • Supporting new international projects with our expertise
  • Summarising, publishing and sharing our knowledge through introductory and professional training.

Finding the appropriate resources to work effectively for nature and the future generations 

  • Reinforcing the national coordinating team of MAB France
  • Strengthening the coordination resources of the Biosphere reserves. They lead the MAB programme on their territories, interacting with researchers, facilitating dialogue and broadening the scope of participation, and create links between their territories and the national and worldwide network
  • Reinforcing, diversifying and expanding our technical and financial partnerships: elected representatives, national institutions, public and private companies, French and international NGOs. 


    The MAB France Committee and the Paul Sabatier University of Toulouse are proposing a MAB course in the master's degree in biodiversity management at this university.
    This is a French-speaking master's degree aimed at providing professional training for coordinators / managers of Biosphere Reserves or protected areas, local authority officials, or any other person interested in biodiversity management.

    The MAB Master's degree

    is aimed in particular at people wishing to complete a 5th year of university education, or in continuing education. It can accommodate up to 18 students per year.
    The courses are held from September 15 to January 31 at the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, followed by a 6-month professional assignment in a professional institution of the student's choice.

    The Master's degree is based on the MAB programme to cover the conceptual, historical, institutional and contractual aspects specific to protected areas associated with human activities.
    It will provide essential diagnostic tools (mapping, inventories, territorial diagnosis) and will train people to participate and involve them in management. Students will also be involved in a concrete project to create, revise or manage a French Biosphere Reserve. Foreign students will be asked to complete this work by reflecting on an adaptation of the approach used in a Biosphere Reserve in their country.
    The MAB Master's degree is a UNESCO Chair.

    The former students of the master's degree are grouped in the Co'MAB association.

    A working group on youth has been set up to facilitate exchanges of experience between managers of French Biosphere Reserves. The aim of this group is to better integrate all generations into the governance and life of these territories. The main focus is on mobilizing young adults, aged 18 to 35, an audience that is particularly difficult to reach.

    By promoting intergenerational exchanges and the involvement of young people (18-35 years old), the Gener'action Group aims to boost the territories and thus contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals highlighted by the MAB France strategy. This group is led by the Co'MAB association

    The Members of the MAB France Association

    The association brings together individuals and legal entities. The person designated by the Ministry in charge of Foreign Affairs, which represents France on the International Coordinating Council, Didier BABIN, is an ex officio member. People involved in the programme (scientists,...) also belong to the association.

    Research and Academic Institutions

    • The CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research)
    • INRA ( French national Institute for Agricultural Reserch)
    • MNHN (National Museum for Natural Hystory
    • Cirad (Agricultural Research for Development)

    ​​​​Supporting bodies of Biosphere Reserves

     National Parks, Regional Nature Parks, mixed syndicates


    Other associations, companies... that share our values

    Our partners

    Biodiversity management and cooperation bodies support our actions:

    • AFB: The French Agency for Biodiversity
    • FFEM :The French Facility for Global Environment

    Join us!

    • I adhere to the vision and principles of the MAB Programme;
    • I acknowledge and endorse the values, operating principles and missions of Biosphere Reserves;
    • I join the MAB France association and support its actions

    Join on line

    17 videos to understand the MAB programme

    Watch the videos

    Is “Biosphere Reserve” a UNESCO classification?

    Yes, the designation “Biosphere reserve” is a UNESCO classification, but it’s more than that. The process involves a proposal of a suitably high standard, which must meet internationally accepted criteria.
    However, it is not just a simple classification; it also involves establishing a local sustainable development project, specific objectives, and a means of measuring the results.
    This is in line with the Seville Strategy, whose recognized management principles are applied. This includes zoning and complementarity of the three functions of Biosphere Reserves: conservation, development, and support through research, education, and local community involvement. Above all, a “Biosphere Reserve” strives for excellence in the application of these principles, as well as a strong commitment towards sustainable development.
    Designation as a Biosphere Reserve also ensures membership in the global network of Biosphere Reserves, and consequently, a role in one of the regional networks. This membership brings benefits, such as the experience of other members, having a network of partners ready to assist as needed, and being able to share views on management issues. Membership also brings with it obligations, that is, exchange of information and participation in joint projects.

    More information about Biosphere Reserves: Biosphere Reserves in a nutshell

    What is the difference between a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site?

    Inclusion on the World Heritage List indicates a site’s outstanding universal value. The designation of a Biosphere Reserve is a dynamic process that involves local stakeholders creating and supporting a sustainable development project in their region, applying globally recognized management principles, as outlined in the Seville Strategy published by UNESCO in 1995. Designation as a Biosphere Reserve also ensures membership in a global network of exchange and cooperation between designated sites, motivated by shared principles.
    More information: A quick reference guide


    What does the MAB France committee do?

    MAB France coordinates and manages the French network of 10 Biosphere Reserves, assists in setting up new sites, as well as liaising and cooperating with the international network.

    Biosphere reserves are great living libraries of experience in all areas of sustainable development. Membership in the World Network facilitates the establishment of partnerships, and the organization of exchanges in various forms, and promotes best practice, distribution of documents, teaching materials and films.
Conferences and training are also supported by UNESCO.

    What does sustainable development look like where you live

    The World network on Facebook

    To learn more about the World Network of Biosphere Reserves

    A guided  process

    Creating or reviewing a Biosphere reserve is an ideal opportunity to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the region’s problems. It is a moment of exchange between stakeholders, of learning and of reconciling differing views on the operation and future of the site. 
Documents need to be compiled for submission, including any statutory elements. Before the submission is drafted, the process, led by the project manager, requires a series of key stages to be completed. Each stage is necessary in order to find points of agreement and ways to engage stakeholders. The partnerships that are formed are essential to the life and organisation of a Biosphere reserve.

    Read more: The Seville strategy and the statutory framework

    The French Biosphere Reserves 

    In 2018, there are 14 French biosphere reserves, including two overseas sites (the Guadeloupe archipelago and the municipality of Fakarava in French Polynesia) and 2 transboundary biosphere reserves (the Vosges du Nord Pfälzerwald, with Germany and Mount Viso with Italy)

    Research in the Biosphere reserves must find its place in national and international research programmes and also meet the concrete, and at times, immediate needs of those involved in management. Is it possible to develop research strategies in these conditions? How can the gap between scientific production and themes linked to territorial and resource management be bridged? The French Biosphere reserves network is currently exploring these topics. 

    A role game to encourage debate in the Cévennes

    As part of the SECOCOCO project, a role-playing game was designed and conducted on Mont Lozère, in the Cévennes Biosphere Reserve. This game, developed thanks to the Commod approach, focuses on the link between agricultural practices and landscape, in particular the practices of removing and turning over grasslands. Its purpose is to promote debate among stakeholders on the antagonisms and synergies between ecosystem services associated with these practices (forage production, aesthetic and heritage value of landscapes, tourism activities, water quality, the existence value of biodiversity).
    This game was animated on the Mont Lozère site with Park agents, breeders, elected officials and tourist service providers. The tool makes it possible to open the debate on the need and difficulty of combining the different issues at stake in a given territory (agriculture, tourism, biodiversity, water and landscape) and on the importance of a concerted approach, in line with the principles of the MAB programme.

    In recent years, numerous calls for research proposals  from the Ministry of Ecology, the French Institute for Biodiversity (now the Foundation for Biodiversity Research) and the ANR, French National Research Agency have focused on the interactions between human activities and biodiversity dynamics. MAB France has encouraged numerous research teams to answer these calls for tenders, focusing their projects on issues concerning Biosphere reserves.

    International cooperation

    The French MAB committee proposes to contribute to educational actions for the Biosphere Reserves by organizing study trips, meetings and exchanges. Training courses will be offered on varied topics; they are custom designed upon request by the national MAB or Biosphere Reserve committees, in connection and complementarity with the Agence Française pour la Biodiversité.

    With the backing of its network of researchers and managers, MAB France can also participate in support missions (when biosphere reserves are created or periodically examined, focusing on the management of biosphere reserves, in particular cross-border reserves), and project evaluation.

    Training the coordinators of the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, in Lebanon

    A 4-day training course was organized in June 2016, for five members of the Jabal Moussa Protection association, a Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon. Meetings alternated with discussions with stakeholders (managers, technicians, public representatives, socio-professional groups) and field outings in three Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves: Camargue, Cevennes (Galeizon Valley) and Gorges du Gardon.

    The main themes were related to governance, management of mixed ownership territories, organizational arrangements for local participation, incentives for the stakeholders to promote sustainable development (eco-stakeholders), ecological camping and communication with other Biosphere Reserves. These multiple exchanges also assessed the management of central areas, education and educational games, as well as sustainable tourism.

    Backing the creation of a first Biosphere Reserve in Moldova

    At the request of the Moldovan government, MAB France is supporting the creation of the first Biosphere Reserve in this country. It concerns the Prut River and the associated wetlands, which form the border between Moldova and Romania. Moldova has already carried out extensive awareness work so that local communities are involved in this project, which they see as a lever for local development. Structures, such as a reception and educational centre, are currently under construction. This site is part of a vast wetland complex associated with the Danube Delta.

    Supporting a transboundary Biosphere Reserve project

    As part of an FFEM project, MAB France is providing technical support for setting up a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Pilcomayo Basin. Catherine Cibien participated in a study trip at the site and met the project leaders. In addition to meetings with the project leaders, a study trip is organized in two Transboundary Biosphere Reserves (Vosges du Nord – Pfälzerwald and Monte Viso) in order to discuss concrete projects with public representatives and managers and to study governance arrangements.


    Watch the video Pilcomayo: dinamica fluvial...


    MAB France’s Pedagogy group promotes and develops educational activities in sustainable development in Biosphere Reserves. It brings together a range of competencies – teachers from the national education system and agricultural colleges, other providers of educational services, representatives from various associations and elected representatives of Biosphere Reserves. It allows members to exchange methods and experience, develop educational activities using resources from the reserves, and establish joint projects involving multiple reserves.

    Biosphere Reserves encourage socio-economic actors who take initiative in support of the environment and sustainable development, using specific mechanisms. Thus making it possible to identify concrete actions taken by businesses, associations, citizens, and to support original projects. This contributes to the ecological transition in a positive way, by building on local initiatives and establishing networks of ambassadors (eco-players) in the Biosphere Reserves. 

    A charter of commitment

    It is proposed to sign a commitment charter to companies or associations that, recognizing themselves in Unesco's values, wish to be actors in a more sustainable future for their Biosphere Reserve. They make concrete and measurable commitments in terms of biodiversity, environment and sustainable development, as part of a process of progress. They then become Eco-players of the Biosphere Reserve. Doing so, they contribute to the economic and social development of the territory.

    How to build a network of eco-players

    The process for setting up a charter of commitment and building a network of eco-players in Biosphere Reserves is detailed in this document: I-Blio online

    The commitment charter is based on the principles of the Seville Strategy and the challenges and expectations of the territory. One becomes an eco-player by signing the commitment charter of their Biosphere Reserve. This implies sharing the BRs' values and committing to a progress process. Each signatory determines, in its own activity, commitments that correspond to the extent of progress to be achieved. All types of activities are concerned by the commitment charter.           




    Businesses or associations that identify with UNESCO values and wish their Biosphere Reserve to be part of a more sustainable future can sign a commitment charter. They make concrete and tangible commitments in the field of biodiversity, the environment and sustainable development, as part of a continuous improvement strategy. They then become eco-players of the Biosphere Reserve. In this way, the Reserve contributes to the social and economic development of the territory. 

    How to build up a network of players

    All the aspects of the approach to establish a commitment charter and create eco-player networks are presented in this i-blio

    The charter is based on the principles of the Seville Strategy and on the challenges and expectations of each territory. People or structures become eco-players by signing the commitment charter and committing to a progress strategy. Each signatory defines the commitments corresponding to the progress to be accomplished in its own domain. The commitment charter concerns all types of activity. 

    Biosphere Reserves trophies

    Each year, the Biosphere Reserve trophies identify and reward the initiatives of local eco-players. They promote original initiatives undertaken by the Biosphere Reserve players in the domain of sustainable development. These trophies recognize the commitment of eco-players in favour of the sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources, in combatting climate change and more generally, encouraging sustainable development. They also contribute to setting up exchanges and partnerships between the Biosphere Reserves and these players in order to encourage the organization of networks. The trophies give rise to a mediatized event, adding a positive and concrete perspective to the action of the Biosphere Reserves. 

    About the winners

    ©Les Bédégars
    The winners of the Biospshere Reserves

    Territorial ecology is an emerging interdisciplinary research field in France. Its origins can be found in both industrial ecology and urban ecology. Its main purpose is to better understand socio-natural interactions, particularly the material and energy flows linking society and nature. The description and the analysis of these flows – that is to say of the territorial metabolism – goes with the analysis of the social, political, economical, technical (and so on) underlying conditions. As a consequence, territorial ecology combines social sciences, environmental sciences, and engineering sciences. 

    Our reflections on ecosystem services aim to develop a definition, specific to Biosphere Reserves, of the interdependent relationships between humans and nature. The aim is to raise awareness of these interdependencies and to identify ways of taking better account of ecosystem functionalities that are beneficial to humans, both in management methods and in the individual choices made by citizens.

    Participatory science programmes are highly suited to Biosphere reserves, where the convergence of research and knowledge of the area, as well as involvement of residents, promote sustainable management. These programmes allow people to participate in the ongoing monitoring of their environment, and scientists to identify and analyse large amounts of data useful for managing and developing the Biosphere reserve.
    Involving non-specialists necessitates a pedagogical approach combined with scientific accuracy. This can be done by developing rigorous but simple protocols for data collection. To motivate people, it is essential to make the connection with land management and to make sure they see the results of their participation without delay.
    Wishing to promote national participatory science programmes, MAB France has signed agreements with a number of citizens. It also encourages French Biosphere reserves to develop their own participatory science programmes for their areas.

    The long-term scientific monitoring of territories, their biodiversity and human activities is one of the fundamental missions of biosphere reserves. In a changing world, observatories offer standardized data to assess the dynamics at work. They make it possible to perpetuate and disseminate global or thematic information. This data is useful to researchers, but also to managers and decision-makers. Their accessibility is therefore essential.

    The Observatory of the Vosges du Nord-Pfälzerwald Transboundary Biosphere Reserve

    Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have led to a real revolution in the use of cartographic data. The Transboundary Biosphere Reserve was early equipped with this interactive decision-making tool for land use planning, management and protection of nature, cultural heritage, tourism enhancement and socio-demographic analysis.

    To be seen : Interactive mapping

    Since the adoption of the Seville Strategy in 1995, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme has clearly defined its mission: to combine, in exemplary territories (Biosphere Reserves), economic and social development, biodiversity conservation, environmental education and the promotion of scientific research, while encouraging the participation of inhabitants. It is therefore natural that Biosphere Reserves commit themselves in the Lima Action Plan (2016) to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.


    Transboundary Biosphere Reserves have been established to recognize and strengthen coordinated management of socio-ecosystems across borders: political, organizational, linguistic, cultural breaks, and barriers to the management of shared ecosystems and the development of populations. They promote the coordinated management of these ecosystems, often also the place of a common history and culture. 

    A Transboundary Biosphere Reserve is first and foremost a cooperation between established Biosphere Reserves. UNESCO formally designates it as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve if certain conditions are met: a political agreement between the states concerned, a common zoning that promotes the spatialization of conservation and development issues, the identification of local and national partners and the establishment of a governance mechanism.
    One of the strengths of the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve is that it provides a flexible and adaptive working environment.

    Learn more : Transboundary Biosphere Reserves  (RBT)

    International RBT meeting

    A workshop was organized by the French and German MAB National Committees to promote and encourage the establishment, management and recognition of transboundary biosphere reserves, strengthen existing Biosphere Reserves assist those in the process by defining ways to strengthen governance, institutional mechanisms and budgets.


    Read the report : here

    All MAB stakeholders meet at world congresses: Minsk 1983, Seville 1995, Madrid 2008, Lima 2016. Each congress produces a strategy and/or action plan, a roadmap for the global network.

    International Co-ordinating Council (ICC) of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme

    The MAB International Coordinating Council is the main governing body of MAB, comprising 34 Member States. France is currently one of them. It meets annually, approves new biosphere reserves, carries out periodic reviews and takes decisions on the programme.  

    Learn more: ICC


    France is involved in the EuroMAB regional network. It includes 292 biosphere reserves and MAB committees in the "Europe and North America" region, representing 37 states.
    It promotes exchanges at conferences every 2 years. A place of inspiration and intense emulation for the managers, researchers, elected officials or administrative staff who participate in it, the workshops encourage collaborative actions on various themes: how to enhance the value of local actors engaged in sustainable approaches, participatory governance, adaptation and mitigation of climate change, connecting humans to nature and well-being, strengthening scientific and academic cooperation, management of urban sites, etc. The countries are successively candidates for organizing these meetings. 

    Lear more: EuroMAB

    In 2017, France welcomed EuroMAB to the Dordogne Basin Biosphere Reserve. On this occasion, she proposed the establishment of cooperation on rivers.

    Learn more: EuroMAB 2017

    EuroMAB 2019 will take place in Ireland in the Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve.

    Lear more : EuroMAB Dublin 2019


    MAB France is a partner in an Erasmus+ project run by the Autonomous University of Barcelona from 2018 to 2020. It concerns capacity building for education and research in Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves.
    It aims to establish connections between higher education institutions and biosphere reserves in 4 Mediterranean countries (Lebanon, Morocco, Spain, France), to strengthen knowledge sharing between these institutions of a different nature. The main objective is to set up a "knowledge circuit" between and within these organisations in the different countries, strengthening relations between higher education institutions and all socio-economic actors.

    Website editor

    The website is published by MAB France.
    Head office :
    24 chemin de Borderouge, CS 52627 Auzeville
    31326 Castanet Tolosan Cedex
    Director of publication : Didier Babin


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    In accordance with the french law n°78-17 of 6 January 1978 relating to data processing, files and freedoms, the Internet user has the right to access, modify, rectify and delete data concerning him/her.

    To use this right of access, please send a letter to :
    MAB France
    Catherine Cibien  
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    No element of the website may be copied, reproduced, modified, republished, distorted or distributed in any way whatsoever under any medium whatsoever, even in part or in whole, without the prior authorization of the director, with the exception of strict use for private purposes or for the needs of the press, and subject to respect for intellectual property rights and any other property rights mentioned.

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    The agroecological transition implies major changes at the level of exploitations, branches and territories. It is an issue for several Biosphere Reserves, with food linking ecosystem and human health. A series of scientific workshops involving researchers, managers and stakeholders from Biosphere Reserves is being organized to present and discuss the concepts and methods underlying the transition in the agroecological domain. It is a question of analysing the drivers, barriers and opportunities present in the territories. In addition, scientific conferences and debates for the general public or a professional public are proposed to the Biopshere Reserves who wish to do so.


    The objective of the Forestry Group is to facilitate communication and the sharing of experiences between partners involved in the conservation and management of forests in biosphere reserves, in order to achieve optimal management of forest lands.  It aims to encourage projects, particularly at the research-management interface.