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Launched in 1971 by UNESCO, the ‘Man and the Biosphere’ (MAB) programme encourages interdisciplinary research, and 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 669 Biosphere reserves in 120 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 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.


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. 


    17 videos to understand the MAB programme

    Watch the videos

    Is the “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.

    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.

    World network on Facebook

    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.


    In France, 14 Biosphere Reserves

    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.

    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

    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. 

    The trophies in video

    About the winners

    The winners of the Biospshere Reserves

    In each Biosphere reserve, local, regional and other authorities, natural area managers, economic and community stakeholders, as well as local inhabitants, all coexist, each with their own vision of development and nature. The MAB France committee encourages dialogue between these stakeholders, with a view to promoting concerted development and a step towards environmental awareness in these territories.

    Read more: Man and Nature making the relationship last

    In each Biosphere reserve, local, regional and other authorities, natural area managers, economic and community stakeholders, as well as local inhabitants, all coexist, each with their own vision of development and nature. The MAB France committee encourages dialogue between these stakeholders, with a view to promoting concerted development and a step towards environmental awareness in these territories.

    Read more: Man and Nature, Making the relationship last


    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. 

    Several partnership agreements have been established with various associations and organizations to promote joint actions. These actions are in line with the commitments of the MAB Education and Training Programme.

    UNESCO Associated schools Network

    The UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) links educational institutions across the world around a common goal: to build the defences of peace in the minds of children and young people. The over 11,500 ASPnet member schools in 182 countries work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice. Learn more

    Learn more


    Forest management is usually under the exclusive direction of the forest supervisor whose decisions are based on a technical analysis carried out by a planning specialist. Encouraging dialogue about forest management means communicating these decisions to as many forest users as possible while helping them to understand the complexities involved.

    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.




    Livestock breeding has developed a wide range of domestic breeds and regional produce, and has a great capacity to maintain large natural areas. It contributes to the maintenance of wet, dry, and high-altitude grasslands. It can also be effective in preventing forest fires. MAB France encourages the development of farming activities based on conserving local breeds, developing products using specialist knowledge, and practices that promote environmental improvement.

    The Forest group is one of the working groups set up by MAB France to exchange information and develop joint projects. Meeting annually, it brings together coordinators and forest managers, both public and private, from the six Biosphere reserves of the French mainland which incorporate forests: Cévennes, Fango, Luberon-Lure, Mont Ventoux, Fontainebleau and Gâtinais, and Vosges du Nord.
    Its purpose is to facilitate communication and ensure that each partner has access to the necessary guidance, as well as to plan future actions and review the results of actions already undertaken, in order to achieve optimal management of forestlands.
    It also aims to promote the effective implementation of the agreement between the MAB France committee and the general management of the National Forests Office (NFO, or ONF in French). The forest Biosphere reserves have also signed an agreement with the NFO throughout their territories.

    Education for sustainable development is one of the key issues of our time. The French committee of the MAB and Biosphere reserves is developing programmes and partnerships to pass on concepts and practices, through concrete experiences that target different audiences, school and university students in particular.

    Forest management is not just about providing a sustained yield of timber; it also needs to avoid loss of biodiversity and even help to maintain certain specific habitats. Finally, it should ensure that a sufficiently diverse gene pool is maintained, including varieties of trees best suited to the Biosphere reserve’s socioecological conditions. MAB France encourages efforts to find original approaches to forest management.

    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 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


    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.


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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.