What is UNESCO?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

What does ‘Biosphere’ mean?

This is the scientific word for the living surface of our planet.

What is a UNESCO Biosphere?

Biospheres belong to the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and are international sites of excellence where active conservation sits alongside responsible development; ‘living landscapes’ where there is a more balanced relationship between people and nature. There are 714 Biospheres in 129 countries. The MAB programme is 50 in 2021.


What is the difference between the Biodiversity Strategy and Biosphere Isle of Man?

They sound similar and complement each other, but they are two distinct things. The Island’s Biodiversity Strategy focuses squarely on species and habitats. UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man also has an interest in biodiversity, but its focus is on encouraging sustainable development; bringing people and nature together and promoting other aspects of our understanding such as culture and heritage, and not about nature in isolation.

Are we really that special?

Yes. Compared to most places in the world and most biosphere regions, we have an outstanding combination of landscapes, nature, wildlife, culture and heritage – together with vibrant communities and a resilient, diverse, modern economy.

Don’t we need to be better in lots of areas to be worthy of this recognition?

Nowhere is perfect, nor can it be. What makes the Isle of Man a credible Biosphere is how we have tackled the challenges facing us and our aims for the future. UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man is about striking the best balance possible between sustainable development and conservation of what we hold dear, with learning and research an important feature.

I run a business on the Island – what’s in it for me?

Businesses have great power to work more sustainably, for the benefit of the planet, and influence their staff and customers to do the same. Businesses that take our partner Pledge benefit from an exclusive facebook page, training and promotion and can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

Who governs UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man?

A Stakeholder Partnership Group, chaired by the Chief Minister and compirising 18 bodies, steers UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man and the two members of staff delivering this work for the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. Ultimately, the oversight is with UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme secretariat in Paris, while the International Coordinating Council, MAB's world governing body, conducts the periodic review that Biospheres undergo.

What purpose do Biospheres serve?

Globally, Biospheres have main functions: (1) active conservation of landscapes, wildlife and culture (2) encouraging responsible development and (3) promoting learning and understanding. Biospheres exist in 129 countries and set their own priorities, accoding to their social/economic and environmental circumstances, too.

What are the benefits?

We are the first entire country in the world to have been awarded this prestigious UNESCO status. This has the power to strengthen our economy by amplifying our international reputation, creating business and employment opportunities. It also fosters pride in our unique way of life and, of course, will ultimately help to maintain and improve our exceptional landscapes and environment.

Is this an excuse to make the Isle of Man a huge national park?

No. Biospheres are all about a good working balance between people and nature, not about nature in isolation.

Isn’t this just more bureaucracy and more rules – what will it stop me doing?

Absolutely not—and absolutely nothing. This is not a form of regulation and in no way restricts anyone’s rights. This project cannot impose any additional requirements on landowners or the public; these are always issues for the Isle of Man to determine. It’s not about what we can’t do, it’s about what we CAN do to help keep our landscape, nature, culture, heritage and economy thriving. UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man is about active management of all the things we’re proud of.

Are biosphere regions the same as World Heritage Sites?

No. World Heritage sites encompass everything from geological to cultural places of importance. In biosphere regions, the focus is firmly on the interaction between people and nature. This is very relevant to us in the Isle of Man, where the landscape looks the way it does because it has been managed by people over the centuries – for example, the grazed uplands, our rolling farmland and the glens that were planted by the Victorians.

Shouldn't we have gone for World Heritage Site status instead?

There’s no reason why we couldn’t do this in the future—maybe it’s not an either/or question!

What is a Core Zone?

Extra special sites for nature or culture—for example, the Ballaugh Curragh.

What is a Care Zone?

These zones link to other zones and are managed in a way that’s compatible with conservation. Other world biosphere regions call them Buffer Zones, but we prefer Care Zone as this describes more clearly what it’s about – ie, taking good care of these areas.

What is a Sustainable Development Zone?

These zones cover our urban areas and all remaining areas outside of Core and Care Zones, with a focus on developing our communities and economy in a responsible way.

Do we need to keep people out of any of these areas?

Definitely not, with the exception of the Areas of Special Scientific Interest that are closed to the public. It's important that people enjoy, value and interact with special and protected parts of the Island provided they are respecful of their surroundings and obey any laws.

How much does UNESCO Biosphere status cost us?

The project has a budget of £30,000 a year and two officers, a project officer and a project assistant. However, the cross-community, collaborative, nature of the project means much valuable work is achieved at no cost.