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?

Also known as biosphere reserves, biospheres 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 701 biosphere regions in 124 countries.


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. Biosphere Isle of Man also has an interest in biodiversity, but its focus is on encouraging sustainable development; bringing people and nature together. In other words, biosphere regions are about achieving a good working balance between people and nature, 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 example of a world biosphere region is how we have tackled the challenges facing us and our aims for the future. Yes, there is a lot more we can and should do, but we have to start from where we are rather than from where we want to be. UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man is about striking the healthiest balance possible between economic prosperity and the wealth of natural resources we’re lucky enough to enjoy.

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

UNESCO has a very high reputational value for the countries, communities, businesses and organisations that are associated with it. For example, many biospheres use their UNESCO status to highlight tourism and local produce.

Who polices Biosphere Isle of Man?

We do. Jurisdiction and ownership remains in our hands. UNESCO has granted this accolade in recognition of what is special about our Island and the way we are are managing things, but it has no power beyond that.

What are biosphere regions for?

A UNESCO world biosphere region, or reserve, has three main functions: (1) active conservation of landscapes, wildlife and culture (2) encouraging responsible development and (3) promoting learning and understanding. Most importantly, this is not about nature in isolation, but about people enjoying, learning from and helping to take care of our amazing natural environment and culture.

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. Biosphere Regions 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. The more that people enjoy, value and interact with the special parts of the island, the more effective we’ll be in keeping the Island special.

Is the government spending a lot of money on this?

There was a cost involved in our UNESCO nomination bid – mainly in the time required to collate all the information about the Island that interests UNESCO - and there is a lot so this took some time. This project does not require new investment, it’s more about highlighting and networking the great work already being done by community groups, charities, schools and businesses – for example, initiatives by the Manx Wildlife Trust, Manx National Heritage, The Children’s Centre, Southern Community Initiatives, Beach Buddies and FWAG, to name just a few.