There are 669 Biosphere Reserves in 120 countries. They include such iconic sites as Ayers Rock (Uluru), Yellowstone in the USA, the Cape Winelands in South Africa, Mount Kenya and Central Amazon.
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), led the nomination for Biosphere Reserve recognition with the support of the rest of Government, business, the third sector, environmental groups and schools.
Two years' work went into providing the detailed evidence needed to gain the accolade, which was ratified at a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve congress in Peru at the weekend – see here.
DEFA will now draw up detailed plans for how it will maximise the potential of its new status.
'In awarding us Biosphere Reserve status, UNESCO is recognising the great relationship between people going about their lives and the wonderful environment we all enjoy,' the Minister said.
'Locally, the accolade will increase awareness of what an enviable place we live in and will hopefully lead to initiatives that increase interaction between people and their surroundings.
'Internationally, gaining such a prestigious status will amplify our reputation both in economic and environmental terms, leading to investment and tourism.'
The Minister went on: 'Crucially, this is not about imposing new restrictions. It is about embracing and enhancing our relationship with our environment.'