Exploring the Potential and Contribution of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves for Landscape Governance and Management in Africa | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
August 2020
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© 2020 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserves strive for a harmonious interaction between humans and nature. As landscapes provide suitable units to mutually address matters of conservation and sustainable development, this study aims to explore the potential and realized contribution of biosphere reserves for landscape governance and management. We emphasize the role of stakeholder participation and cooperation as an overarching condition for integrated landscape approaches. The regional focus is on Africa, where multiple drivers of global and local change currently significantly impact the landscape. The study’s results are based on a literature review, which is complemented by four case studies from the biosphere reserves in Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, and Benin/Togo. Findings show that in biosphere reserves, stakeholder engagement is crucial to gain community acceptance, foster intersectoral cooperation, and provide management with more legitimacy. To strengthen stakeholders’ capacities to mutually achieve conservation and development outcomes, international partnerships and research and education efforts proved to be successful. The flexible biosphere reserve approach to governance, which allows for integration with other land-management approaches, offers a suitable governance model for a landscape. Moreover, the biosphere reserve zonation concept can provide orientation to manage the “multifunctionality” of a landscape and address the associated trade-offs between different stakeholders’ aspirations.

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Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Hedden-Dunkhorst, Bettina
Schmitt, Florian


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