Frequently Asked Questions

All of your Biosphere questions – answered!



What are UNESCO Biosphere Reserves?

Biosphere Reserves are special regions around the world that have been recognized by  the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as examples of places where people are trying to live in harmony with their environment. They are places where others may learn how to live more sustainably.

What are the goals of a Biosphere Reserve?

Biosphere reserves have three major functions: conservation, sustainable economies, and capacity building through education and research.

  1. Conservation of countrysides, ecosystems, species, and genetic variation.
  2. Sustainable Economies – that are socially, culturally, economically and ecologically sustainable.
  3. Logistic support/Capacity building for research, monitoring, education, and training activities related to the promotion of conservation and sustainable development.

What are the benefits of a Biosphere Reserve designation?

  1. Increases national and international recognition of our communities as a good place to live, work and visit.
  2. Our high profile as a tourist destination will increase.
  3. Promotes economic development in a sustainable way.
  4. Gives government and non-government organizations more power (leverage) to request funding and implement pilot projects for rural and economic development and other areas of interest.
  5. Helps to assure the ecological and economic sustainability of our region.
  6. Provides additional support to the many groups already working hard to preserve this unique ecosystem
  7. Helps First Nations to better address cultural, social and development issues for their people.
  8. Encourages increased infrastructure for research, monitoring, educational activities.
  9. Gains access to information, expertise and support through national and international networks.

Access a 6 page UNESCO publication of the Benefits and Opportunities of a Biosphere Reserve here

What does a Biosphere Reserve do?

Biosphere reserves are overseen by a governing body, in this case the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association (BLBRA), and it is through them that the biosphere reserve promotes the ongoing activities in the area, facilitates new projects, develops the cooperation plan and maintains strong local networks.


This is already underway, and the designation provides a better opportunity for government, non-government, academic, and corporate organizations to be more involved in a coordinated fashion.

Promote sustainable economies

The Biosphere Reserve promotes a more sustainable economy. Biosphere Reserves are places where PEOPLE and  NATURE work for the common good. They can focus on themes such as the economic needs of residents and the responsible use of natural resources. Such opportunities might involve ecotourism, marketing of heritage crops, sustainable forestry, and/or responsible mining. These are ongoing activities that have led to the designation and they are being encouraged to develop further.

Education and Research

The Biosphere Reserve may choose to expand the scope of existing conservation, research, monitoring, and education projects. Local students will have the opportunity to become more involved in research and monitoring projects. College and university students are encouraged to carry out projects in areas such as tourism or community development and ecosystem studies. Governments, corporations and other agencies help to finance these projects. Check out our 2013-2015 Strategic Plan

Who oversees the Biosphere Reserve?

The activities of the Biosphere Reserve are overseen by the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association (BLBRA). You can reach the association at <>. The association works with other local organizations already focusing on conservation, sustainable development, and capacity building (research, monitoring and education) in their programs. These other local organizations are mentioned in the introductory article entitled  “Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere; A primer”  found under the heading “Our Biosphere” on this website.

What is the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association?

We are volunteers who have worked to have the Bras d’Or Lake and its watershed designated as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve. We now oversee the activities of the Biosphere Reserve. We are a registered society in the province of Nova Scotia. We have been granted status as a Registered Charity under the Income Tax Act by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Biosphere reserves are special places around the world where people are trying to live more sustainably – that means 4 things:

  • a healthy environment
  • a healthy economy
  • a healthy society
  • a healthy culture.

Now, isn’t that worth recognizing? That’s what the United Nations thought back in the early 1970′s when they came up with this concept. They wanted to give international recognition to these places – where people could find out more about the special natural resources of an area and how the people were working to save them for future generations.

Together, biosphere reserves form a world network for promoting exchange of information, experience and personnel. There are approximately 669 BR sites in 120 countries. Eighteen of those are in Canada!

Why is the outline of the Biosphere so irregular?

The boundary of the proposed biosphere reserve defines the watershed for the Bras d’Or Lake. It is a line that joins the high points of land all around the Lake. If rain falls inside the line, it runs toward the Lake. If it falls outside the line, it drains away from the Lake. We chose the waterhsed boundary because everything inside that line potentially impacts the Lake itself. The total area represents an ecological functioning unit.

If my land is in the Biosphere Reserve is my use of the land restricted?

No. Land use activities (building construction, water course impacts, shoreline manipulation etc.) are already regulated by your municipal, provincial and federal laws.  At the present time, NGO’s are working with municipal governments to establish consistent development guidelines – to protect the shoreline of the Lake against over development and erosion, and to protect residents and developers against the effects of climate change and rising sea level.  The Biosphere designation means that best practices are encouraged, promoted and rewarded. Positive reward for positive action!

What A Biosphere Reserve Is NOT

  • It is NOT a new level of bureaucracy
  • It is NOT a World Heritage Site
  • It does NOT create any new regulations
  • It does NOT restrict the rights of citizens- aboriginal or non-aboriginal
  • It does NOT create new protected areas

What was involved with the nomination process?

A nomination document was prepared over a 2 year period, with great help from Dr. George Francis, following the guide provided by UNESCO.

The Nomination was submitted (June 2010) to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO). They directed their “Man and the Biosphere” (MAB) Committee to evaluate the proposal and to make a recommendation. The evaluation was overseen by Dr. Fred Roots and Dr. George Francis. The MAB committee met in late August (2010) to discuss and to make a decision.

That decision has been made and it was positive!

This means that we had the formal endorsement (signature) by the CCUNESCO MAB committee in Section 5.4 of the nomination document! In September 2010 the Canadian Commission sent the document, along with the MAB Committee’s statement of approval, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to the UNESCO Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences. They passed it on to the MAB International Biosphere Reserve Assessment Committee, which reviewed it in February 2011.

They recommended that the nomination be “Approved” !!

It then went to the June 2011 MAB International Coordinating Council (ICC) in Dresden, Germany.  The Council made the designation official on June 29th, 2011!