You are here: Home > Blog > Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve Earns Redesignation

Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve Earns Redesignation

By Forgotten Coast Web Team | August 2, 2019

Cypress tree bul rush in bloom

The Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve was redesignated by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere International Coordinating Council last week in Paris. The ICC accepted the recommendation of the International Advisory Committee on Biosphere Reserves to approve Apalachicola and a change of its original name from the Central Gulf Coast Plain Biosphere Reserve to the Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve. This designation brings international recognition to the Apalachicola Bay, River and floodplain which encompass one of the least polluted, most undeveloped, resource-rich systems left in the United States, and as well as the significant relationship the people have with the land and its resources.

Originally designated in 1983, the Apalachicola Biosphere celebrates its 36 anniversary this year. The Biosphere is managed by the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve and encompasses 1,615,000 terrestrial and 432,600 aquatic acres across Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin and Liberty counties in the central panhandle of Florida. At the core of the Biosphere is where the greatest protection occurs for 234,700 acres in the Apalachicola River, bay and floodplain acres.

The Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve is part of an extensive global network of extraordinary places that work to protect examples of the world’s major ecosystems. Biosphere reserves work to conserve natural and cultural resources, empower local decision making, improve human livelihoods and promote economic development in sustainable ways. Biosphere reserves seek to give people and communities the means to thrive in harmony with their environment. They strive to be sites of excellence to explore and demonstrate approaches for collaborative conservation and development on a landscape scale. There are 701 sites throughout the world in 124 countries.

Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve

What is a biosphere reserve?
Biosphere reserves are globally-recognized areas where management seeks to achieve sustainable economic use of natural resources while ensuring conservation of the biological diversity. Biosphere reserves are designated by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) and nominated by the government that oversees the reserve and remain under the sovereign authority of the nominating country. The first biosphere reserves were designated in 1976. The Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve was designated 36 years ago in June 1983 as the Central Gulf Coastal Plain Reserve.

Biosphere reserves make up an extensive global network of protected areas covering 701 sites in 124 countries. This international network protects examples of the world’s major ecosystems and is devoted to conservation of nature and scientific research in the service of man. Local communities, state and national officials, businesses, scientific and educational institutions work together to develop integrated conservation management for the biosphere reserve. The United States has 47 biosphere reserves; 23 are associated with the National Park System.

How do biosphere reserves compare to world heritage sites?
Biosphere Reserves are similar to UNESCO world heritage sites. All UNESCO programs seek to conserve special places. World heritage sites recognize and protect cultural and natural sites that have outstanding universal value and serve our common human inheritance. Biosphere reserves help preserve biodiversity while fostering sustainable use. World heritage sites protect the past and biosphere reserves strive to ensure our future.

What are the objectives of biosphere reserves?
1) Protect biodiversity and promote healthy, thriving ecosystems
2) Empower local decision making for sustainable development research, education and environmental protection
3) Foster sustainable economic and human development of the local communities
4) Encourage participation in the global network of biosphere reserves

How are biosphere reserves managed?
Biosphere reserves have three interrelated zones that aim to fulfill three complementary and mutually reinforcing functions: Core Area, Managed Use Area (Buffer), and Area of Cooperation and Partnerships (Transition). The protected core area is where lands and waters are minimally disturbed. The main functions of core areas are to conserve biological diversity and enable low-impact research, education, and recreational activities. The area surrounding the core area is the Managed Use Area which acts as a “buffer zone” where activities are compatible with or improve the functions of the core area. Land restoration through prescribed burning, tree thinning, invasive/exotic removal and hydrologic improvements protect the core by improving water quality, increasing species diversity and providing suitable habitats. Beyond this buffer zone is the Area of Cooperation and Partnerships where local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations, cultural groups, economic interests, and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area’s resources.

What are the benefits of being a biosphere reserve?
The biosphere reserve concept is a framework to guide and reinforce projects to enhance people’s livelihoods while ensuring environmental sustainability. They view human beings as part of a wider living community and foster respect and consideration of natural systems. Designation of a site as a biosphere reserve also raises awareness among local people and government authorities on environmental and developmental issues. At the global level, biosphere reserves can serve as pilot sites or “learning places” to explore and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development, providing lessons which can be applied in areas throughout the world.

For more information the Apalachicola Biosphere Reserve contact Anita Grove at or call (850) 670-7708.