Among the 738 biosphere reserves in 134 countries designated by UNESCO up to now, almost half lie in mountainous regions. The sheer size of the World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves makes it an effective vehicle for collaborative applied research and knowledge-sharing among mountain communities. Two years after the network was revived, the Valles de Omaña y Luna Biosphere Reserve in Spain was able to host the network’s first face-to-face meeting from 7 to 11 March in a post-COVID world.
Participants devised a workplan for the next two years with a focus on tackling global issues such as biodiversity loss and climate change to support the implementation of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Tackling these momentous global issues increasingly requires us to throw bridges between policy, scientific research and indigenous and local knowledge.
Mountain biosphere reserves can play a strategic role in biodiversity conservation, in line with the Post-2020 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted last December. Mountains are home to more than a billion people and to half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. They harbour the highest levels of genetic, species and ecosystem diversity per unit area on Earth, which makes these ecosystems extremely vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and climate change.
As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. That is true of the World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves. Members can use the network to defend local perspectives, share and replicate best practices, foster transboundary collaboration and attract financial, institutional and logistical support.
The network’s technical secretariat is shared by the Valles de Omaña y Luna Biosphere Reserve and the Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
How beekeeping could staunch Spain’s rural exodus
Valles de Omaña y Luna Biosphere Reserve is undertaking an experiment that, if successful, could be replicated in other mountain biosphere reserves. After decades of a gradual demographic decline as young people moved to urban areas, the Valles de Omaña y Luna Biosphere is turning to beekeeping as a way of creating rural jobs. The absence of conventional agriculture across all six municipalities has become an advantage, as young people are drawn to a territory that has been spared the long-lasting problems caused by pesticides to human health and the environment.
In the biosphere reserve, it is common to come across newcomers to the business of beekeeping, many of whom are young women. It is also often for inhabitants to have been practicing beekeeping as a traditional family business for generations.
Thanks to the biosphere reserve brand, local producers can obtain certification for their products that guarantees their participation to an environmentally friendly production system, at a time when a growing number of consumers are seeking short distribution channels and locally produced food.
As a result of this certification system, beekeepers from the Valles de Omaña y Luna Biosphere Reserve have been able to produce honey varieties of exceptional quality, many of which have won awards in recent years at the most prestigious competitions for any aspiring beekeeper, such as the London International Honey Awards, the Great Taste Awards and the Spanish Association of Beekeepers.