A biosphere reserve is an ecosystem with plants and animals of unusual scientific and natural interest. It is a label given by UNESCO to help protect the sites.
The aim is to promote management, research and education in ecosystem conservation. This includes the ‘sustainable use of natural resources’.
As of May, 2017 there are 18 biosphere reserves in India and out of which 10 are present in World Network of Biosphere Reserves. We will be having a quick look about these 10 reserves now.
Top 10 Biosphere Reserves in India
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is an International Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats and Nilgiri Hills ranges of South India. The Nilgiri Sub-Cluster is a part of the Western Ghats, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012. It includes the Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, and Bandipur national parks, as well as the Wayanad and Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuaries. Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is India’s first and foremost biosphere reserves with a heritage, rich in flora and fauna. Tribal groups like the Todas, Kotas, Irullas, Kurumbas, Paniyas, Adiyans, Edanadan Chettis, Cholanaickens, Allar, Malayan, etc., are native to the reserve.
- Year of Establishment: 1-Aug-1986
- State: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala
- Coverage: Parts of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Mudumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley and Siruvani hills
- Area: 5,520 km2
- Key Fauna: Nilgiri Tahr, Lion-tailed macaque
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve
The large shallow bay flowing into the Laccadive Sea, Indian Ocean, that lies between the south eastern most point of India and west coast of Sri Lanka, is known as the Gulf of Mannar. This gulf is one of the very few biosphere reserves in India, which is shared by another country. The Mannar Bay and Island is only separated from the Palk Bay in Sri Lanka by a limestone bridge which is known as the Ramsethu. The pearl banks of Mannar have been the primary source of income for its people for over 2,000 years.
- Year of Establishment: 18-Feb-1989
- State: Tamil Nadu
- Coverage: Rameswaram in the north to Kanyakumari in the south
- Area: 10,500
- Key Fauna: Dugong or Sea Cow
Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve
Sundarbans is a natural region in southern Bangladesh and the extreme southern part of the Indian state of West Bengal in the vast river delta on the Bay of Bengal. It is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. The mangrove and freshwater swamp forests of Sundarbans are considered natural wonders of the world, as their unique ecological and geological conditions have sheltered some rare and exclusive species of plants and animals.
- Year of Establishment: 29-Mar-1989
- State: West Bengal
- Coverage: Parts of delta of Ganges & Brahamaputra river
- Area: 9,630
- Key Fauna: Royal Bengal Tiger
Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve
The highly auspicious peak of Nanda Devi (25,646 ft) lies at the centre of Nanda Devi National Park, a biosphere reserve in Uttarakhand. The Valley of Flowers, the most popular part of Nanda Devi National Park has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The elevated reserve is a sanctuary to some very endangered species such as the Himalayan black bear, snow leopard and brown bear. Nanda Devi National Parks have over 25 mountain peaks within its massive premise, therefore making it a favourite with mountaineers and trekking enthusiasts.
- Year of Establishment: 18-Jan-1988
- State: Uttarakhand
- Coverage: Parts of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Almora districts in Uttarakhand
- Area: 5,860
- Key Fauna: Himalayan Snow Leopard
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, is a national park located approximately 2 km from Tura Peak in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, India. UNESCO- added this National park to its list of Biosphere Reserves in May 2009. Along with Balphakram national park, Nokrek is a hotspot of biodiversity in Meghalaya. The Nokrek is well known for its remnant population of Red Panda, who have otherwise disappeared from every other place except India. Since 1960, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve has carefully monitored and successfully preserved the population of dying Red Panda. Nokrek is also known to be the home of Asian Elephants and an uncertain number of tigers.
- Year of Establishment: 1-Sep-1988
- State: Meghalaya
- Coverage: Parts of East, West and South Garo Hill districts
- Area: 820
- Key Fauna: Red Panda
Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve
The Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve is home to the mighty Satpura Range of Madhya Pradesh. The UNESCO declared Panchmarhi and its collection of sanctuaries, Bori Sanctuary and Satpura National Park a designated biosphere reserve in 2009.
- Year of Establishment: 03-Mar-1999
- State: Madhya Pradesh
- Coverage: Parts of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chhindwara
- Area: 4,981
- Key Fauna: Giant Squirrel, Flying Squirrel
Simlipal Biosphere Reserve
Simlipal Biosphere Reserve is a national park and a tiger reserve in the Mayurbhanj district in the Indian state of Odisha. It is part of the Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes three protected areas Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary. Simlipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of semul (red silk cotton trees) that bloom here.
- Year of Establishment: 21-Jun-1994
- State: Odisha
- Coverage: Parts of Mayurbhanj district
- Area: 4,374
- Key Fauna: Gaur, Royal Bengal Tiger, Wild Elephant
Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve encompasses 85% of the island Great Nicobar. The 12-km forest buffer zone provides a protective shield to the rare biodiversity, which Nicobar Reserve is home to. This is just as far as tourists are allowed to go, as within this reserve also lie tribal communities, which continue to flourish as they did centuries ago. The Campbell Bay National Park and Galathea National Park also incorporate this biosphere.
- Year of Establishment: 06-Jan-1989
- State: Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Coverage: Southernmost islands of Andaman & Nicobar
- Area: 885
- Key Fauna: Saltwater Crocodile
Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve
A highly significant watershed of peninsular India, the Achanakmar-Amarkantak reserve was recently added to the list of UNESCO’s most protected and significant biosphere reserves in the world. The Achanakmar-Amarkantak, like many biosphere reserves in India, is shared by two states – Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The dense forest, which hosts unique flora and fauna is also the source of three major river systems, which are the lifeline of central India. The Narmada, Johilla and the Son River, all three originate from this biosphere reserve.
- Year of Establishment: 30-Mar-2005
- State: Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
- Coverage: Parts of Anuppur and Dindori district and Bilaspur district
- Area: 3,835
- Key Fauna: Leopards, gaur, chital
Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve
The Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve was Established in 2001. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Western Ghats have been divided into two parts, one of which along with three other national parks, makes the expanse of Agasthymalai Biosphere Reserve. The eco-regions of moist deciduous forests of Western Ghats, the montane rain forest and Shola, come together to shelter a collection of over 2,000 varieties of medicinal plants, 50 rare and endangered species, such as the Asian Elephant and the Kanikaran people who are one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.
- Year of Establishment: 12-Nov-2001
- State: Tamil Nadu, Kerala
- Coverage: Parts of Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts and Thiruvanthapuram, Kollam, and Pathanmthitta districts
- Area: 3,500
- Key Fauna: Nilgiri Tahr, Elephants