MAB Programme Spain

Activities of the Network of Biosphere Reserves of Spain (RERB)

History of the current RERB

In 1992, with the first meeting of Spanish biosphere reserves, convened by the Spanish Committee of the MAB Programme, the Network of Biosphere Reserves of Spain was born. Its first steps were directed towards sharing uncertainties, doubts and expectations, to quickly identify actions of common interest. This stage coincided with the opening of the MAB Committee to representatives of the Administration and management and it started with eleven biosphere reserves in all the State, of which only one (Urdaibai) did not originate from a natural protected natural area.

The MAB Committee got intensely involved in this first stage of the network, in which some administrations responsible of biosphere reserves and other public and private agents were also involved. The most important aspect of this stage is the incorporation of territories which were not protected areas in this entirety, including two complete islands (Lanzarote, Menorca, Sierra de las Nieves, apart from Urdaibai, mentioned earlier) to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. This marked an important moment, on a national as well as an international scale, because of what it meant to put into practice the concept of biosphere reserve in its multiple dimensions: preservation, development and logistics. The work of the Network allowed for important conceptual contributions and of new experiences to be made to the Conference of Seville (second world meeting of biosphere reserves) in 1995.

In 1995, the contributions of the RERB were added to other voices in the sphere of the MAB Programme to induce a fundamental turn in the practices and the theoretical discourse of the biosphere reserves on a worldwide scale. This was reflected in the Strategy of Seville in the Statutory Framework of World Networks, still in force, which were elaborated in the aforementioned Conference of Seville.

Between 1996 and 2006, 23 new biosphere reserves were declared in Spain.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this period is the declaration of a new intercontinental biosphere reserve, the Mediterranean Biosphere Reserve, between Spain-Andalusia and the Kingdom of Morocco.

As for the functioning of the network, the contacts between biosphere reserves managers were kept, through numerous meetings convened by the Secretary of the MAB Committee and through diverse methods of collaboration between them.

New impulse to the RERB

In 2006, with the support of the National Park Autonomous Agency, the first Conference of Spanish Biosphere Reserves was celebrated, where a plan of action was elaborated, the Action Plan of Lanzarote 2007-2009, focused mainly on defining the profile of the RERB so that it acted as an actual driving force for the Biosphere Reserves.

Due to the Conference, a Report on the state of Spanish Biosphere Reserves was elaborated in 2006. In the Declaration of Lanzarote the different public administrations were urged to put into practice the actions described in the Action Plan of Lanzarote so that the RERB was functional.

Towards the end of 2008, an 80% of the proposals of the Plan and the RERB were in condition of working along the lines marked by the Action Plan of Madrid 2008-2013, of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Even so, the application of some of them had already been advanced.

Current structure and activities

The Network of Biosphere Reserves of Spain (RERB) is currently formed by 45 reserves. The interest that has been generating the figure in Spanish society causes that new biosphere reserves are constantly being processed.

The Network of Biosphere Reserves of Spain

The current functioning of RERB is supported by various pillars: the biosphere reserves themselves, the MAB Committee in Spain and the National Park Autonomous Agency, mainly.

The reserves themselves contribute to the functioning of the Network, adding the experience of the application of the figure in its own territories, with the multiple implications which that conveys: territorial planning, strategies or plans of sustainable development, participation processes, development of sectoral policies, strategies of broadcasting, education, communication... The communication and the exchange of personal experiences is what gives content to the Network, as well as being a space where new initiatives for the individual biosphere reserves or initiatives of common interest can be developed.

The contribution to the functioning of the Network from the reserves themselves comes from the responsible organisations of the biosphere reserves, from the technical teams of these and from the social agents. The responsible organisations determine the connections with the respective autonomous communities, when they do not coincide with these, which are the ones represented by the MAB Committee. A very important role in each biosphere reserve is the one that the specialist fulfils authorised by its respective institution as manager of the reserve and, therefore, as a member of the Management Committee of the Network of the Biosphere Reserves in Spain. This organisation constitutes the technical pillar of the Network.

The Management Committee functions as a work group, analysing the situation which its members find in the biosphere reserves and the RERB and identifying the necessary actions, on an individual reserve as well as on a Network scale. It usually convenes two face-to-face meetings a year and an intense interaction using digital media. It's a very important source of initiatives. Nowadays, it is formed by seven work commissions which develop, in the periods between meetings, the topics identified by the Management Committee in full.

The Spanish MAB Committee, depending on its composition, is a coordination space between institutions involved in biosphere reserves and, from these, with other social agents. It performs a key role as far as setting orientations, relationships with the MAB Programme on an international scale, promoting and assuming commitments and endorsing the lines of action for the RERB are concerned, whose origin can be the Management Committee, the Scientific Committee or the same OAPN.

The MAB Committee usually gathers twice a year. The Management Committee as well as the Scientific Committee, pursuant to its function of assessing organisations, add the results of their respective works or their proposals to the MAB Committee.

The Scientific Committee also has an important role as supervisor of the adequate implementation of the postulates of the MAB Programme in the Spanish Biosphere Reserves. It is formed by 21 members and their function is to value and guide the new proposals, evaluate the existing reserves, gather and generate useful knowledge for the implementation of the figure of biosphere reserve in the field. Its members gather a certain number of times a year that varies depending on the needs and continue their contact online between meetings, in addition, each one of them works individually according to the assignments received.

The National Park Autonomous Agency (OAPN) is the coordinating authority of the Network activity and the development of the MAB Programme. It keeps an Office that carries out the role of secretary of the RERB and node of distribution of information and exchanges. The OAPN develops initiatives of general support for the Network, as the corporative image, the assignment of a monitoring system, the diffusion of the Network, etc., working for its definition in close collaboration with the Management and the Scientific Committees. The initiatives that originate in proposals from the Management Committee are frequent.

Actions of the Spanish Network of Biosphere Reserves

From the creation of the new MAB Committee and its assessing authorities, in 2007, according to the Royal Decree 342/2007, various lines of general support to the RERB have been developed. As a result, actions that reinforce the identity and functionality of the Network have been accomplished, efforts that benefit individual biosphere reserves directly, of coordination and support. The OAPN supports the majority of these activities.

Actions of reinforcement of the identity and functionality of the Network: elaboration and application of the Action Plan of Montseny 2009-2013 of the RERB, to facilitate the application of the Action Plan of Madrid 2008-2013 of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. It was elaborated in 2009 and it is the reference for the actions of the reserves and the Network until 2013.

  • Design, register and development of the corporative image of the RERB and design of a signaletics model for the biosphere reserves. The archives containing the different image modalities and the signaletics model have been distributed amongst the biosphere reserves to reinforce the common image, although its application is voluntary in each reserve.
  • Design, register and development of an identifying image of products and services of the biosphere reserves in Spain. The implementation rules will be elaborated by the Management Committee, which will also design the control procedures.
  • Development of an indicator system for the monitoring of the RERB, a database and a cartographic viewer. It comprises indicators destined to the general functioning of the RERB and to the functioning of the biosphere reserves. These last are oriented to obtain some key information on the set of reserves which allows to obtain a vision of the degree of application and the figure of biosphere reserve, but does not supply the individual monitoring systems. The information gathered will constitute the content of a database, and it will also provide evaluation reports of the RERB.
  • Development of a communication strategy. Some advances have been made since the OAPN destined to increase the visibility of the RERB and of the Spanish biosphere reserves. The actions in motion or executed are: information on the web page of the Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, edition of a Catalogue of good practices in biosphere reserves in Spain, edition of the book The Biosphere Reserves of IberoMAB 2008 (Las Reservas de Biosfera de IberoMaB 2008, with a fact sheet on each reserve), numerous public presentations, amongst others. Or constitution of work committees for the technical development of various lines of common interest on the reserves: four on the monitoring of each one of the four lines of the Action Plan of Montseny, one on Tourism and Heritage and one on Brands and Biosphere Reserves services.
  • Logistical and resources support to the ordinary meetings of the authorities that form the MAB Committee, by the OAPN, to which an Office of support, coordination and stimulation of the activities is added. This Office acts as Secretary Office for said authorities.
    • Support actions for the individual biosphere reserves:

      • As for the visibility, the logos and interpretative brochures on various reserves in existence in Spain have been elaborated.
      • Support to sustainable development projects in biosphere reserves, by the General Direction of Sustainable Rural Development (support ways). It has emerged as a response to a repeated demand from the managers. The investments from the Ministry are complemented with contributions from the autonomous communities (50%) or from the local authorities (75/25%, respectively).
      • Collaboration efforts between biosphere reserves of the RERB. This efforts, which are frequent, occur only in occasions by the secretary, whilst others are realised directly. Or efforts of information and support to new initiatives of biosphere reserves. As on behalf of the National Park Autonomous Agency as well as on the reserves (mostly the managers), it is common to participate in informative sessions about the notion of biosphere reserve, its implementation difficulties, the opportunities which it opens, and the experience of those that have already worked and lived in them for some time.

      Efforts of coordination and support or Negotiations with the Secretary Office of Tourism to define and develop a Tourist Product Biosphere Reserves in Spain.

      • Actions to promote the consideration of biosphere reserves as rural areas with priority in the implementation of the Law for Sustainable Rural Development.