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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What's a Biosphere Reserve?

Biosphere Reserves are not nature reserves as we know them in Britain. They are 'special places for people and nature'. Biosphere Reserves aim to discover how people can enjoy a high quality of life based upon a superb natural environment.

UNESCO says that "Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as 'living laboratories' for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. "

We may decide locally not to use the word "Reserve" because some people will immediately think of fences. Perhaps a more inspiring term may emerge during the process of engaging the community in this initiative.

Find out more about Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/BRs.shtml

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MAB logoWho are UNESCO?

UNESCO is the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Their Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme is the international coordinating body for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Find out more about the UNESCO MAB programme at: www.unesco.org/mab/

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How do Biosphere Reserves work?

They are based around a 'Core Area' which is normally a nature reserve as we know it, where the natural environment is strictly protected.

The existing Dyfi Biosphere Reserve is entirely a Core Area: the National Nature Reserve at Cors Fochno, and the Site of Special Scientific Interest on the Dyfi Estuary. Because there is already a good Core Area no one is thinking of creating any new nature reserves for the sake of the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.

The Core Area sits in, or next to a 'Buffer Zone' where nature is protected, and human activities are organized so that they do not hinder the conservation objectives of the core area but rather help to protect it. Things like high quality agriculture, tourism and recreation take place in these areas.

In the case of the Dyfi, places which are already designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, or which are participating in Agri-environment schemes could be nominated to be Buffer Zones - but only if the landowners agree.

The whole Biosphere Reserve including the Core Area and Buffer Zone sit within a 'Transition Area'. This is the really interesting bit! The Transition Area is where the real work happens to create a high quality of life, based upon a superb natural environment. It has to have people in it.

Here is where all the stakeholders in the Biosphere Reserve must agree to work together to manage and sustainably develop the area's resources for the benefit of the people who live there.

In the case of the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, it has been suggested that the Transition Area should include the whole catchment of the river Dyfi because this makes a sensible unit both from the point of view of the people who live here, and the way the natural environment works. However, the Transition Area does not have to have a fixed boundary, so there is flexibility built into this system.

Find out more about how Biosphere Reserves work at: www.unesco.org/mab/

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Why should it cover the Dyfi Valley?

Because the Dyfi Valley already contains a Biosphere Reserve and the valley itself forms a logical, self contained unit that meets UNESCO's criteria for a modern Biosphere Reserve.

UNESCO ask that Biosphere Reserves should encompass a mosaic of ecological systems representative of major biogeographic regions, including a gradation of human interventions and that they should have an appropriate size to serve the three functions of Biosphere Reserves.

The valley links all communities, both human and ecological into a single unit through the river itself. It is big enough to be attractive to UNESCO and covers a wide range of ecological systems from upland moorland to the sea in Cardigan Bay.

Find out more about UNESCO's criteria for Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/

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Is it a nature reserve?

No! The original idea of Biosphere Reserves was to protect representative samples of the great ecosystems of the world - our 'Biosphere'.

However, it soon became clear that this wasn't going to solve much and UNESCO modified their ideas to make Biosphere Reserves what they have become today: examples for the world of how people can live in productive harmony with the natural world.

Find out more about the origin of Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/faq_br.shtml

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Will I have to stop doing anything?

No - unless you want to!

The idea of the Biosphere Reserve is to build upon what we already have. If you are a landowner whose activities are already controlled because your land is designated an SSSI, or because you have entered into a conservation agreement like Tir Cymen or Tir Gofal, then the hope is that the Biosphere Reserve will offer you an opportunity.

Around the world, people who live in Biosphere Reserves are looking at ways to capitalise on the association with UNESCO and the United Nations. The most obvious way is through marketing initiatives that offer the consumer the opportunity to buy products that draw on the UNESCO 'brand'.

So, you may wish to modify your activities to take advantages of new marketing opportunities that arise- but no one will force you to do anything you are not already doing.

Find out more about developing the economy in Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/

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How will it affect local businesses?

The presence of an internationally recognised designation for a superb natural environment should offer local businesses new opportunities - if they are prepared to work to take advantage of the Biosphere Reserve and what it means.

In the past, activities to develop the economy of Biosphere Reserves have focused on agriculture and land-based industries.

However, Bro Ddyfi already has a significant cluster of businesses based on sustainable energy and environmental management and this could be further strengthened as a result of the Biosphere Reserve.

The ability to link activities to the UNESCO/United Nations 'brand' should offer new marketing opportunities and may make the area more attractive to investment as a result.

It is to be hoped that the climate that will be created by the Biosphere Reserve will stimulate local people to take the chance to put their own ideas into practice and generate new businesses as a result.

UNESCO has established an international task force to assist Biosphere Reserves and their partners throughout the World Network of Biosphere Reserves to develop such economies and to promote biosphere reserves as models for sustainable development at the regional level and beyond.

Find out more about developing the economy in Biosphere Reserves at: http://www.unesco.org/mab/faq_br.shtml

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How will it affect local farmers?

Because the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve is about building on what we already have, it is not envisaged that anyone will have to change what they are already doing - unless they choose to!

The Dyfi Biosphere Reserve will link the entire Dyfi Valley with UNESCO and by extension, the United Nations in the minds of those who hear about it. This should offer an opportunity to further differentiate the agricultural produce of Bro Ddyfi from other products produced in Wales.

Consumers are now prepared to pay a premium for produce which meets ethical and environmental production criteria.

However, British farmers are still struggling to realise the promised price differentials for their produce even when it meets criteria such as the Soil Association Organic Standard.

Niche market products such as salt marsh lamb from the Taf estuary in Carmarthenshire are making money because of their association with 'a sense of place'.

Linking high production standards to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve 'brand' identity should offer similar opportunities - but as with all opportunities, it will have to be worked at.

UNESCO has established an international task force to assist Biosphere Reserves and their partners throughout the World Network of Biosphere Reserves to develop such economies and to promote biosphere reserves as models for sustainable development at the regional level and beyond.

Find out more about developing the economy in Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/qualityEconomies/qualityhome.htm

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What will it do for the language and culture of Bro Ddyfi?

UNESCO are placing a greater emphasis on the role of Biosphere Reserves in the safeguarding and promoting of local knowledge and culture.

The 'Seville Strategy' which governs the development of Biosphere Reserves says as a key part of its vision: "Connections should be made between cultural and biological diversity.

Traditional knowledge and genetic resources should be conserved and their role in sustainable development should be recognized and encouraged."

This offers the chance to place the culture, language and history of Bro Ddyfi at the heart of plans for the future of the whole valley and integrate them across all sectors.

This is a new field for UNESCO and if Bro Ddyfi takes up the challenge, we can expect to see a lot of attention focused by UNESCO on what happens here.

Find out more about UNESCO's vision for Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/

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Who runs Biosphere Reserves?

UNESCO set the rules for what a Biosphere Reserve is, but individual Biosphere Reserves are run by their stakeholders - including local communities as well as conservation organisations. At all times Biosphere Reserves "remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located".

Having a Biosphere Reserve is a bit like being a member of an international club. As long as you follow the rules of the club, you can remain a member and get all the benefits that come from membership.

If you don't follow the rules, you have to leave the club, but the club can't force you to do anything you don't want to do.

UNESCO's rules say that Biosphere Reserves have to have a Management Plan and a "designated authority or mechanism" to implement the plan.

They require that Organizational arrangements should be provided for the involvement and participation of a suitable range of inter alia public authorities, local communities and private interests in the design and carrying out the functions of a biosphere reserve."

They also direct that those organising a Biosphere Reserve: "Promote the management of each biosphere reserve essentially as a "pact" between the local community and society as a whole. Management should be open, evolving and adaptive. Such an approach will help ensure that biosphere reserves - and their local communities - are better placed to respond to external political, economic and social pressures."

Find out more about UNESCO's vision and guidelines for Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/faq_br.shtml

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Who gets to say what happens on the Biosphere Reserve?

All the local stakeholders. UNESCO set the criteria which a Biosphere Reserve must fulfil if it is to remain a Biosphere Reserve, and one of those criteria is that all the stakeholders, including local communities, must be involved, and participate in the carrying out of the functions of the Biosphere Reserve.

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Is it a way for the 'greenies' to take over the locality?

No! Becoming a Biosphere Reserve is a voluntary action.

UNESCO can't force anyone to comply with their rules for Biosphere Reserves, but they can take away the designation if the rules aren't kept to.

So, the only way for the Biosphere Reserve to function properly is if all the stakeholders agree to keep the rules and work together.

If one group seeks to dominate other groups then there is a risk that the others will withdraw their cooperation and the whole enterprise could founder.

So Biosphere Reserves are about cooperation, persuasion and consensus, and not about a take-over by one sector or another.

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Why change the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve?

Because UNESCO have modernised the definition of a Biosphere Reserve and the old Biosphere Reserve in the lower Dyfi valley no longer fits that definition.

If we don't change the Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO will have to take us out of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and we will lose an opportunity.

The UK applied to UNESCO for a Biosphere Reserve in the lower Dyfi Valley way back in 1976 when Biosphere Reserves were still just 'super nature reserves'.

The UK then left UNESCO in the 1980s because of disputes relating to the political climate of the times.

Whilst we were out of UNESCO they had a complete re-think about what a Biosphere Reserve should be, and came up with the present concept that they aren't conventional nature reserves, but places for people and nature. Nothing changed on the Dyfi, but the definition of a Biosphere Reserve changed.

The current Dyfi Biosphere Reserve is too small and doesn't have any Buffer Zone or Transition Area.

However, it does have tremendous potential to be at the forefront of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves - if it is altered to bring it up to the modern standard.

Find out more about the criteria that a Biosphere Reserve should fulfil at: http://www.unesco.org/mab/

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How do we get the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve extended?

We need to discover if it is what local people want! If it isn't, the Biosphere Reserve will not be extended.

If local people do want it to happen, then we need to demonstrate this to the National Assembly for Wales. Then we have to complete the UNESCO forms (all thirty pages) which the Assembly must pass via the UK government and the UNESCO UK MAB Committee to UNESCO.

To enable local people to make an informed choice about the extension of the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, the Countryside Council for Wales will part-fund a worker to inform local stakeholders and to discover the extent of support for the extension.

CCW has no vested interest in the extension, and will work with local stakeholders to make an honest assessment of the support.

If there is sufficient support, CCW will work with local stakeholders to complete the UNESCO forms and will present these along with evidence of local support to the Assembly.

The chairman of the UNESCO UK MAB Committee and members of the UNESCO International Coordinating Committees and Biosphere Reserve Advisory Committee have all expressed strong support for the extension.

To find out more about how to designate or extend a Biosphere Reserve go to: www.unesco.org/mab/faq_br.shtml

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Is there a cost?

Extending the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve will not require local people to contribute any money - unless they want to!

The initial costs of employing someone to raise awareness and gauge support for an extension of the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve will be met by CCW and any other organisations that volunteer to meet a share of the costs.

It is envisaged that government agencies like CCW will always provide some funding for a small core team to coordinate the Biosphere Management Plan in conjunction with local stakeholders.

Beyond this, it will be up to local stakeholders what they contribute to establish initiatives that spring from the Biosphere Reserve.

Some activities, like marketing initiatives may pay for themselves by increasing profits from businesses. Other activities, like cultural projects may need to raise funds from other sources.

The Dyfi Biosphere Reserve is an opportunity to do many things. However, as with all opportunities, the benefits that come from it will largely depend upon the time, effort and resources that the stakeholders put into it.

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Who will pay for it?

The Countryside Council for Wales has made plans to pay for most of the cost of employing someone to raise awareness and gauge support for an extension of the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.

It is envisaged that government agencies like CCW will always provide some funding for a small core team to coordinate the Biosphere Management Plan in conjunction with local stakeholders.

After that, any activities which are planned to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Biosphere Reserve will need to raise funds in the usual ways. It is hoped that the presence of the UNESCO designation for Bro Ddyfi will be of considerable assistance when seeking support.

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How will the Biosphere Reserve fit with other initiatives?

It should help coordinate other initiatives in the area to help them work better for the people, economy and environment of Bro Ddyfi.

The Biosphere Reserve management plan will seek to draw together all the strategies and initiatives which impact on the Dyfi Valley.

It will be far more than a framework for the management of protected areas and will attempt to guide the actions of all concerned so that they are pulling in the same direction - to prosper by providing an example to the world of how people can live in productive harmony with the natural world.

It will be important that key development strategies (particularly for the economy and tourism) of statutory bodies such as Ceredigion, Powys and Gwynedd Councils and the Snowdonia National Park Authority, together with the Community Strategies for those three county areas, are aligned with the Biosphere Reserve concept.

The Dyfi Valley Tourism Growth Area (which excludes Ceredigion) already has a strategy to guide tourism development in a compatible manner.

The Bro Ddyfi Communities First area (addressing rural disadvantage) is the Powys part of the enlarged Biosphere Reserve as proposed. Its strategy is still in preparation and indications are that it will be compatible with Transition Area activities.

The extent to which the Biosphere Reserve managers will carry out projects themselves has yet to be determined. They may simply help the community produce the strategy and then help other local groups and businesses carry out the ideas that arise.

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How can UNESCO help?

Biosphere Reserves are all members of the World Network and UNESCO coordinates a wide range of activities to share experiences and combine forces for the good of the whole network.

We have standing invitations from Entlebuch Biosphere Reserve in Switzerland and the Rhön Biosphere Reserve in Germany to send delegations to learn about their successes and challenges.

UNESCO maintains a number of task-forces and working groups which are developing guidance and resources for Biosphere Reserves. The chairman of the task force on Developing Quality Economies in Biosphere Reserves spoke at the Dyfi Biosphere Conference in June 2004.

Similarly, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme promotes cooperation throughout the northern hemisphere via the EURO-MAB network which links Europe, Russia and North America.

We can tap into this network for help and advice if the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve is extended.

Find out more about developing the economy in Biosphere Reserves at: www.unesco.org/mab/faq_br.shtml

Find out more about Entlebuch Biosphere Reserve at: http://www.biosphaere.ch/

Find out more about Rhön Biosphere Reserve at: http://www2.unesco.org/mab/br/brdir/directory/biores.asp?mode=all&code=GER+09 and in this journal: http://www.deh.gov.au/parks/biosphere/working/pubs/bionews-jan2003.pdf

Find out more about the EURO-MAB network at: www.unesco.org/mab/wnbrs.shtml

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email: andy.rowland@ecodyfi.org.uk | tel. 01654 703965 | more about ecodyfi, the organising body | Access keys

Dyfi Valley from the sea