Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) of UNESCO was launched in 1971 to safeguard the nature through building up a World Network of Biosphere Reserves and Parks. Biosphere Reserves / Parks are sites declared under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program (the Program) on a proposal from the Member States. During the first years of implementation of the Program, Biosphere Reserves designated the representative ecosystems from different biogeographical regions, fostering the main purpose of preservation of samples of non-humanized natural ecosystems that conserve genetic resources and provide a basis for scientific research and educational activities. The main function of the Biosphere Reserves was related to conservation of these sites. Bulgaria joined the Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) in 1977, announcing 16 sites and thus ranked one of the countries that hosted the most representative networks of biosphere reserves in Europe. In 1995, the International Conference on Biosphere Reserves, organized by UNESCO in Seville, Spain adopted the Seville Strategy and a Statutory Framework for Biosphere Reserves, setting out new rules and norms for these territories.
The primary goals and objectives of the Seville Strategy are:
- Use biosphere reserves to conserve natural and cultural diversity.
- Utilise biosphere reserves as models of land management and of approaches to sustainable development.
- Use biosphere reserves for research, monitoring, education, and training.
- Implement the biosphere reserve concept into practice.
According to the Seville Strategy, in addition to areas of strict protection, the modern-type biosphere reserves/parks shall include buffer zones and also areas, where sustainable practices are promoted for encouraging both of the economic development of the concerned regions and of nature conservation in them, called ‘transition’ zones.
For 40 years, 16 Bulgarian biosphere reserves have performed an effective ‘conservation’ and ‘logistic’ function to conserve genetic resources, species and ecosystems in order to provide conditions for research, monitoring and education. Over the years, the concept of biosphere reserves has evolved in line with today’s challenges. Gradually, the man and his interactions with nature came to the fore. The initial function of biosphere reserves has been built up – from a purely protective and scientific perspective, it has become a “developmental function” oriented towards the sustainable use of natural resources. Biosphere Reserves have gradually become successful models for harmonious coexistence between man and nature.
By June 2017, none of the Bulgarian sites had met the zoning requirements and functions imposed by the Seville Strategy (1995). All Bulgarian biosphere reserves were “strict nature reserves” (with the exception of the Srebarna Nature Reserve) with protection regulation that did not allow the implementation of activities related to the sustainable use of natural resources, i.e. they did not have the required function for sustainable development and use of natural resources.
In recent years, the UNESCO Secretariat has initiated a process to ensure the compliance of sites declared “biosphere reserves” with the objectives and requirements set out in the Seville Strategy of 1995.
At the 25th meeting of the International Coordination Council under the Man and the Biosphere Programme (2013), a decision has been taken to implement the 3-step strategy (Exit Strategy), which sets specific deadlines for action by the Member States.
For these reasons the MAB Secretariat of UNESCO has invited Bulgaria to fulfill its obligations and make the sites correspond to the Seville Strategy requirements or withdraw those that do not have the potential to meet the current criteria.
The International Consultative Committee on Biosphere Reserves strongly encourages the offer of new nominations in line with the Seville Strategy and the Regulatory Framework for Biosphere Reserves and designates Chervenata Stena Reserve as one of the territories that have the potential to comply with the new requirements.
At the meeting of the National Committee of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme in March 2016 it was decided a nomination for Chervenata Stena Reserve to be prepared and the site to be nominated as one of the first biosphere reserves of modern-generation type in Bulgaria.
By Decision No. 484, taken with Protocol No. 14 / 06.07.2016, the Municipal Council – Assenovgrad agrees to include the territory of the municipality of Assenovgrad in Chervenata Stena biosphere park.
As a result of the common efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Water, Assenovgrad municipality and the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water – Plovdiv, a nomination form was prepared and together with the nomination forms about Central Balkan, Srebarna and Uzunbujak was forwarded to the MAB Secretariat.
At the 29th session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Council of the Man and Biosphere Program, held in Paris from 12th to 15th June 2017, Chervenata Stena together with the Central Balkan National Park, Srebarna BR and Uzunbudzhak Reserve were included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves with international recognition and as one of the first Bulgarian modern-generation biosphere parks.