North-East Tobago declared as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Paris: Tobago’s North-East region has been declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The decision was communicated by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere secretariat based at UNESCO’s division of ecological and earth sciences, at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on early October 28.

In an online meeting from 27 to 28 October, the International Co-ordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB-ICC) added 25 new sites, one of them transboundary, in 18 countries to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which now numbers 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries around the globe.

Andorra, Cabo Verde, Comoros, Luxemburg and Trinidad and Tobago join the MAB Network this year with the designation of their first sites: Ordino Biosphere Reserve, Fogo and Maio Biosphere Reserves, Mwali Biosphere Reserve, Minett Biosphere Reserve and North-East Tobago Biosphere Reserve respectively.

Tobago’s North-East region is now the largest MAB site in the English-speaking Caribbean Small Island Developing States; the only larger UNESCO Biosphere reserve in the Caribbean is located in the French territory of Guadeloupe.

The North-East Tobago Biosphere Reserve presents a rare largely intact Caribbean Island Ridge-to-Ocean ecosystem that includes the world’s oldest tropical rainforest reserve, the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, established in 1776. It encompasses 83,488 ha, with a marine area of 68,384 ha that is home to coral reefs and mangroves.

Overall, 1,774 species have been recorded in its 19 habitat types and it is home to globally unique and endangered plants and animals including 83 IUCN Red List species and 41 endemic species as well as 15 communities with rich historical and cultural heritage in North-East Tobago which are home to approximately 10,000 residents. By joining the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the community aims to revitalize cultural and spiritual bonds between people and nature and boost the preservation of this fragile and remarkable human and natural landscape.

The North-East Tobago Biosphere Reserve will open a range of opportunities for economic recovery after the covid-19 pandemic, especially for tourism and for attracting international support. Some of the expected benefits to Trinidad and Tobago include the generation of sustainable green and blue economic activities beyond tourism, including fisheries, agriculture, cultural heritage promotion, scientific research and education, among others.

UNESCO biosphere reserves seek to reconcile human activity with the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They are a central element of UNESCO’s research and awareness-raising work to foster innovative sustainable development practices and combat the loss of biodiversity, by supporting communities and Member States’ understanding, valuing and safeguard of the living environment.