A biosphere is a representative ecological area with 3 mutually reinforcing functions:

  • conservation,
  • sustainable development and
  • logistic support for scientific research and education.

Collectively, all proclaimed biospheres form a World Network linked by exchanges of experience and knowledge. They are part of a UNESCO scientific programme, governed by a "soft law", the Statutory Framework.

Natural World Heritage sites must be of outstanding universal value in accordance with the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). Efforts to enhance local development and to promote scientific understanding are means to ensure the protection of the natural World Heritage values.

In some instances, a core area of a biosphere reserve can meet World Heritage criteria: the usually larger biosphere reserve can therefore serve as a complementary means to protect the integrity of the World Heritage site.

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