Bras d’Or Lake: Canada’s Newest Biosphere Reserve

From the Canadian Commission for UNESCO‘s official announcement yesterday:

Canada welcomes its 16th Biosphere Reserve, as Bras d’Or Lake, Nova Scotia, is designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Biosphere Reserves are living laboratories of sustainable development, where local communities choose to take the challenge to protect biodiversity while fostering economic and social development. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now numbers 580 sites in 114 countries.

This new Biosphere Reserve includes the complete watershed of Bras d’Or Lake, a salt-water estuary that constitutes a true inland sea. This estuary has unique oceanographic and biological characteristics as it contains both species typical of Arctic waters and of warm subtropical oceans, living within a few hundred meters of one another.

UNESCO’s designation of this site is the result of a highly collaborative process that started in 2005, involving First Nation representatives, provincial and federal government agencies, academics, and the nearly 14 000 citizens of the region. This process led to the development of a comprehensive management plan for the lake, to the creation of new jobs and encouraging business opportunities, while respecting the principles of sustainable development.

More at the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association website

Bras D’Or Lakes Biosphere Association

The Bras d’Or lakes may be deemed a biosphere reserve if the Canadian Commission for UNESCO accepts the nomination document submitted today by the Bras d’Or Lakes Biosphere Reserve Association (BLBRA).

A biosphere reserve is an area which demonstrates a balanced relationship between humans and the environment. It’s an enlightened approach to sustainability, in that it doesn’t exclusively prioritize the so-called ‘natural’ environment over the socio-economic human one – which is no less natural.

I designed blbra.ca with this balance in mind. The aesthetic is “wilderness austerity”; the functionality is opposable-thumb-friendly.

What’s interesting about the designation is that it doesn’t confer any special powers to a governing organization over the area. The principal benefit is international recognition. And the main goal is education and the promotion of sustainable development – in a way that includes all those with an interest in the area:

  • The Biosphere Reserve may chose to expand the scope of existing conservation, research, monitoring, and education projects.
  • Local students might become more involved in research and monitoring projects.
  • College and university students could carry out projects in areas such as tourism or community development and ecosystem studies.
  • Governments, corporations and other agencies could help to finance these projects.

There are over 550 biosphere reserves in over a hundred countries, including 15 in Canada.