UNESCO adds the Ebro Delta, in Southern Catalonia, to its Biosphere Reserve network
Terres de l’Ebre, which encompasses the delta and the catchment area of the Ebro River’s lowest stretch, displays a unique relationship between nature and traditional human activities. It has lovely landscapes, with hills, cliffs, fields and picturesque villages on both sides of the river, as well as coastal ecosystems, where the delta offers amazing and delicate environments. The new Man and the Biosphere reserve covers 367,729 hectares and has 190,000 inhabitants. The cultivation of rice, citrus fruits and olives, livestock breeding as well as aquaculture and fishing are the main human activities, “respecting biological conservation and landscape values”, stated UNESCO. The Montseny hills and forest are the other Catalan biosphere reserve.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Tuesday, the so-called Terres de l’Ebre, which encompasses the delta and the catchment area of the Ebro River’s lowest stretch – in Southern Catalonia, have been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO’s International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. Terres de l’Ebre displays a unique relationship between nature and traditional human activities. It has lovely landscapes, with hills, cliffs, fields and picturesque villages on both sides of the river, as well as coastal ecosystems, where the delta offers amazing and delicate environments, over where the Mediterranean Sea and the Ebro river merge (called ‘Ebre’ in Catalan). The new Man and the Biosphere reserve occupies 367,729 hectares and has 190,000 inhabitants. The cultivation of rice, citrus fruits and olives, livestock breeding as well as aquaculture and fishing are the main human activities, “respecting biological conservation and landscape values”, stated UNESCO. With this new incorporation, Catalonia now has two biosphere reserves, since the Montseny hills and forests (in Central Catalonia) received the recognition in 1978. Terres de l’Ebre’s candidature was originally organised by the civil society and backed by local town halls and the Catalan Government. Last year, it had already been presented but it was not successful since the area being protected was much larger and it included two nuclear energy plants. In 2013, the candidature was modified in order to exclude the areas near the nuclear facilities.
The Catalan Government welcomes the decision
The Catalan Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Fishing, Food and Natural Environment, Josep Maria Pelegrí, underlined the fact that the distinction “is a quality label internationally recognised that will make environmental conservation and economic sustainable development compatible”. Pelegrí also added that “it will be a tool to foster cohesion and better manage the area”. Finally, he also stated that the distinction “should bring new economic contributions, international acknowledgement and the recognition of its heritage”, regarding unique ecosystems and human traditional activities.
Recognising the “partnerships between people and nature”
UNESCO’s 25th meeting of the MAB Council recognised the “large number of different ecosystems ranging from inland to coastal areas” within Terres de l’Ebre. The international organisation put the MAB programme in place in the early 1970s “to promote sustainable development based on local community effort and sound science”, as it states on its website. In addition, the Man and Biosphere reserves “reconcile the conservation of biological and cultural diversity and economic and social development through partnerships between people and nature”. In this vein, UNESCO emphasised that “the main part” of the Terres de l’Ebre reserve “is used for cattle”. However, “alternative energy sources such as hydro-, solar and wind power, are being developed in the region, respecting biological conservation and landscape values” stated the Paris-based organisation.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves, coordinated by UNESCO’s MAB Programme, now recognises 621 sites, located in 117 different countries. Spain, with 43 sites, tops the world’s ranking of countries with the largest number of Man and Biosphere Reserves, followed by Russia, China and Mexico. Catalonia joined the list in 1978, when the Montseny area was recognised for the natural value of its woods and the traditional agriculture and forest activities. 35 years later, it was the turn of the lowest stretch of the Ebro river, which flows past rock canyons, cliffs, olive tree fields, tangerine plantations, castles, small towns and picturesque villages, ending in a broad delta full of rice plantations and seafood farms (muscles, oysters, etc.). The new biosphere reserve covers 367,729 hectares, from 4 different Catalan Counties: Montsià, Baix Ebre, Ribera d’Ebre and Terra Alta.