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Photo: Magnus Pamp

What is a Biosphere Reserve?
The word biosphere means all life on Earth and the environment it lives in. It is about the interplay between humankind and the environment. An area is designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. We received this designation in 2011.

A Biosphere Reserve should serve as a model area in which efforts are focused on promoting nature conservation, societal development and the advancement of research and education. Local cooperation forms the foundation of this work. A Biosphere Reserve is shaped according to local conditions and all Biosphere Reserves are unique.

What is the purpose of a Biosphere Reserve?
A Biosphere Reserve has three main objectives: to develop society in a long-term sustainable way, to conserve biological and cultural diversity, ecosystems and landscapes, and to support demonstration projects, research and environmental monitoring. At the local level, we strive to apply these objectives in the best possible way in practice in the area and in collaboration with concerned stakeholders.

In the Nedre Dalälven River Landscape Biosphere Reserve, we work primarily within four focus areas: Sustainable tourism and hospitality, Sustainable fishing and fishery conservation, Open landscape, and Biological mosquito control. You can read more about these here.

A Biosphere Reserve chooses its focus areas according to the area’s challenges, needs, resources, etc., as well as interest in the area. The development of sustainable tourism is a natural choice for many Biosphere Reserves, as one of the many criteria to be a Biosphere Reserve is that the area has a unique natural and cultural environment, and thereby also often faces challenges in terms of sustainable experiences, accommodation, etc. If we look out into the world, we can see, for example, that the Rhön Biosphere Reserve in Germany has “Sustainable mobility” as one of its focus areas. In Rhön, initiatives are underway to, for example, develop ride-sharing, cycling paths, charging stations and bus rides. In the Menorca Biosphere Reserve, they are addressing issues concerning waste management and recycling of sorted materials. A third example comes from Spain, which has long been developing brands, both national and regional, for locally produced food and other products.

​​​​​​​Are results visible immediately?
The work in a Biosphere Reserve is long-term. It is an ongoing process coordinated by a Biosphere Office, but everyone who lives and works in the Biosphere Reserve is part of this work and key to the transition. Sometimes clear results are seen immediately, but often the processes can take time. Businesses, municipalities, visitors and locals of all ages – everyone is important. Through both individual and joint efforts, we are developing a model area for sustainable development.

​​​​​​​Can people live in a Biosphere Reserve?
Under UNESCO’s designation criteria, there must be people living in a Biosphere Reserve. The criterion “long-term sustainable development” is based on local engagement and local anchoring, which is why people are central in a Biosphere Reserve.
What does the Biosphere Reserve look like geographically?
The Nedre Dalälven River Landscape Biosphere Reserve comprises the municipalities of Säter, Hedemora, Avesta, Sala, Heby, Tierp and Älvkarleby, and the localities of Österfärnebo and Hedesunda in Sandviken and Gävle municipalities. The Nedre Dalälven River borders or runs through all of these. The entire catchment area of the Nedre Dalälven River is also located within these areas. See map here!

Why is a Biosphere Reserve suited to this specific area?
The Nedre Dalälven area has very high conservation values (HCVs). A Biosphere Reserve aims to protect these values, while also using them in a way that is sustainable over the long term. To do this, it is important to take advantage of these values, which are potential assets for the local population and society. There is also demonstrated drive and a strong local engagement for continued sustainability work in the Biosphere Reserve. 
How is a Biosphere Reserve financed?
A Biosphere Reserve must have a Biosphere Office with at least one Biosphere Coordinator. In Swedish Biosphere Reserves, the Biosphere Offices, as well as other administrative costs, are financed by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and involved municipalities, and sometimes also by other interested parties.

Does a Biosphere Reserve infringe on property and usage rights? 
A Biosphere Reserve in itself does not entail any new restrictions or any special legal protection. Existing restrictions, such as rules in nature reserves and national parks, still apply even if there is a Biosphere Reserve. A Biosphere Reserve also does not entail any restrictions on the right of public access. On the contrary, we can work to increase accessibility to nature for people in urban areas, people with physical limitations, people with other ethnic backgrounds, and so on.
What are the benefits of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve designation?
The benefits of being a Biosphere Reserve are manifold. Society benefits by long-term sustainable initiatives and societal development. Being a Biosphere Reserve is also a way to market yourself. Around Europe, Biosphere Reserves are viewed as very attractive areas, both to live in and to visit. A special hospitality and tourism industry has therefore developed in places like Austria and Germany. A Biosphere Reserve can also mean increased opportunities for research, demonstration projects and environmental monitoring. This is because it is a model area that tests new strategies for connecting societal development and nature conservation while also linking to local engagement.
Are there Biosphere Reserves in other places?
There are over 700 Biosphere Reserves on Earth, in more than 120 countries. In Sweden, there are seven Biosphere Reserves: the Rich Wetlands of Kristianstad, Lake Vänern Archipelago and Mount Kinnekulle, Blekinge Archipelago, Nedre Dalälven River Landscape, East Vättern Scarp Landscape, Voxnadalen and Vindelälven-Juhttátahkka. Vombsjösänkan is a Biosphere Reserve candidate.

Several other areas in Sweden have begun the process of applying to become candidates. You can read about the process of becoming a Biosphere Reserve here!
The questions and answers above are presented in collaboration with the Lake Vänern Archipelago and Mount Kinnekulle Biosphere Reserve and the Blekinge Archipelago Biosphere Reserve.