The objective of this designation type was to combine nature conservation with sustainable development, to create a worldwide network for research, environmental education and training.
In the 1970’s UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) through its ‘Man and the Biosphere (M.A.B) Programme’, created the Biosphere Reserve concept to formally recognise areas that achieve a balance between the protection of significant ecosystems and surrounding development.
Biosphere Reserves do not have any legal standing, it is assumed by UNESCO that countries will take measures to protect designated sites by other protection means, such as – Special Amenity Zoning in Development Plans, S.A.A.O’s, Statutory Nature Reserves etc. Biosphere Reserves are not supposed to be strict nature reserves per se. The main objective is to facilitate sustainable development within certain zones defined as ‘Core Zones’ for nature conservation and adjoined by ‘Buffer and Traditional Zones’ to facilitate sustainable development and farming practices respectively.
By 1994 Ireland had designated two sites (North Bull Island 1981 and Killarney National Park 1982). The MAB international Council at its 17th session on the 18th to the 22nd of March 2002 formulated ‘Guiding Principles’ on the creation and maintenance of Biosphere Reserves in their objective to meet conservation, sustainable development and scientific co-operation.