The objective of this designation is conservation of representative examples of natural European heritage, scientific research and exchange of information.
The Council of Europe launched the concept of a European Network of Biogenetic Reserves in 1973, the programme was started in 1976.
Section I of the Annex to the Resolution (76) 17 (of the 1976 European Ministerial Conference on the Environment, Vienna) defines a Biogenetic Reserve as protected areas enjoying legal status and characterised by one or more typical, unique, endangered or rare habitats, biocenoses or ecosystems.
Section II of the Annex stated that Biogenetic Reserves should be created with the aims of:
- To contribute in guaranteeing the biological balance and conservation of representative examples of European heritage.
- To provide field research, a veritable living laboratory for finding out how natural ecosystems function and evolve.
The council of Europe’s programme on Biogenetic Reserves is based on four resolutions:
- Resolution (76) 17 of March 15, 1976
- Resolution (79) 10 of May 1979
- Resolution (81) 8 of 26 May 1981
- Resolution (92) 20 of 18 may 1992
A Biogenetic Reserve must aim to conserve natural or near natural habitats or ecosystems whether on land, freshwater or sea. In some cases, minimum human intervention may be necessary to guarantee maintenance of such habitat or ecosystem. Biogenetic Reserves are classified on the basis of their dominant ecosystems. In fact, they frequently contain several types of ecosystems and it is the ecosystem best represented on the reserve that is the dominant ecosystem.
There is no size restriction for a reserve and its selection is primarily based on two criteria:
(1) Their value for nature conservation, reserves can be typical, unique, rare or endangered.
Typical: specimens of flora and fauna which together constitute typical aspects of a given region.
Unique: Including habitat, biocenous or ecosystem characterised by a specific feature which distinguishes it from the habitat, biocenous or ecosystems of which it is part.
Rare: orEndangered: The danger factor is of great importance, especially if the environment is a fragile one.
(2) Their statue of protection: the protection of a biogenetic reserve should be adequate to ensure conservation or management of sites in the long term in accordance with national objectives.
A total of 344 Biogenetic reserves had been established in 22 countries in Europe as of June 1997. As of that date Ireland had established 14 sites covering 6,587 hectares, all of these sites have a shared designation with Statutory Nature Reserves with only Mongon Bog not being in state ownership (An Taisce). As such they are legally protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and the 2000 Wildlife (Amendment) Act.