Processes are underway to submit an application to the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Man and Biosphere Programme (UNESCO MAB) to register the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve.
Biospheres are special landscapes, recognized by UNESCO, national and local governments, where socio-ecological land management is practised towards a more sustainable future for all. They fall under the National Department of Environmental Affairs and the Provincial Departments of Environment – in this case, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Western Cape and the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs & Tourism in the Eastern Cape.
In order to achieve the UNESCO recognition, the area (from George Municipal boundary in the west to the Van Stadens River in the east) should be mapped into core (legally protected areas such as National and Provincial Parks, Heritage sites, etc); buffer (areas surrounding core areas providing support to the core areas and allowing for low impact activities such as eco-tourism, education, etc); and transition (urban and transformed areas) areas. These identified areas must align with local planning requirements. Within each of these, the three functions of biospheres must take place: conservation of biodiversity and ecological processes; sustainable socio-economic development; research, monitoring, education, awareness, innovation.