The United Nation’s cultural body UNESCO has added 20 new sites to its network of protected biosphere nature reserves, including two in Canada and two in Portugal.
The status was conferred during a two-day meeting in Lima that ended Saturday, which brought the total number of biosphere reserves to 669 across 120 countries. In Canada, the Tsa Tue area in the country’s Northwest Territories that includes the last pristine arctic lake was added to the list, as was the Beaver Hills region of Alberta, which has a landscape formed by a retreating glacier.
Britain’s Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea in a biologically diverse marine environment, and Mexico’s Isla Cozumel were also selected for the network. And in Portugal, the entire Island of Sao Jorge, the fourth largest in the Azores Archipelago, was designated a reserve in addition to the Tajo River region between Portugal and Spain.
The list of new UNESCO biosphere reserves also includes sites in Algeria, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines and Tanzania. Of the hundreds of locations on the list, 16 are sites that stretch across more than one country. Spain is the country with the largest number of registered reserves. During the meeting, nine extensions to existing biosphere reserves were also approved.
Meanwhile, the Australian government ended its push to log World Heritage-listed forests on the southern island state of Tasmania on Sunday, after the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO issued a report calling for the area to remain protected from logging. Australia’s government in 2014 sought unsuccessfully to have parts of the Tasmanian wilderness, some one million hectares (2.47 million acres) or a fifth of the island, removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage listing to enable logging.
A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation report issued on Saturday said the whole area “should be off-limits to commercial logging in its entirety” and that it “does not consider a World Heritage property recognised for its outstanding cultural and natural values the place to experiment with commercial logging of any kind”.
On Sunday both Australia’s national and Tasmanian state governments adhered to the UNESCO request. “We accept the recommendation that special species timber harvesting should not be allowed anywhere in the world heritage area,” Tasmania’s environment minister Matthew Groom said in a joint statement with national environment minister Greg Hunt.
The statement said no commercial forestry will be permitted in the World Heritage-listed area. The Tasmanian forest, added to the World Heritage list in 1982, “constitutes one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world”, according to UNESCO. Conservation groups welcomed the UNESCO report and government commitment not to log the Tasmanian wilderness.