National Parks and Biosphere Reserves

National Park - Definition

Natural area of land and/or sea, designated to (a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations, (b) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area and (c) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreationa land visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.“

Protected Area Management
Categories (IUCN 1994)



Strict Nature Reserve

Wilderness Area


National Park





Natural Monument

Habitat / Species Management Area

Protected Landscape / Seascape

Managed Resource Protected Area

(Defining Protected Area Management Categories, published in

National Park is the oldest and in the view of many people
the highest categorie of nature protection.


Biosphärenreservat - Definition

„Biosphärenreservate (‘biosphere reserves’) are areas designated on a legally binding basis as areas to be protected and developed on a uniform basis, that meet the following criteria:

  1. The area concerned is of major size and shows the characteristic features of specific landscape types,
  2. the criteria defined for Naturschutzgebiete (‘nature conservation areas’) are met in essential parts of the area concerned, and the greater part of the remaining area meets the criteria defined for Landschaftsschutzgebiete (‘landscape protection areas’),
  3. the area serves the primary purpose of preserving, developing or restoring landscape shaped by traditional, diverse forms of use, along with its historically evolved diversity of species and biotopes, including wild forms and formerly cultivated forms of commercially used or usable animal and plant species, and
  4. the area concerned serves as a model for the development, practical application and testing of particularly sustainable cultivation and management methods, taking account of vulnerable natural resources.

(Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG), Article 25 Biosphärenreservate (‘biosphere reserves’), translation in

Seville Strategy 1995

Category "Biosphere reserves was established in the 1970ies. In the ”Man and Biosphere”-Programme (MAB) of UNESCO (1970) biosphere reserves were integrated in the project sector 8 protection of natural areas and genetic ressources. The Accordingly the first biosphere reserves were smaller and oriented to research activities. 
The development process of biosphere reserve got different impacts in particular by discussion of sustainablility (Conference in Rio de Janeiro 1992). A milestone in this process was the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves in 1995 (UNESCO 1996, S. 10/11). Biosphere Reserves which are established before this Seville Strategy (and not according to this criteria) are identified as socalled „old“ Biosphere reserves.

Functions (UNESCO 1996)

According to Seville Strategy Biosphere reserves have three functions: 

  • „conservation - contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and gentic variation;
  • development foster economic and human deveopment which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable;
  • logistic support - support for demonstration projects, environmental education and training, research and monitoring related to local, regional, national and global issues of conservation and sustainable development.“

(The Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, p. 16, published in

In Germany and Austria National Criteria for Biosphre reserves are formulate, see. and

Biosphere Reserve is not a second class protection area,
but a quite different qualitative categorie
of a protected and development area,
in which development always means sustainable development.


Comparison National Park and Biosphere Reserve

National Parks (IUCN)

 Biosphere Reserves (UNESCO)

Protection of near-natural landscapes,
low man-made impact, ecological balance
(no economic utilisation, process with its own), protection of process                        
Preservation of near-natural and historical 
cultural landscapes,
protection, preservation and deveopment of ecosystems with participation of locals
(models of sustainable land use)

”Natur Natur sein lassen”

”Schutz durch Nutzung”

Basic conflict through education and recreation   
--> minimizing of conflikt

Consensus with different user groups
--> avoiding of conflict

Large area, settlements mostly not included
Large area, villages and little towns are integrated
Zones with different protection status
(high percentage of core area and nature reserve)
Zones with different protection status (inner
zones nature reserve, outer zones partly protected landscape)
Usually National Park Management Partly Biosphere Reseve Mangement
Ecosystem researchResearch of Man-Environment-Relationship

Source: Own compilation

Last update 6.4.2009