Biosphere Reserves in India [Updated 2022]



Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, labelled by UNESCO to help protect the sites. They are ecosystems with plants and animals of scientific and natural interest. In a Biosphere Reserve, protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region but also to human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life. Biosphere Reserves plan to promote management and research which includes ‘SUSTAINABLE USE OF NATURAL RESOURCES’.

Who is responsible for giving that status?

Biosphere Reserves network is run by MAN AND THE BIOSPHERE PROGRAM which is a division of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and tries to improve and encourage conservation and sustainability around the world. Biosphere Reserves are nominated by national governments. They remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located and are internationally recognized.

Zones of Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere Reserves consist of three interrelated zones which are given below-

Core Zone-

  • This zone is the innermost undisturbed ecosystem. 
  • It is a strictly protected area or ecosystem that contributes to the landscapes, species conservation and genetic variation.

Buffer Zone-

  • It surrounds the core zone and used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices.
  • Only research and education activities are permitted to humans. These activities should not obstruct the conservation objectives of the core area. 
  • It includes restoration, limited tourism, fishing, grazing, etc; which are permitted to reduce its effect on the core zone. 
  • Human activities are less intensive in this zone as compared to the transition zone.

Transition Zone- 

  • It is the outermost zone and open to human activities that are socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable.
  • Peripheral area of a biosphere reserve
  • Zone of cooperation where human ventures and conservation are done in harmony.
  • Cropping, recreation, forestry, and human settlements are permitted.


  • There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India. Of these, 12 are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
  • First BR: Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (1986) in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka
  • Largest BR: Gulf of Kachch in Gujarat
  • Smallest BR: Dibru-Saikhowa in Assam.


Presently there exist 727 biosphere reserves spreading across 131 countries, including 21 transboundary sites. The distribution of biosphere reserves all over the world is given below-

  • 86 sites in Africa
  • 35 sites in the Arab States
  • 168 sites in in Asia and the Pacific
  • 306 sites in Europe and North America
  • 132 sites in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Important Biosphere Reserve in India 

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve 

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is included in the list of World Natural Heritage Sites. It is located in parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and  Karnataka combined. It got the designation of a  biosphere reserve by UNESCO in the year 2000. Let’s check the protected areas that come under this  biosphere reserve.

  • Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (Also Tiger Reserve)
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Bandipur National Park (Also Tiger Reserve) 
  • Nagarhole National Park (Also Tiger Reserve)
  • Mukurthi National Park
  • Silent Valley Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve – Biodiversity 

Fauna – Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri langur, Lion – tailed macaque

Rivers – Bhavani, Moyar, Kabini (tribuatries of Cauvery), Chaliyar, Punampuzha, and others

Gulf of Mannar 

The Gulf of Mannar is the first marine Biosphere Reserve in India. It is located in the state of Tamil Nadu (the Indian part of the Gulf of Mannar).  

It is the Large shallow forming part of the Laccadive Sea in the Indian Ocean with a least depth of 5.8 m (19 ft). Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park was designated as a biosphere reserve in 2001 by UNESCO. 

Simlipal Biosphere Reserve 

Simplipal Biosphere Reserve is located in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha. The biosphere reserve has the largest zone of Sal in all over India. It is a part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009. Given below are the protected areas that comes under Simplipal Biosphere Reserve. 

  • Part of the Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve
  • Similipal Tiger Reserve
  • Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary 
  • Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Fauna found here are – the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, gaur, and chausingha


India has a total of 18 biosphere reserves out of which 12 are considered UNESCO protected Biosphere Reserves. The list of Biosphere Reserves in India has been given below-

No.Name of Biosphere ReserveYear of NotificationLocation (States)
1Nilgiri1986Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
2Nanda Devi1988Uttarakhand
4Great Nicobar1989Andaman And Nicobar (A&N Islands).
5Gulf of Mannar1989Tamil Nadu
7Sunderbans1989West Bengal
10Dehang-Dibang1998Arunachal Pradesh.
11Pachmarhi1999Madhya Pradesh.
14Achanakamar –    Amarkantak2005M.P. and Chhattishgarh
16Cold Desert2009Himachal Pradesh.
17Seshachalam Hills2010Andhra Pradesh.
18Panna2011Madhya Pradesh.

List of Biosphere Reserves in India [UNESCO protected]

Panna Biosphere Reserve from India has been included in the World Biosphere Reserves under the UNESCO MAB Programme List in 2020. Panna Biosphere Reserve is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh. The decision to include it in the UNESCO list of Biosphere Reserves was taken at the International Coordination Council meeting of the UN held virtually in 2020. The UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserves list in India has been given below:

2000Nilgiri Biosphere ReserveTamil Nadu
2001Gulf of Mannar Biosphere ReserveTamil Nadu
2001Sundarbans Biosphere ReserveWest Bengal
2004Nanda Devi Biosphere ReserveUttarakhand
2009Pachmarhi Biosphere ReserveMadhya Pradesh
2009Nokrek Biosphere ReserveMeghalaya
2009Simlipal Biosphere ReserveOdisha
2012Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere ReserveChhattisgarh
2013Great Nicobar Biosphere ReserveGreat Nicobar
2016Agasthyamala Biosphere ReserveKerala and Tamil Nadu
2018Kanchenjunga Biosphere ReservePart of North and West Sikkim districts
2020Panna Biosphere ReserveMadhya Pradesh

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