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Working towards a Cambridgeshire Fens Biosphere Reserve

Wetlands in the Wicken Fen Vision area (photo: Francine Hughes)

The Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) at ARU is engaged with an initiative that is working towards creating a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in the southern part of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands and the urban centres that surround it, including the City of Cambridge.

UNESCO Biosphere reserves promote solutions to reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use, such as developments which result in net positive gain for nature. The reserves are not statutory designations but rather a form of international recognition and status. They are ‘Science for Sustainability Support Sites’, that is,  special places for applying approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. UNESCO Biosphere status has been awarded to 686 places worldwide, just 6 in UK and none on the eastern side of the country.

Encouraging tourists to visit the special landscape, heritage and wildlife of the Fens will be an important aspect of the work of the Cambridgeshire Fens Biosphere, with the added value of improving the well-being of people who live there or visit. However, biosphere reserves also encourage sustainable approaches to development, enterprise and land use. In the fenland context this requires working partnerships between researchers, land managers, farmers and developers to produce new approaches to sustainable development and management of the region, conservation of soils and water and amelioration of climate change impacts. It would also allow producers in the region to benefit by using a high quality Biosphere origin label on their produce.

The main contact for the Cambridgeshire Fens Biosphere initiative in the GSI is Dr. Francine Hughes, Emeritus Reader ([email protected]).