The two sites were added at a the 21st session of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme on the island of Jeju, in the Republic of Korea. In total, 22 sites from 17 countries were added to the WNBR, bringing the total to 553 sites around the world.
The Swabian Alb, just 50 kilometres southeast of Stuttgart, boasts an 84,500-hectare mix of forest, grassland and meadows. With 150,000 inhabitants, the area is dedicated to sustainable development, cottage industries and ecotourism, according to a UNESCO press release.
The site is also home to the Münsingen Military Training Area in the Hilly Alb, which was closed to the public for 110 years and just reopened in 2005, preserving the 18th and 19th century cultural landscape.
“The acknowledgement of the Swabian Alb as a UNESCO biosphere reserve means a challenge for the country as well as the communities involved,” said Peter Hauk, agricultural minister for Baden-Württemberg. “The efforts of all those parts of the project were worthwhile and now we have to use the possibilities this brings to the area.”
Germany's other addition to the list is Saarland's Biosphere Bliesgau, which combines the densely populated town of St. Ingbert and its more rural neighbouring communities in the south. The biosphere is also home to a butterfly reserve. Championed as a model for sustainable development, the addition of this site to the WNBR created a special biosphere association.
“The criteria set up by UNESCO and the German MAB committee has raised the bar,” said Hauk via press release on his website. “We are nevertheless on a good path.”
WNBR sites are re-evaluated every 10 years by the German MAB committee to make sure they still meet UNESCO standards of preservation and development.
There are now 15 WNBR-listed sites in Germany.