The MAB programme is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments. It combines the natural and social sciences with a view to improving human livelihoods and safeguarding natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts 714 sites in 129 countries all over the world, including 21 transboundary sites, and carries such functions:
- conservation and protection of genetic resources, species of ecosystems and landscapes;
- active promotion of sustainable development on the basis of appropriate scientific and logistical support;
- support of educational and training projects, conducting research and monitoring at the local, regional, national, and international levels.
The Ukraine’s National Network of Biosphere Reserves consists of eight sites, including four transboundary sites:
Chornomorskyi (Ukrainian for ‘Black Sea’) Biosphere Reserve is situated on the northern coast of the Black Sea about 45 km south-west of the city of Kherson. It represents shallow coastal, estuarine and inland wetlands as well as marshes, shallow coastal bays, dune systems, halophytic seaside steppe and forest-steppe, which was once common in this region. The Black Sea Biosphere Reserve is the largest in reserve Ukraine, with its area of 109,956.8 ha, and the largest marine reserve in Eastern Europe, with the marine water area of 9,435.8 ha. The reserve represents the coastal areas of the Black Sea and the dry southern European steppe (1984).
Askaniya-Nova Biosphere Reserve is a representative of the Black Sea southern-steppe biogeographic province, situated 60 km south-east of the town of Kakhovka close to the Black Sea. Its area is 33,307.6 ha, of which 11,054 ha is an absolutely protected steppe zone. Askaniya-Nova Biosphere Reserve conserves the only part of the fescue-feathergrass steppe in Europe, the vegetation of which is dominated by sod (1985).
Situated in the Eastern Carpathians, the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve comprises foothill oak-groves, mountain beech, mixed and spruce forests, pine-alder alpine elfin woodland, subalpine and alpine meadows, upland rocky-lichen landscapes. The largest massif of virgin beech forests in Europe (Uholsko-Shyrokoluzhanskyi massif) is protected in the biosphere reserve, as well as the Valley of Narcissi. Its area of 58,025 ha belongs to the mountain system of Central Europe (1993).
Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is a labyrinth of water and land shared between Romania and Ukraine. It is made up of countless lakes, channels and islands at the end of a 2,860 km-long river. The Danube Delta is the largest European wetland and reed bed, and also constitutes Europe’s largest water purification system. The area is particularly well known for its abundance of birdlife, with the presence of 312 important bird species, many of which use the Delta as an important stopover and breeding area. About 90 fish species are present including populations of sturgeon (Acipenser). The Delta is also one of the last refuges of the European mink (Mustela lutreola), the wildcat (Felis silvestris), the freshwater otter (Lutra lutra) and the globally threatened monk seal (Monachus monachus). The Danube Delta is home to a rich mix of Bulgarian, Gagauz, Lipovan, Moldavan, Russian, Turkish and Ukrainian people, scattered around the delta in small villages. The main economic activities in the biosphere reserve are fishing, hunting, reed harvesting, livestock raising and subsistence agriculture, as well as tourism. The total area of the Danube Biosphere Reserve a 623 000 ha (1998).
East Carpathians Biosphere Reserve is a transboundary mountain reserve located in Central Europe that encompasses areas of significant value for biodiversity conservation. It covers the western edge of the Eastern Carpathians stretching across Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. The European mountain areas of the reserve are among the few to possess well-preserved native flora and fauna. In particular, the mixed Carpathian forest provides suitable conditions for large mammals such as the European bison (Bison bonasus). The density of the different areas ranges from vast wild spaces on the Polish side to relatively densely populated areas in the Ukrainian part with cultivated valleys, hay meadows, pastures and deciduous forest. Forestry remains the main local economic activity. The total area is 208,100 ha (1999).
West Polissia Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Belarus, Poland, Ukraine), located in the Central European Biogeographical Region, is characterized by boreal coniferous forests and temperate zone deciduous forest. West Polesie plays a critical role at the juncture of biogeographic regions, migrational pathways, and cultural landscapes. The West Polesie biosphere reserve is also characterized by a great number of lakes (several dozen in Belarus, 62 in Poland and 28 in Ukraine) marshes, meadows, swamp and lake complexes with peculiar flora and fauna, including a number of rare and endangered species from the Red Books of Belarus, Poland and Ukraine and international Red Lists. Its total area is 263,000 ha and includes "Shatsk Biosphere Reserve " in Ukraine, "Prybuloske Polysky" in Belarus and "Western Polissya" in Poland (2012).
Desnianskyi Biosphere Reserve located in middle stream of the Desna River (one of the biggest branches of the Dnipro River) in the Eastern Polissia Region and presents the basic landscape types of the east of the Polesie Lowland: rivers, lakes, floodplains, bogs, transition mires, fens, real, peaty and swampy grasslands, pine, broad-leaf and mixed forests, including floodplains. Its area is 70,748 ha (2009).
Roztocze Transboundary Biosphere Reserve is located in the Roztocze region in Poland and Ukraine which is a natural and cultural borderland located near the European Union border. It is also located in the immediate vicinity of Lviv (Ukraine) and Zamość (Poland), cities that are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Roztocze is a region with potential for dynamic development because of its scenic location and great natural and cultural heritage. The Ukrainian part, called Roztochya, was designated a biosphere reserve in 2011. The Polish part was designated in 2019. Roztocze Biosphere Reserve has an area of 74,828 ha and represents typical for Roztocze forests, meadows and swamp ecosystems.
Since 2019 Ukraine has been a member the International Coordinating Council of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme and is represented in the Council by Pavlo Cherinko, Head of the Sector of Environmental Problems of the Scientific and Organizational Department of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.