What is a Biosphere Reserve?
The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program was launched by UNESCO in the early 1970s. It combines natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and safeguard natural ecosystems and promotes innovative approaches to economic development that is socially, culturally and environmentally sustainable. MAB has national committees in all its member states. KKL-JNF has three representatives that are members of the Israel MAB committee.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) is MAB’s tool for implementing its work. The network now has 580 biosphere reserves in 114 countries, of which two are in Israel. Biosphere reserves, established by individual countries and recognized by MAB, aim to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. Unlike traditional nature reserves, biosphere reserves have a special zonation scheme that combines protected core areas with buffer and transition zones. This scheme fosters sustainable development by local inhabitants, resolution of conflicts between people and their environment and involves multiple stakeholders in management.
According to this scheme each biosphere reserve should include:
- One or more core area(s): The core area must be protected securely by law and is usually an entity such as a nature reserve or national park. Core areas are intended to conserve biodiversity and preserve undisturbed ecosystems, thus contributing to a variety of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, soil stabilization, supply of clean water and air and the like. Although core areas usually do not include human habitations they can be used for research, environmental education, ecotourism and other activities that do not have a deleterious effect on the ecosystem.
- Buffer zones: Buffer zones surround or adjoin core areas, and their major function is to serve as a “buffer” for core areas. These zones are usually inhabited and can be used for various environmentally-friendly activities such as traditional farming, tourism, recreation and preserving anthropogenic, biological and cultural diversity. They can also have a connectivity function by connecting biodiversity components within core areas to those in transition areas.
- Transition area: An area with a central function in sustainable development which may contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements and other uses and in which local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area's resources.
Biosphere reserves share their experience and ideas nationally, regionally and internationally within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).
Ramot Menashe Park
On July 1, 2011, the Ramot Menashe Biosphere Reserve joined UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves and became the second officially recognized biosphere reserve in Israel.
Ramot Menashe, the Menashe Plateau, is situated south of Mt. Carmel, and is one of the most beautiful regions in Israel. The area is a unique combination of natural Tabor oak woodlands and planted conifer forests, open spaces, fields and orchards, springs and streams. The gentle slopes and rural character of the region create a pastoral, tranquil atmosphere. The region has a wealth of historic and archaeological remains from prehistoric times through the Ottoman Period, as well as extensive heritage related to the settlement and establishment of the modern State of Israel.
Photo: Eyal Bartuv, KKL-JNF Jerusalem
The region was once inhabited by the biblical tribe of Menashe, and hence its name, as mentioned in the Book of Joshua: “And Joshua spoke unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying: ‘Thou art a great people, and hast great power; thou shalt not have one lot only; but the hill-country shall be thine …’” (Joshua 17, 17-18).
KKL-JNF purchased the land that has been used for housing and farming by many of the communities in the Ramot Menashe region: Dalia, Ramot Menashe, Ramat HaShofet, Mishmar HaEmek, Gal’ed, HaZorea, Yokne’am and Jo’ara (which was a Palmah base during Israel’s War of Independence). Land unsuitable for settlement was planted and is used for outdoor recreation and leisure, sports and regional community activity. The area that makes up the Ramot Menashe Park has many natural values, attracting scores of visitors to its streams, particularly during the spring flowering season.
The official UNESCO documents describe the reserve as follows:
“The biosphere reserve encompasses a mosaic of ecological systems that represent the Mediterranean Basin's version of the global ‘evergreen sclerophyllous forests, woodlands and scrub’ ecosystem types. This 17,000 ha site is managed by the Megiddo Regional Council, and was established after an intense, innovative bottom up process, which involved 13 agricultural settlements and 10,000 inhabitants. It comprises the Megiddo World Heritage Site and has ongoing cooperation with the adjacent Mount Carmel Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere reserve functions as a pilot site for sustainable development practices which could be adopted by other dryland biosphere reserves. Several sustainable development practices in this rural area are in place such as drip irrigation with mostly recycled treated wastewater collected from the biosphere reserve's rural settlements, and maintenance of the integrity of the ‘batha’ ecosystems while generating sustainable income derived from a pastoral livelihood.”
KKL-JNF and the Ramot Menashe Biosphere Reserve
KKL-JNF has been involved in developing the Ramot Menashe Biosphere Reserve from its very beginning. The biosphere reserve includes KKL-JNF’s Ramot Menashe Park (21,000 acres, 8400 ha), which has been managed according to sustainable principles even before the reserve was officially recognized, as well as several KKL-JNF forests (Mishmar HaEmek, En HaShofet, HaZorea, Dalia, Gal’ed, Megiddo and Oz). The park is now part of the buffer areas of the newly declared biosphere reserve.
KKL-JNF forests in the region are also part of the buffer area, fulfilling their role by providing a venue for recreation that serves the public visiting the core areas in the reserve and protecting the sensitive core area from the more intensive human activity characteristic of the settled transition areas. Moreover, KKL-JNF’s policy of developing attractions suited to the requirements of people with special needs and enhancing accessibility, is in line with social sustainable development.
Photo: Eyal Bartuv, KKL-JNF Jerusalem
Over the years our friends worldwide have donated generously to the development of projects within what is today a biosphere reserve. These projects enhance tourism and recreation, one of the mainstays of the economy in biosphere reserves, and include recreation and picnic areas, bicycle trails, seating corners, scenic lookouts, entrance development, developing and preserving the Nahal HaShofet banks, and improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
KKL-JNF Projects in the Ramot Menashe Biosphere Reserve (Existing and Planned)
– stage 1 – an accessible promenade between the town and the forest, with recreational installations for family leisure along the way. The project will include rehabilitation and restoration of neglected sites on the forest edge.
- Senin River Bicycle Trail – a 15-kilometer route connecting the town of Upper Yokne'am to the KKL-JNF Ramot Menashe Biosphere Park along Senin River. The trail crosses a variety of landscapes, flower concentrations, heritage, archaeological and recreation sites in the forest and was contributed by JNF Switzerland.
- A wheelchair-accessible trail was developed in HaShofet River that allows everyone to enjoy the sight of flowing water from observation terraces and wooden footbridges. The project was donated by JNF USA.
- A variety of recreation and picnic areas have been developed in the HaZorea (USA and Israel) and Gal’ed (Israel) forests and along Gahar River (Australia).
- Emek HaShalom projects: Chain-bucket well restoration, an educational project contributed by JNF USA; Constructed wetland for wastewater purification; Educational botanical trail.
- The bicycle trail around Gahar River – one of the major routes in the park, was donated by KKL Israel.
- The Ochberg Scenic Lookout – in memory of Isaac Ochberg who redeemed lands in the area and saved orphans in the Holocaust; the site overlooks cultivated fields, forests and communities in the biosphere reserve.
- Bicycle and Walking Trail – a new trail being developed with the Megiddo Regional Council, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy a trek, on bicycle or on foot, through the varied natural and agricultural scenery and meet people from diverse communities. The trail will include a number of leisure and activity sites.
- Mishmar River Bicycle Trail – crosses forested areas and passes along scenic lookouts, donated by KKL Israel.
- A site for youth activity at the central memorial for kibbutz members who fell in the defense of the country, donated by KKL Israel; the site overlooks the Yizre’el Valley.
- Bet Ras Scenic Lookout – wheelchair-accessible and providing a panoramic view of the park and the valley below; will be developed on a hill with archaeological remains.
- The Main Park Road – 27 kilometers long, crossing diverse landscape units in the park: forests and streams, open areas and cultivated fields.
- Cyclamen Hill Trail – a 1.8-km long trail developed to protect this beautiful concentration of flowers. At the bottom of the hill there will be a plaza with benches and explanatory signs and an accessible photography point about 100 meters away.
- Cyclamen Hill Picnic Area – developed near the park’s Cyclamen Hill, which blooms in beautiful shades of pink in winter, attracting thousands of visitors annually. Donated by KKL Israel.