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Ometepe island is now a Biosphere Reserve | Jun 4, 2010

Róger Solórzano

Ometepe island, located in Lake Nicaragua, has been declared a Biosphere Reserve in the city of Paris, France, during the last meeting of the International Coordinating Council of Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) of UNESCO, which concluded on Friday, June 4.

The candidacy of Ometepe was presented by Nicaragua, with documents that where gathered by governmental and civil organizations related to the subject. On Wednesday, June 2, UNESCO had approved by unanimity the declaration of the island as a Biosphere Reserve, along with 12 other natural sites in 14 other countries of the world.

With this declaration, Nicaragua now has three internationally certified biosphere reserves. The other two are the Bosawas Reserve (North Nicaragua) and the San Juan River (mainly in the Indio-Maiz reserve), Southeast Nicaragua.

According to an official document by UNESCO, "The biosphere reserves are designated areas (...) to serve as pilot sites for different methods to integrate biological diversity conservation and management of land, freshwater and marine resources."

Ometepe island has always had a great potential to win this designation, due to important characteristics such as its location in Lake Nicaragua, variety of ecosystems, three types of forests, conserved coastal zones, unique endemic species and an area for migratory birds. In addition, its community also maintains sustainable economical activities such as growing organic crops and promoting ecoturism.

This nomination will allow a higher commitment of the authorities, as well as from national and local economical actors, so that the conservation of the natural state of the island is guaranteed through sustainable activities of its inhabitants and visitors. Nowadays, according to the local media, there will be a request to the National Assembly (parliament) in order to legally declare the island as a biosphere reserve.

In addition to the international connotation that brings UNESCO´s declaration, it will also be possible to obtain extra resources for the protection of the island, since this international organization receives funds from various philanthropic organizations worldwide.

Ometepe was declared a Biosphere Reserve during the 22nd meeting of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). Nowadays, the global network of Biosphere Reserves of the MAB has 564 sites in 109 different countries.