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Biosphere Reserve

Designation by UNESCO of the Migliarino, San Rossore, Massaciuccoli Park as Biosphere Reserve

UNESCO has recently established a new Biosphere Reserve called "Selva Pisana". The territory involved is the one of Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli Park and of the towns of Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia. The initiative, promoted by Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli Park Authority, was conducted with the fundamental contribution of the agri-environmental Research Centre "Enrico Avanzi" of the University of Pisa, which manages the Estate of Tombolo, inside the Park (and the neo Reserve).

The Biosphere Reserves (459 reserves in 97 countries, including 8 in Italy) are established by UNESCO within the MAB programme (Man and Biosphere), created in 1968 in order to reconcile environment and development, that is what afterwards has been called "sustainable development".

The Reserves are defined as "areas of marine and/or land ecosystems which are internationally recognized within the UNESCO MAB programme. The Biosphere Reserves are established to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humanity and the biosphere". The inspiring criteria of the Network are, therefore, the conservation of biological diversity and the preservation of the cultural values that it represents. The Reserves are preferred locations for research, training and environmental education, and with a full involvement of local communities, conservation and sustainable use of resources. Moreover, they also serve as demonstration sites and areas of action within the framework of regional development policies and town-and-country planning; the World Network of Biosphere Reserves thus contributes to the implementation of the targets set out in the various international Conferences on biodiversity (eg conf. Rio Agenda 21).

The Reserve "Selva Pisana" is structured, as all the Biosphere Reserves, through a zoning (picture on the side), defined as follow:

  • Central zones ("CORE AREAS"), in which the main target is the conservation of ecosystems and only scientific research is forecast: in our case it regards all the natural Reserves established by the Park Authority (about2000 hectares);
  • Buffer zones ("BUFFER AREAS"), strengthen the protective action of the nearby central areas. Here, methods of management of the resources respecting natural processes are tested, scientific and experimental research, environmental education and sustainable tourism are promoted. In our case, the buffer zones are all the natural and semi-natural zones of the Park: wooded areas, the lake and water bodies, moist zones and marshes, sandy shores and dunes, for about 10.000 hectares;
  • External transition zones ("TRANSITION AREAS"), where economic activities are carried out to improve the well-being of local communities. Therefore, there are housing and industrial settlements, agricultural and industrial activities. The development and management of natural resources must be anyway respectful of the environment. In our case the transition areas are the villages of Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia, the agricultural and industrial zones, the touristic settlements and a marine strip up to 6 metres deep, covering an area of more than 10.000 hectares. These transition zones are susceptible, in the future, to extend in the outer zones, for a greater involvement of the economic actors in sustainable development processes of the area.


  • greater prestige and visibility of the place on a National and International scale, which also means greater recognition and promotion of sustainable forms of development of the area (eg tourism);
  • increased visibility and a stronger role of the Park in the sustainable development of the territory, not just the one of the Reserve, but also that of all the wide surrounding area;
  • the inclusion in a worldwide network of Biosphere Reserves implies information exchange and cooperation among different Reserves regarding management experiences, research, testing, monitoring, environmental education, training;
  • greater involvement in the management among the different economic operators of/in the area for a responsible management by the local communities;
  • supervision, also through the promotion of initiatives by UNESCO (which checks every ten years if the award can be renewed and, thus, if the goals and the recommendations set out are met).

The biosphere reserve is therefore a unique tool that can justify the choices on environmental sustainability, also toward activities with a higher environmental impact.

It is important to underline that the management remains anyway to those who already manage it and the constraints are already covered under existing laws (protected areas, hydrogeological landscape, etc.), exercised by the competent authorities.

Then: no more constraints, but more opportunities.

And here is what the UNESCO-MAB Committee says about the neo designated reserve:

«The Biosphere Reserve Selva Pisana, a coastal area in eastern Italy, connects the Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli Regional Park with the processes of urban planning and socio-economic development of the city of Pisa. Peculiarities of the site are the sustainable agriculture, the forestry, and the tourism together with the conservation of the ecosystem».

For further information visit the web site www.unesco.org.


Biosphere reserve cartography
(foto di PR Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli)