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Biosphere Reserve

Author Tony Whitbread

adonis blue / Neil Hulme
adonis blue

The Biosphere is the world in which we live and share with other living things - the zone of life around our planet – for which UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is developing a global network of Biosphere Reserves which promote a balanced relationship between people and nature. These are real world-class natural environments.

The Brighton & Hove and Lewes Downs Biosphere Project is a new partnership which aims to gain international recognition from the United Nations for the special nature of the local environment in and around Brighton and Hove.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust is glad to support the project. The aim is to become a “site of excellence” and part of UNESCO’s family. Currently there are 580 sites spanning 114 countries including areas as diverse as the Amazon rainforest, Canary Islands, to the city surrounds of Paris, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro. In the UK there are seven Biosphere Reserves, including projects at North Devon and on the North Norfolk Coast.

By gaining international recognition the Biosphere bid hopes to enable the partnership to attract funding to improve our environment and to join up current work and activities. The international accreditation will also help with tourism (economy), education and research as well as the more obvious health and environmental benefits.

The vision of the Biosphere project is to develop a unified approach to better care for, manage and enjoy our local environment. This includes the city itself, surrounding countryside of the South Downs and the sea, so we can help to bring people and nature closer together. At present the only large conurbation within the project area is Brighton & Hove, but the bid is equally relevant to surrounding towns and villages such as Steyning, Upper Beeding, Shoreham-by-Sea, Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven, East Saltdean, Ditchling, Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint etc.

It is about increasing understanding about how our lives, whether rural or urban, are hugely dependent on the quality of natural environment. For example, most of the area’s water supply comes from the chalk aquifer, the quality of which is dependent, in part, on how the Downs are farmed and the quality of the biodiversity on the Downs. The Downs also provides food, including South Downs Lamb, cereals and other crops. The sea provides locally sourced fish. Both land and sea are also important for recreational opportunities, but the potential is again related to the quality of that resource. For example, clean seas and beaches attract visitors, surfers and other recreational users, helping boost the local economy.


  • Robin Milner-Gulland:

    19 May 2012 19:28:45

    Fine idea, but why Adur to Ouse? Arun to Ouse would get in the Chanctonbury ridge (SSSI); to Cuckmere..? why not??

  • 21 May 2012 10:04:22

    Good point. We did in fact spend a long time discussing the boundary and I suppose the “you have to draw a line somewhere” point comes into it. Adur to Ouse is logical as it links with the nearest internationally important sites, the water protection zone serving Brighton and the local area for local access – but your point does still remain. There are, however, other initiatives in the area that this dove-tails with, in particular the National Park’s Nature Improvement Area (NIA). This actually has similar objectives and there is a great deal of joining up between the Biosphere and the NIA so, by working together these two projects will cover a much larger area to promote these ecosystem service principles.

    Tony Whitbread

  • Jen Stephens:

    10 Jul 2013 17:55:02

    Good idea but why not across the unspoilt coastal zone of the southeast from the Arun to Dungeness peninsula which is under threat of Airport expansion. The whole area contains unique habitats and the shingle banks are fast disappearing to developers and roads, can someone explain why the Brighton/Hove and Lewes area?

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