Biosphere Reserves in India: Complete List, History & More

Biosphere Reserves in India: Biosphere Reserves are areas of land or water that have been recognized by UNESCO for their exceptional biodiversity and ecological importance. Each reserve is home to a unique array of plants, animals, and natural features that contribute to its ecological diversity. These reserves are designated as protected areas by UNESCO and are managed by the respective national governments with the primary objective of conserving and sustainably developing the biodiversity within specific regions. In India, there are 18 Biosphere Reserves, with 12 of them being part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves under the Man and Biosphere Programme.

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve holds the distinction of being India’s first Biosphere Reserve, while the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat is the largest Biosphere Reserve in the country. These reserves serve as living laboratories where conservation efforts, research, and sustainable development practices are implemented to protect the rich biodiversity present within their boundaries. By promoting harmony between humans and nature, Biosphere Reserves play a crucial role in ensuring the long-term health and well-being of our planet’s ecosystems.

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Biosphere Reserves in India 2024

After the MAB-Man and Biosphere Programme was launched in 1971, UNESCO created a list of Biosphere Reserves in alignment with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). India is home to a total of 18 Biosphere Reserves. The prominent Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in India was founded in 1986, covering areas in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Following that, the Nanda Devi and Nokrek Biosphere Reserves were designated in 1988.

Nanda Devi, located in Uttarakhand in the Western Himalayas, is famous for its snow leopard and Himalayan black bear populations. In the same region, Nokrek in Meghalaya’s West Garo hills is known for its Red Panda habitat. In 1989, four more Biosphere Reserves were established: Gulf of Mannar, Sundarbans, Manas, and Great Nicobar.

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Biosphere Reserves in India

Biosphere Reserves in India Details

Article ForBiosphere Reserves in India (2024): Complete List, History & more!2024): Complete List, History & more!
Recognition byUNESCO
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About Biosphere Reserves in India

Established in 1994, the Similipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha’s Deccan Peninsula is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the majestic Gaur, Asian Elephant, and Royal Bengal Tiger. The Gulf of Mannar, stretching from Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, is renowned for its population of Dugong or Sea-Cow. The Sundarbans, situated in West Bengal near the Gangetic Delta, is famous for being the habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Nestled in Assam’s eastern Himalayan foothills, the Manas Biosphere Reserve boasts a rich variety of fauna, such as the Asiatic Elephant and Golden Langur. Lastly, Great Nicobar, the southernmost island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, is known for its thriving population of Saltwater Crocodiles. These biodiverse reserves play a crucial role in conservation efforts and offer a glimpse into India’s rich natural heritage.

Established in 1997 in the eastern Himalayan foothills of Assam, the Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve is the smallest in India, housing species like the Capped Langur and White-Winged Wood Duck. Following this, the Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve was set up in Arunachal Pradesh in 1998, known for the Mishmi Takin and Musk Deer. Subsequently, the Pachmarhi, Khangchendzonga, and Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserves were established in 1999, 2000, and 2001 respectively. Located in the Maikal hills of Madhya Pradesh, the Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its White-Rumped Vulture and Four-Horned Antelope populations.


The Great Rann of Kutch Biosphere Reserve, founded in 2008 in the desert region of Gujarat, is India’s largest biosphere reserve, famous for its Indian Wild Ass and Kharai Camel residents. In 2009, the Cold Desert Biosphere Reserve was established in the Western Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, known for its Snow Leopard population. The Seshachalam Hills Biosphere Reserve, established in Andhra Pradesh in 2010, is known for its Slender Loris population and spans an area of 4755.997 square kilometers. Also in 2010, the Panna Biosphere Reserve was set up in the Moist Deciduous Forest of Madhya Pradesh, housing species such as Sloth Bear, Sambhar Deer, Bengal Tiger, and Nilgai, covering 2998.98 square kilometers.

List of Biosphere Reserves in India

Sl. No.Name of Biosphere ReserveYearLocation (States)
1Nilgiri1986Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka
2Nanda Devi1988Uttarakhand
4Great Nicobar1989Andaman and Nicobar Islands
5Gulf of Mannar1989Tamil Nadu
7Sunderbans1989West Bengal
10Dehang-Dibang1998Arunachal Pradesh
11Pachmarhi1999Madhya Pradesh
14Achanakamar – Amarkantak2005Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
16Cold Desert2009Himachal Pradesh
17Seshachalam Hills2010Andhra Pradesh
18Panna2011Madhya Pradesh

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UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserves

YearName of Biosphere ReserveState
2000Nilgiri Biosphere ReserveTamil Nadu
2001Gulf of Mannar Biosphere ReserveTamil Nadu
2001Sundarbans Biosphere ReserveWest Bengal
2004 Nanda Devi Biosphere ReserveUttarakhand
2009Pachmarhi Biosphere ReserveMadhya Pradesh
2009 Nokrek Biosphere ReserveMeghalaya
2009Simlipal Biosphere ReserveOdisha
2012 Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere ReserveChhattisgarh
2013Great Nicobar Biosphere ReserveGreat Nicobar
2016Agasthyamala Biosphere ReserveKerala and Tamil Nadu
2018Kanchenjunga Biosphere ReserveNorth and West Sikkim districts
2020Panna Biosphere ReserveMadhya Pradesh

First Biosphere Reserve in India: Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve can be found in the Nilgiri Mountains of the Western Ghats. It stands as the biggest protected forest in India. The term “Nilgiri” originates from the Sanskrit words “Neelam” (blue) and “giri” (mountain), influenced by the Kurinji shrub (Strobilanthes kunthiana), alternatively called Neelam Kurinji, which flowers once every twelve years.

The reserve, established in 1986 by UNESCO under the Man and Biosphere Programme, spans Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. It encompasses parts of Mudumalai National Park, Mukurthi National Park, Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, Silent Valley National Park, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, and Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary, covering about 5,670 square kilometers. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is famous for its varied wildlife, such as the Nilgiri Pipit, Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Nilgiri Tahr, and Golden Jackal.

Biosphere Reserves Zone

The Biosphere Reserve is divided into three zones:

  • Core Zone
  • Buffer Zone
  • Transition Zone

Core Zone

The core zone is the main and highly safeguarded section of the reserve. Where human interference is not allow to safeguard biodiversity and uphold the natural ecosystem. Information gathered from this zone plays a crucial role in evaluating. The environmental health and longevity of practices in nearby areas. Its key purpose is to safeguard endangered species and their living spaces. Thus maintaining the ecosystem’s balance.

Buffer Zone

Encircling the core area, the buffer zone permits restricted human activities like education and research, as long as they do not disrupt the conservation objectives of the core region. Limited tourism and recreational pursuits are allow within specific boundaries. Moreover, research on fisheries, agriculture the maintenance of natural vegetation is carried out in this designate zone.

Transition Zone

Surrounding the buffer zone is the transition zone, situated on the edge of the Biosphere Reserve. Here, various activities such as agriculture, forestry, leisure, and housing are allow. With the involvement of local communities and reserve management. This area serves as a platform for scientists, residents, conservation groups. Cultural organizations to collaborate on promoting sustainable development and conservation initiatives.

Biosphere Reserves in India Key Fauna

NameKey Fauna
Nilgiri Biosphere ReserveLion-tailed Macaque (EN), Nilgiri Tahr (EN), Malabar Giant Squirrel (LC), Nilgiri Langur (VU)
Nanda DeviSnow Leopard (VU), Musk Deer (EN), Bharal or Blue Sheep (LC)
NokrekRed Panda (EN), Hoolock Gibbons (EN), Red Giant Flying Squirrel (LC)
Great NicobarDugong (VU), Saltwater Crocodile (LC)
Gulf of MannarDugong (VU), Olive Ridley Turtles (VU)
ManasAssam Roofed Turtle (EN), Hispid Hare (EN), Golden Langur (EN), Pygmy Hog (EN), Wild Water Buffalo (EN), Bengal Florican (CR)
 SunderbansRoyal Bengal Tiger (EN)
SimlipalRoyal Bengal Tiger, Wild Elephant (EN), Gaur (VU – Indian Bison), Chausingha (VU)
Dibru-SaikhowaBengal Tiger, Clouded Leopard (VU), Gangetic Dolphin (EN)
Dehang-DibangTakin (VU), Red Panda (EN)
PachmarhiTiger, Gaur, Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (LC)
KhangchendzongaRed Panda (EN), Snow Leopard (VU), Musk Deer (EN), Great Tibetan Sheep (Argali – NT)
AgasthyamalaiNilgiri Tahr (EN)
Achanakamar-AmarkantakFour-horned Antelope (Chausingha – VU), Indian Wild Dog (VU)
Great Rann of Kutch (Kachchh)Great Indian Bustard (CR), Indian Wild Ass (NT)
Cold DesertSnow Leopard (VU), Himalayan Ibex (Siberian Ibex – LC)
Seshachalam HillsRed Sanders (NT), Golden Gecko (LC – endemic to Tirumala Hills)
PannaTiger (EN), Chital (LC), Chinkara (LC), Sambar (VU)

Key to Conservation Status Abbreviations:

  • EN: Endangered
  • VU: Vulnerable
  • LC: Least Concern
  • CR: Critically Endangered
  • NT: Near Threatened


India’s Biosphere Reserves are a shining example of the country’s dedication to environmental preservation. These reserves go beyond being just protect areas. they represent thriving ecosystems. Where biodiversity flourishes harmoniously with local communities. India’s commitment to nurturing and safeguarding these reserves not only protects its rich natural heritage. But also sets the stage for a greener and more sustainable future for generations to come.

The Biosphere Reserves in India serve as living laboratories for conservation efforts, scientific research, and sustainable development practices. These designated zones aim to reconcile the conservation of biological and cultural diversity with economic and social development. By integrating nature conservation with community involvement and sustainable resource management, India showcases a holistic approach towards environmental protection.

Furthermore, India’s Biosphere Reserves play a crucial role in preserving endanger species. Conserving critical habitats mitigating climate change impacts, and supporting local livelihoods. They serve as educational centers for raising awareness. About biodiversity conservation and promoting eco-tourism initiatives that benefit both nature and society. In essence, India’s Biosphere Reserves embody a model of coexistence between humans and nature. Emphasizing the importance of ecological balance and sustainable living practices. Through these conservation efforts. India is making significant strides towards ensuring a healthier planet for current and future generations.

Biosphere Reserves in India FAQ’S

How many biosphere reserves are there in India in 2024?

India is home to 18 biosphere reserves. These include: Parts of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur, and Mudumalai; as well as Nilambur, Silent Valley, and Siruvani hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka). Portions of Chamoli, Pithoragarh, and Bageshwar districts (Uttarakhand).

Where are the 18 biosphere reserves in India?

Currently, India has 18 biosphere reserves: Nilgiri, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Great Nicobar, Gulf of Mannar, Manas, Sundarbans, Simlipal, Dibru-Saikhowa, Pachmarhi, Dehang-Dibang, Khangchendzonga, Agasthyamalai, Achanakmar-Amarkantak, Kachchh, Cold Desert, Seshachalam Hills, and Panna.

What is the history of Biosphere Reserve in India?

India has a total of 18 biosphere reserves. The first, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, was established in 1986 and spans the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Following this, the Nanda Devi and Nokrek Biosphere Reserves were established in 1988.

Who declares biosphere reserves?

Biosphere Reserves are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO, based on decisions made by the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB-ICC). Their status is internationally recognized.

Which is famous biosphere reserve?

The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve holds the distinction of being India's premier biosphere reserve, renowned for its abundant heritage of flora and fauna.

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