UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Designation

Désignation des réserves de biosphère de l’UNESCO

Updates on the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve


Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve Annual Report

The Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association (CBRA) represents the Canadian Biosphere Reserves on national and international entities such as the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the International Coordination Council of MAB and the Steering Committee of EuroMAB.  As a member of CBRA, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve produces an annual report describing main activities and projects undertaken to uphold the core functions (conservation, sustainable development, science and education, and climate change) of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

For the latest annual report of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, click the link below:

2015-2016 NEBR Annual Report


UNESCO 10-Year Review of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve

Click to view the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve Self StudyUpdate: UNESCO requires that each biosphere undertake a review every ten years to determine if the area continues to be successful in meeting the criteria for inclusion in the world network and to update background information related to the biosphere reserve.

In 2012, a Self Study Report was prepared by the Niagara Escarpment Commission in collaboration with partners and stakeholders to evaluate how the objectives and values of the biosphere program are being applied. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO appointed independent reviewers to verify the Self Study Report.

In February 2016, the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves (Advisory Committee) concluded that the NEBR meets the criteria of the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. As such, the Advisory Committee acknowledged and thanked the NEBR for progress made to promote the sustainable development function of the biosphere reserve, the NEBR’s efforts to develop a more social, collaborative network, and the active participation of the NEBR in the EuroMAB network.

Download a copy of the letter acknowledging that the NEBR maintains its designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve:

To download a copy of the 2012 Periodic Review of the NEBR, click the link below:

2012 Self Study Report

Below: highlights of the site tour of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve with staff of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Parks Canada, and Dufferin Aggregates.

Ball's Falls group Parks Canada group

 Dufferin Quarry groupQuarry tour


The biosphere is all of the land, water and atmosphere that support life.

A biosphere reserve is an international designation of recognition from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) for an area in the world which is deemed to demonstrate a "balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere." By this is meant that collaborative efforts among people in the designated area serve to promote the sustainability of local economies and communities, as well as the conservation of the terrestrial/or coastal ecosystems they are in.

A biosphere reserve designation gives an area international recognition for the important ecological and cultural values in an area. It also provides a mechanism, based on local commitment and local ability, to apply sound stewardship (and protection, where necessary) to the use of resources in an area to support present and future generations.  

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named Ontario's Escarpment a biosphere reserve in February, 1990. Ontario's Niagara Escarpment is one of only 16 biosphere reserves in Canada, and is part of a network of 610 reserves in 117 countries.  

The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve conserves the Province of Ontario's natural and social capital by protecting prime agricultural lands, forests, water, wetlands, heritage properties and recreational spaces.  

At the designation ceremony for the Niagara Escarpment biosphere reserve, Dr. Federico Mayor, then UNESCO Secretary, stated, "the protection of this complex landscape within a rapidly urbanizing  region is a tremendous feat of coordination requiring leadership, hard work, imagination, tenacity and a good dose of human psychology.”

The UNESCO designation recognizes the Niagara Escarpment as an internationally significant ecosystem for its special environment and unique environmental plan. The designation puts Ontario's Niagara Escarpment in the company of other well-known biosphere reserves such as the Galapagos Islands, Africa's Serengeti and the Florida Everglades.

Biosphere reserves strive to conserve the diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms which make up our living "biosphere" and maintain healthy natural systems while, at the same time, meeting the material needs and aspirations of an increasing number of people.  

Biosphere reserves have been designed as tools for reconciling and integrating the conflicting interests and pressures that characterize land use planning today.  

The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve (NEBR) has been planned to reconcile conservation of natural resources with their sustainable use by permitting various land uses through the administration of the provincially adopted Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP). The NEP strives to attain a balanced relationship between the basic needs of society and the natural world to ensure a sustainable future.

To fulfill our mandate as a biosphere reserve, the NEC facilitates the Leading Edge Conference series, a biennial educational conference on biosphere research, sustainable planning and healthy communities, and studies the ecological health of the Escarpment through the Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment Monitoring Program.

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