A biosphere is an internationally recognized area by United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that shows the balance between humans and the area biosphere. The Southwest biosphere covers an area from the Queens/Lunenburg County border, down around Yarmouth and back up to the Annapolis/Kings County border.
Biosphere’s always have a core, buffer zone and transition area. In the Southwest Biosphere’s case, the core is in the Mersey Tobeatic Wilderness area and Kejimkujik National Park.
“The Tobeatic is such a raw wilderness area, and we have so many species at risk, it is so unique,” says Kamperman.
The buffer zone is the area around the core that is mostly wilderness, and the transition area is where most people live and make their living. It is finding the balance between all three that helps make Southwest Nova Scotia a biosphere.
The biosphere was designated in 2001, and celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. The designation isn’t just a one time thing however. A biosphere is about promoting sustainability.
Ever 10 years the biosphere goes under review by the UNESCO panel, where reviewers spend a few days in the reserve speaking with residents and hiking into the wilderness. The report was submitted in September, where it will be reviewed and recommendations will be made on ways they can improve.
“How we are maintaining the balance, and what we can do to improve,” says Kamperman.
There are 580 biospheres in the world in 114 countries. Sixteen can be found in Canada, with two in Nova Scotia. The newest one was the Bras d’Or lake area, designated in 2011. Southwest Nova Scotia is the largest one in Canada.
Kamperman says many people living in the biosphere don’t even know they are a part of it. She’s hoping with to get the word out further, starting with the new signage going up on Highway 103 at the Queens County border. Now she is looking to get signage at the Annapolis border and the entrance at the Digby Ferry.
Perhaps more important than signage however is the stories that happen within the biosphere.
“The biosphere is the story, not the association,” says Kamperman.
Through there website the Biosphere Association has published newsletters about what is going on within its borders. The winter newsletter for example highlights the Wippletree Farm in Annapolis County. The farm’s owners offer a Community Supported Agriculture program, where members of the community invest in the farm up front for a share of the harvest.
Kamperman says she is looking for people and organizations that are already demonstrating this in the biosphere, and get their stories out to Nova Scotians. The newsletter has already met with positive response from within and outside the biosphere.
Since the Southwest Biosphere is so large, Kamperman says they look for other ways to get the word out beyond travelling around the area. Technology has played an important role in this goal, using teleconferencing, doing presentations over Skype, making videos available online, and using the web as much as possible.
For the future, Kamperman says they are working with Tourism Nova Scotia on creating ecotourism in the area. There is also a growing interest from organizations and businesses to be associated with the UNESCO designation in some way. Planning is in the early stages for both ideas, however Kamperman says it will create some unique opportunities for people within and outside the biosphere.
The organization gets their funding from Environment Canada, of around $57,000 a year. Most of those funds go into staffing and education material. Anything left over at the end of the fiscal year is returned. The current round of funding runs out in March of 2013, and Kamperman says they aren’t sure if it will be extended after that. She says it makes planning for the future a challenge, but they hope to convince the federal government biospheres are worth continued funding.
“We think it’s just as important as World Heritage Sites.”
The biosphere’s website can be found at www.swnovabiosphere.ca