Island of Ometepe becomes Nicaragua’s third Biosphere Reserve

On the eve of World Environment Day, Saturday June 5, 2010, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is proud to announce that the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Programme on Man and the Biosphere has designated Ometepe Island as a new Biosphere Reserve.

“Last September the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua, through its Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, officially nominated the island of Ometepe,”

Salvadora Morales, FFI’s Ometepe Programme Coordinator.

FFI has been working on the island since 2003 with the Municipal authorities, local non-government organisations and the Ministry, initially focusing on the Maderas Volcano Natural Reserve but now supporting the new integrated island-wide approach.

Formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua, linked by a low strip of wetland, Ometepe is one of the largest freshwater islands in the world.

Because of the diversity of habitats found in a comparatively small area, the island supports a dazzling array of life.

The island’s natural beauty coupled with the rich archaeological remains and a charming, laid-back lifestyle draws roughly 40,000 visitors each year. FFI is helping to develop ecotourism on the island, which if managed the right way can provide an invaluable source of support for conservation.

Biosphere Reserves are more than just protected areas for wildlife they are designated to promote a balanced relationship between people and the natural world. Operating across large landscapes – in this case, the whole island and fringing waters – Biosphere Reserves combine conservation of biodiversity and other natural values with compatible economic and human development.

As well as recognition of the importance and unique character of Ometepe at an international level, this designation will help the government and local and international partners to improve the management of the natural resources of the island and part of the surrounding lake.

The principal threats to the key habitats of the island are expansion of agriculture, hunting and capture of wildlife, uncontrolled tourism and the development of coastal properties.

The establishment of a Biosphere Reserve provides an excellent framework for addressing these threats, because it combines local participation in management of the island’s environment with clear zoning, regulations and monitoring.

Read the full press release here (PDF)