Posted 7 July 2014 by Andrew Gardner
Part of the South Downs National Park has just achieved Unesco-recognised biosphere status. A section between the rivers Adur and Ouse - essentially a 400 sq km area around Brighton, Hove and Lewes - is now officially on a par with regions like the Amazon and Mount Olympus. Wow! More prosaically but closer to home, other English biosphere reserves include the North Norfolk coast and Braunton Burrows in Devon. What it really means is that the area is recognised as an outstanding natural landscape with diverse habitats.
Crucially, the new Sussex biosphere includes the differing environments of towns, downs and coast. The idea is that people have to work together to preserve them - the three main aims of biospheres being, according to Natural England, to conserve landscapes, ecosystems and species; to foster economic and human development; and to support research, information exchange and education. In other words, it's about learning to balance the needs of people and nature in a beautiful and ecologically-important setting.
This adds to the recently-announced Beachy Head West marine conservation zone, part of which - the stretch between Brighton Marina and Newhaven Harbour - lies within the biosphere reserve. In fact it's likely that the MCZ decision helped to sway the Unesco award, since its heart lies in conservation. Getting biosphere status was no mean feat though - it took six years of hard work by teams from about 40 organisations, so they are all mightily relieved and very excited about taking the project forward.
It's a resource we can all enjoy and it's a real boost for tourism in Sussex. Naturally we have some fabulous holiday cottages (click here to view) in the heart of the South Downs biosphere where you can explore the urban and rural jungles right on your doorstep. Hang on; jungles? Maybe I'm getting carried away with that Amazon comparison but you get the drift. Why go further afield when you can visit Sussex and see a wealth of biodiversity without the mosquitoes?