Three Indonesian biosphere reserves have been added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme following a high-level online meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A biosphere reserve is a unique ecosystem that is conserved and protected for research and educational purposes.

The three reserves are Merapi Merbabu Menoreh and Karimunjawa-Jepara-Muria in Central Java, as well as Bunaken Tangkoko Minahasa in North Sulawesi.

In total, UNESCO added 25 new sites to its world network this year.

UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement on Wednesday: “The time for transformation is now. Crises also create opportunity, the opportunity to change how we see our relationships with nature, with each other and with the Earth.

“We know that there is no future for business as usual. We need a ‘new normal’ for biodiversity,” she added.

The addition to UNESCO’s network reinforces international acknowledgement of Indonesia’s environmental efforts, two months after Indonesia secured the Green Climate Fund (GCF) grant for reducing carbon emissions and deforestation.

Specifically, the addition means Indonesia will play a larger role in UNESCO’s vision of biosphere “research and awareness-raising work to foster innovative sustainable development practices and combat the loss of biodiversity”.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s director-general for natural resources and ecosystems, Wiratno, lauded UNESCO’s decision regarding the three reserves.

“[With the additions], sustainable development integration can be prepared because there is a multi-stakeholder communication forum for the biosphere reserve,” he said on Friday.

As of today, there are 714 biosphere reserve sites spread in 129 countries, including 14 in Indonesia.

Apart from the three recently included, other reserves in Indonesia are Cibodas in West Java, which was included in 1977, Komodo Island in East Nusa Tenggara (1977), Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi (2012), Bromo Tengger Semeru Arjuno in East Java (2015) and Lombok’s Rinjani in West Nusa Tenggara (2018).