UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme has approved the designation of 10 new biospheres reserves in 9 countries, and one transboundary biosphere reserve across 2 countries. With these new designations, the World Network now totals 748 sites in 134 countries, including 23 transboundary sites.
Onon-Balj Biosphere Reserve is situated at the southern edge of the Siberian and boreal coniferous forest, which encompasses the Daurian steppe and the Onon and Balj River basin. Major ecosystem types here include forest, grassland and freshwater, characterized by the vertical landscapes that transition from the Khentii mountain range to taiga/boreal coniferous forest, then to steppe. The biosphere reserve is not only a hotspot for wetlands and water birds, it also abounds in culturally important areas including historical sites related to Chinggis Khan (c. 1162–1227) who founded the Mongol Empire. Part of the biosphere reserve is managed as traditional common land and used for livestock herding by local communities, which also make use of the area for haymaking, vegetable-growing and the collection of non-timber forest products for household use. The biosphere reserve attracts a lot of cultural tourism, while environmentally friendly and community-based ecotourism is also a growing industry.
By securing its position within the UNESCO Global Network of Biosphere Reserves, the area’s international importance is amplified, leading to enhanced preservation and protection efforts. Additionally, Khuvsgul Lake Natural Park and the Uvs Lake depression, in conjunction with the Russian Federation, were registered as UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2022 and 2021, respectively, with the latter designated as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve.