22 March 2016 Current Affairs: The sustained campaign to include the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR) in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (BR) has eventually paid off.The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve was included at the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere programme of UNESCO that concluded in Peru on March 19.The ABR covers the Shendurney and Peppara wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.India has been campaigning for the inclusion of the reserve in the network for the past few years.The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve was the only site considered from the country by the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves during the Paris session held last year. That time, the ABR was listed in the category of “nominations recommended for approval, pending the submission of specific information.”With the addition of the ABR, 10 of the 18 biosphere reserves in the country have made it to the list.The others are Nilgiri, Gulf of Mannar, Sunderban, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Pachmarh, Similipal, Achanakmar-Amarkantak and Great Nicobar.The BRs are designated for inclusion in the network by the International Coordinating Council after evaluating the nominations forwarded by the State through National MAB Committees.Scientific expertise : The ABR would benefit from the shared scientific expertise of all the other members of the world network. The State is expected to work for the conservation of nature at the reserve while it fosters the sustainable development of its population, said a UNESCO official.The ABR is situated at the southern-most end of the Western Ghats and spread over Kerala and Tamil Nadu and covers an area of 3,500 sq km at an altitude ranging from 100 metres to 1,868 metres above the Mean Sea Level.Hotspot : The area falls in the Malabar rainforests and is one of the noted hotspot areas because of its position in the Western Ghats, according to the management plan of the reserve. It is estimated that more than 2,250 species of dicotyledonous plants are in the area and 29 are endemic to the region. Many plants are considered endangered too.Researchers have noted that about 400 Red Listed Plants have been recorded from ABR. About 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve.There are 669 biosphere reserves in as many as 120 countries.