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Report - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Building Biospheres Reserves through Collaborative Governance : a study of organisational forms and collaborative processes in Sweden’s biosphere reserves

Sandström, Emil; Sahlström, Emma


In June 2019, Sweden received its seventh biosphere reserve. Biosphere reserves are part of UNESCO’s global programme Man and the Biosphere (MAB), which commenced in 1971 with the aim of enhancing the relationship between humans and the environment. There are more than 700 biosphere reserves in the world that strive to be model areas for sustainable societal development. In total, Sweden’s biosphere reserves account for about seven per cent of the country’s total surface area.

The report describes the development that has taken place in Sweden’s biosphere reserves regarding their organisational structures and their formation processes. The report is based on semi-structured interviews and conversations with about 60 key informants in combination with extensive analysis of documents. Based on the biosphere reserves’ mission to promote collaboration and dialogue for sustainable societal development, the report describes the challenges and success factors that have emerged since their establishment and discusses these in relation to issues concerning organisational change, representativeness, legitimacy and organisational effects.

The report shows that the biosphere reserves are characterised by extensive collaboration among different stakeholders and organisations, but run the risk of mission drift due to their hybrid organisational character and their interactive working methods. The report also reveals several significant qualitative results of the biosphere reserves’ organisational processes. In several of the biosphere reserves, people have started to perceive and relate to their environments in new ways as a result of the work. The collaborative work processes have also contributed to resolving several natural resourcerelated conflicts. Finally, the report provides recommendations for supporting the work with biosphere reserves in Sweden.


biosphere reserve; collaboration; hybrid organisations; environmentality; collaborative governance; environmental governance

Published in

Rapport / Naturvårdsverket
2021, number: 6989
ISBN: 978-91-620-6989-6
Publisher: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Sahlström, Emma (Sahlström, Emma)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

URI (permanent link to this page)