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The Biosphere Reserves set up by UNESCO, the United Nations scientific and cultural organization, safeguard biodiversity through a network of 727 sites in 131 countries. We argue that these reserves should be included alongside other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs; G. G. Gurney et al. Nature595, 646–649; 2021) in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s agreement, due to be negotiated at the COP15 meeting in Kunming, China.