Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve provides a significant new opportunity for our area and for Scotland. A Biosphere Partnership represents a wide range of interests and has developed a vision to make life in our Biosphere better while caring for the natural environment.
The Biosphere Team is now working to ensure the Biosphere designation is used to make a difference by stimulating interest and understanding to unlock initiative and creativity.
What are UNESCO Biosphere Reserves?
Biosphere Reserves, usually referred to as Biospheres, are places with world-class environments that are designated to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature. They are places which value and protect the biological and cultural diversity of a region while promoting environmentally sustainable economic development. They are places of cooperation, education and research where local communities, environmental groups, and businesses can work together. Biospheres are established through the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). In order to be designated a Biosphere, a candidate region must be nominated by a national government and approved by the MAB programme. There are national Biosphere committees, including one in the UK called UK-MAB. It is responsible for the overview of Biospheres in the UK and reports progress to Euro- MAB and the MAB secretariat in Paris. Proposals for Biosphere status in Scotland are made to UNESCO through UK-MAB.
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is a new UNESCO Biosphere because of its combination of special wildlife areas, rich cultural heritage and communities that care about their environment. Biosphere designation will help people understand, define, sustain and enhance those special qualities. As an internationally recognised label for superb natural environments the Biosphere designation will offer new opportunities for individuals, businesses and communities to demonstrate how to live and work in a way that benefits people and nature.
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is the first ‘new style’ Biosphere in Scotland and one of only four in the UK. Biospheres have three main functions; conservation, learning /research, and sustainable development. Biospheres are managed by a framework which divides the area into three complementary management zones; Core Area, Buffer Zone and Transition Area. The Transition Area is where people live and where sustainable economic and community development is being actively promoted. Biosphere designation brings no new regulation of activities within the area.
Why was a Biosphere Reserve proposed for Galloway and Southern Ayrshire?
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is a special place to live, work and to visit – special for its people, its culture and its outstanding environment. It hosts some of the finest examples of wildlife areas in Europe as well as a community that cares about, and for, thier special place.
Cairnsmore, Silver Flowe and Merriick Kells were first designated as Biosphere Reserves in 1976. UNESCO rule changes in the 1990s meant that the concept has been broadened to become one aimed at peoples relationship with their environment. Existing Biospheres had to either re-apply under the new criteria or withdraw. Following local consultation the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership submitted a formal application to UNESCO to re-register a much larger area.
Biosphere designation provides Galloway and Southern Ayrshire with an opportunity to take a lead in developing more sustainable ways of living that will benefit the environment, economy and community of the area and ultimately act as an example of good practice within UNESCO’s worldwide network of Biosphere Reserves. If this exciting vision is to be achieved then everyone will need to play their part, whether as communities, organisations, businesses or individuals.
Where are the boundaries?
The area which makes up the proposed Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere reflects the physical characteristics of the natural environment. The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is based on the Galloway Hills, a water catchment for a large part of south west Scotland feeding rivers radiating out from the upland to the coast.
The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere includes river catchments of the Cree, Fleet, Ken-Dee, Nith, Doon, Water of Girvan and Stinchar.
The area’s many small towns: Castle Douglas; Gatehouse of Fleet; Newton Stewart; Wigtown; Girvan; Maybole; Dalmellington; New Cumnock; Cumnock; Sanquhar; Thornhill and their surrounding villages are in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and just as important to its existence and well-being as the National Nature Reserves of Cairnsmore and Silver Flowe and the Merrick Kells Site of Special Scientific Interest which are its Core Areas.
The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere features the strong cultural and local identity of the area and a common thread of water connecting the natural environment, landscape and everyone living and working in the area and on which they all depend. It is through water that everyone living and working in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is connected with everyone else.
What is Galloway and Southern Ayrshire’s Biosphere trying to achieve?
The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere has the 3 fundamental, complementary functions required of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Conservation, Learning and Research and Sustainable Development) that support the main purpose of ‘testing and demonstrating sustainable development on a regional scale’. A Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere vision and strategic aims have been developed and will be refined to produce an Action Plan.
Facts and Figures
The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere covers an area of 5268 square kilometres and includes 45,000 dwellings and 95,000 people.
There are 14 Special Areas of Conservation and 4 Special Protection Areas.
The Core Areas comprise the Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve (NNR), the Silver Flowe Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the centre of the Merrick Kells SSSI.
What kind of initiatives will be promoted?
Any initiative which demonstrates good practice in conservation or environmentally sustainable development will be promoted as long as it meets the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere criteria.
Here are some examples of initiatives supported by the Biosphere:
How many Biospheres are there and where are they?
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is one of a network of 669 Biosphere Reserves spread across 120 countries throughout the world. Representative of their region the global network provides unique opportunities for exchanges of experience and collaborative research.
What are the designation criteria?
UNESCO launched the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme in 1970 and the Biosphere Reserve concept began in 1974. The original criteria for a Biosphere Reserve were primarily about scientific conservation and research and sites were chosen to represent the main ecosystems of the planet. Most UK Biosphere Reserves were designated in 1976 under these criteria.
The designation criteria changed to include the human dimension along with the natural environment after a review in 1995 (resulting in the Seville treaty). Since then, these ‘new style’ Reserves must have three complementary functions:
- Conservation – to preserve genetic resources, species, ecosystems and landscapes;
- Learning and Research – to support research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.
- Sustainable Development – to foster sustainable economic and human development;
and have three different management zones:
- Buffer Zone
- Transition Zone
In March 2008, DEFRA published a report of research into “The potential for Biosphere Reserves to achieve UK social, economic and environmental goals“. It quotes the 2008 Madrid Action Plan, defining Biosphere ‘Reserves’ as “sites of excellence to foster harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participation, knowledge, well-being, cultural values and society’s ability to cope with change, thus contributing to the [Millennium Development Goals] The Madrid Action Plan specifically identifies a role for Biospheres in addressing three emerging challenges: climate change; provision of ecosystem services and urbanization as a principal driver for ecosystem-wide pressures.
How many Biosphere Reserves are there in the UK currently?
As well as Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere there are now 5 other “new style” Biosphere Reserves in the UK: