Whithorn becomes latest Biosphere Community

Congratulations to Whithorn! Now proudly displaying its Biosphere Community signs and joining Glentrool and Gatehouse of Fleet as places in the Biosphere where local residents and businesses have committed to being Proud Supporters of the Biosphere. Supporting our Biosphere Charter principles of
Helping to conserve the natural resources of the Biosphere
Supporting the economy to benefit local people and nature
Promoting cultural heritage and local products
Contributing to the health and well-being of the community
Developing knowledge, understanding and promoting research
Raising awareness of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere
They are destinations in the Biosphere where you can be assured of a warm welcome and an opportunity to experience some of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere’s hidden gems. For more information click on Biosphere Communities

GSA Biosphere Local Learning Partnership launched

We are pleased to share the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere have a new Learning Partnership in collaboration with Ayrshire College. The Partnership is an opportunity for students to work on live briefs for their studies that will utilise the unique international UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme designation that we have here in South West Scotland.
The designation is recognition of the fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities that SW Scotland offers for communities, businesses and visitors to experience and celebrate in a sustainable way.
With all Biospheres across the globe signed up to the same core principles, the students of all disciplines that are studying through Ayrshire College will have the opportunity to research and demonstrate how their studies can create new sustainable entrepreneurial opportunities in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire as they strive to become the business leaders of tomorrow. So a student studying hospitality may be tasked with creating a menu made up of local produce sourced from within the Biosphere that can be sold through local cafes. Or a tourism student could be asked to design a new guided tour that takes in some of the Biosphere’s key natural and cultural heritage attractions.
Joan Mitchell Chair of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere said “a key challenge we face in South West Scotland is the outward migration of young people from our towns and villages. We hope that this new Learning Partnership will help young people to recognise the opportunities that the UNESCO Biosphere designation offers to develop new business ideas which stand out from the crowd in a modern and sustainable way.”
Elaine Hutton Director Ayrshire College said “Ayrshire College is committed to giving our young people the best start in life in an ever changing world. The Learning Partnership with the Biosphere offers an opportunity for students to engage with real life examples that will help prepare them for the work place of tomorrow.”

‘It’s More than Just Light’ Dark Sky Places Conference – Program speakers now confirmed

A great line up of national and international speakers has now been confirmed for the September conference covering a variety of themes from:

  • Lighting constraints and design with architectural insights of the built environment we need to light. What is good lighting design and challenges in its application?
  • Light and​​ ​its ecological impact and ​it’s effect on human​s.​
  • Darkness and its cultural​ ​role and significance to humanity. The role of ‘community’ in dark sky places
  • Dark skies and its effects​ ​and relationship to health and well-being.
  • The technical aspects of the planning regulations and safety codes, how you measure the dark environment. Why are the regulations set and how do we change them?
  • Transformational effects of Dark Skies and opportunities for economic development through eco-tourism.

We do hope you can join us at this special 3 day event. Day ticket now available for Thursday 21st September

For more information and a detailed program visit:



Wild Film Festival – Scotland 24th – 26th March 17

Join leading naturalists, broadcasters and filmmakers for a weekend-long celebration of the natural world with film, photography, topical talks and special guests.

In Dumfries from 24-26 March 2017 enjoy some of the world’s best wildlife films, plus celebrity speakers plus two photographic exhibitions, art, music, literature and a Wild Film Fayre.

Naturalists and broadcasters Simon King (Big Cat Diary) and Iolo Williams (Springwatch) will be among the 20 speakers along with Sacha Dench “the human swan” who flew a motorised paraglider 4,500 miles from the Arctic to the UK with migrating Bewick’s swans.

WFFS central themes will be Amazing Journeys, Wild Places and Rewilding. Some 30 films are being screened, many of them winners of coveted Wildscreen Panda Awards (the wildlife Oscars). A strong Scottish strand will run through every aspect of the festival.

To check out the programme go to http://www.wildfilmfestivalscotland.co.uk/programme-at-a-glance/

Restoring Peat Bogs in East Ayrshire

The East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative (CEI) have carried out ditch blocking at two raised peat bogs in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere , creating wetland habitat and supporting peat formation.

Raised bogs are rare and threatened wetland habitats containing peat soils. In the UK, we have lost around 94% of our raised bog habitat through agricultural drainage, peat extraction for horticulture and afforestation. Low Moss and Dalmellington Moss are two of the best examples of this habitat remaining in East Ayrshire.

Low Moss and Dalmellington Moss have been drained and burned in the past to dry out the bog for grazing. Over time this has degraded the habitat, resulting in fewer peatland plants in favour of grasses and scrub. CEI staff have been working with site owners’ Hargreaves (Low Moss) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (Dalmellington Moss) to come up with restoration plans and to carry out the work needed to improve the bog habitat. We will continue to work together in the future to ensure the sites are appropriately managed. In early 2017 specialist contractors, Openspace (Cumbria) Ltd, used low-ground pressure excavators to install 3,150 peat dams and 11 plastic piling dams, and 2,575 metres of bund to block up drainage ditches and slow water loss across 50 hectares of bog.

Retaining water on the site can result in less flooding downstream and prevent peat erosion, which releases stored carbon into the atmosphere. Wetter bogs can support a spongy carpet of specialist plants including colourful Sphagnum mosses, which accumulate over time to form peat. As peat forms, it traps carbon from the atmosphere, helping to tackle climate change. Bogs are also home to amazing wildlife such as hen harriers, curlew, adders and many species of invertebrate.

Find out more about East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative here.

Biosphere to host 2017 European Dark Sky Conference

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, is to be the location for the first ever Dark Sky Park conference to be held in Europe. The conference is being organised by Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, the International Dark Sky Association and Forest Enterprise Scotland, which manages the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.

The event, being held 20th to 22 Sept 2017, will bring together some of the world’s top dark sky experts with the aim of promoting rural development, tourism and tackling light pollution issues.

The conference is to be held at the Cally Palace Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet and is timed to run just before the Wigtown Book Festival and other activities are planned to encourage delegates to stay for longer in the region.

Forming the heart of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere,  the Galloway Forest Park is equal in size to about 75,000 football pitches and was designated Dark Sky Status back in November 2009.

Joan Mitchell, Chair of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere said:

“The Dark Sky Park is an integral part of the Biosphere, between them they  offer a 24/7 attraction in south west Scotland, offering the opportunity to celebrate and explore the regions landscapes and wildlife during the day and the dark skies at night.

“Hosting Europe’s first ever Dark Sky Park conference is fantastic opportunity to help put this often over looked corner of Scotland on the map.”

Keith Muir, Forest Enterprise Scotland’s Visitor Services Manager for the area said:

“Galloway Forest Park was the first area in Europe to achieve Dark Sky Park status and we are keen to share our experience and learn from others by being the first in Europe to host such a major conference. This is really good news for putting the south west of Scotland on the map as an international stargazing destination.

“All the partners involved will be working together to ensure the conference is a success and showcases Galloway as a great place to live, work and play. We’re very excited about this major event and the potential spin offs it should create for the local economy.”

John Barentine Program Director for the International Dark Sky Association based in Arizona added:

“It is a testament to the momentum behind the global effort to recognize and protect dark skies worldwide that this international conference is to be held. Further, it is especially fitting that the event will be held near Galloway Forest, where it can be said the movement scored its first major victory for dark skies preservation in Europe. The International Dark-Sky Association is proud to have a seat at the table for this important gathering.”

For more information on the conference log on to http://eudarkskiesconference.com or contact darkskyplaces@gmail.com

Habitat Management and SRDP Workshops – 22nd Feb & 1st March

Are you a farmer within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere?

It is widely anticipated that the future of farming support will be environmentally based. This means farmers will need to know:

  • Which wildlife habitats they have on their holding;
  • How to manage them and
  • How to demonstrate the positive management being carried out.

Our Biosphere Workshops  will help you identify and manage wildlife habitats on your farm and consider the wider benefits of doing so as part of a thriving farm business.

The workshop will give practical advice on:

  • Habitat management to help farm sustainably and retain the rich diversity present within our Biosphere.
  • What’s needed for a high quality SRDP AECS application – providing guidance and help in unravelling the mysteries of the SRDP Agri-environment and Climate Scheme (AECS) 

We will be providing handouts on key habitats and AECS requirements

When and Where (places are limited so booking is required):

  • Time: 10.30am to 3pm
  • Ayrshire Workshop: Wednesday 22nd February, Carrick Centre, Maybole
  • Galloway Workshop: Wednesday 1st March, Kirroughtree Courtyard, Stronord, Newton Stewart.

If you wish to book a place on one of the workshops please email wendy@gsabiosphere.org.uk indicating your area of interest: eg. Moorland, inbye, AECS, any habitats you know you have and any dietary requirements.


Ken-Dee Biosphere Route

A third Biosphere route has now been added to the website. Developed to give a flavour of all aspects of the Biosphere the routes are based around the natural assets provided by rivers and lochs at: Loch Doon and Carrick Forest Drive; Loch Trool and the Cree Valley; and now, Loch Ken and the River Dee.

The Loch Ken and River Dee is a 35 mile circular route starting from Castle Douglas and include a range of attractions that focus on special qualities of the Biosphere; wildlife and natural beauty, heritage and culture, inspiration, tranquillity, local produce and most importantly recreation and enjoyment. Discover osprey and bats at Threave, ancient grave yards, wet woodlands at Ken-Dee marshes, red kites at Bennan as well as Catstrand arts venue and Galloway Activity Centre on Loch Ken.

Look out for the leaflets helping you explore the Biosphere where you can discover nature and landscapes as well as the big Biosphere ideas of conservation, learning and development.

See the routes here.

Searching for Modern Makers

Upland are looking for a small group of young people (16-25 years) from Dumfries and Galloway to take part in Modern Makers 2017. The project is a chance for up to four young people to be tutored intensively for 30-35 days by a professional craft maker to learn craft skills.

The professional makers for the 2017 programme will be slipware potters Douglas Fitch and Hannah McAndrewStudents of the Modern Makers programme will be introduced to all aspects of the slipware process, from the mixing of materials, the making and decorating of the pots, through to assisting in the exciting firing of the pieces in the wood kiln. They will also be offered an insight into the running of a pottery business, visits to other potter’s workshops to explore different approaches to the craft, to galleries and a pottery fair.

See the brief for full details. If you know of anyone who might be interested please tell them about this amazing opportunity.

Biosphere considers future of Scottish Forestry

The Sottish Government recently consulted on the future of forestry in Scotland and invited responses to plans for the devolution of forestry. The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere recognises the important economic contribution of forestry to southwest Scotland but has concerns that a new Forestry Division within the Scottish Government may lead to the loss of the existing regional approach to management and regulation. The Biosphere is also keen to see the Government consider the wider impacts of forestry on local communities, wildlife, water and carbon storage as well as for recreation and tourism.

See the full response from Biosphere here