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22nd May 2024

International Day for Biodiversity – 22nd May 2024

Our natural world is essential to our existence. Regardless of the technological advances that now seem imperative to everyday life, we are completely dependent on happy and healthy ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy. Three-quarters of the land-based environments and about 66% of the marine environments have been significantly altered by human actions, and around one million of the world’s estimated eight million species of animals and plants are currently under threat of extinction. It is imperative for our own wellbeing and security – as well as that of generations to come – for us to respect, protect, and help heal our biological systems, and reverse the biodiversity crisis. Read more about the meaning of International Day for Biodiversity via the United Nations here.

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has a wide range of habitats within its 9,700km² boundary. From wetlands to forestry and moorlands to coastlines, this variety of landscapes supports a rich tapestry of life. Our High Focus Species list spotlights  of the special flora and fauna that is most under threat here in southwest Scotland, but with thousands of different animals, insects, fungi, plants and microorganisms helping provide an ecological balance, every species is important. One of the core principles of all UNESCO Biospheres around the world is sustainable interaction between humans and nature; the GSAB Partnership’s Land Use & Biodiversity, Business, and Communities teams support this through providing learning opportunities, resources, and direct support for sustainable farming practices, nature-friendly tourism, local biodiversity workshops, and nature education in schools.

Land Use & Biodiversity 

Our Land Use & Biodiversity officers work with farmers, land managers and conservationists across the region to help support farming businesses meet their nature and biodiversity goals. Back in February, the team hosted the first ‘Farming for the Future’ conference in Newton Stewart in collaboration with National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) and Propagate. This event explored how farming can be good for both the environment and the farm business through discussions on how regenerative farming can be both sustainable and profitable, with examples of how caring for soil and adjusting grazing regimes can reduce costs, increase income, and create a healthier environment that is more able to adapt to climate change. Support for farming and agritourism enterprises is also available via our Business team.  


For the business team, supporting biodiversity and our natural environment is crucial. The Biosphere Certification Mark scheme recognises businesses that are putting sustainability at the heart of their operations, with over 50 businesses already certified. Many of these have dedicated biodiversity awareness in place within their operations and staff training: accommodation providers and attractions that are creating nature trails and outdoor interpretation for customers and visitors; enterprises with attached green spaces that have been allowed to grow wild for the benefit of plants, invertebrates and birds; and countless businesses that are keeping our part of Scotland beautiful and nature-friendly through initiatives to reduce litter, waste, and carbon emissions. (Picture is from The Walled Garden Touring Park in South Ayrshire, which has a wonderful pollinator-friendly, communal food area for guests to use and enjoy.) Meet our Biosphere Certification Mark businesses on this page – click through to their own website links to read more about their connection and commitment to the GSA UNESCO Biosphere. The GSAB Partnership also has a Sustainable Event Charter, which supports organisers to ensure their public events and entertainments bring positive environmental impacts. across southwest Scotland. In 2024 we are delighted to have Spring Fling, the Glencairn Midsummer Gathering, Wigtown Book Festival and others as signatories to our Sustainable Events initiative charter, and organisers of events large or small, this year or next, are warmly invited to get in touch for a chat about joining the scheme. 

Community & Education

The Communities team are always out and about across the UNESCO Biosphere region visiting schools, festivals and local events to raise awareness of the incredible biodiversity and natural environments for which southwest Scotland is recognised around the world. For schools, the communities team developed the Learning for Sustainability toolkit, which has been delivered to hundreds of pupils across the region. After the GSA Biosphere’s 2023 expansion to include 12 nautical miles of the marine environment, we and Solway Firth Partnership, developed the new Blue Biosphere learning resource, which explores our coasts, seas, and the fascinating species that call these places home. This has already been workshopped in schools and will be officially launched region-wide in June, to coincide with World Oceans Day 2024. 


Galloway and Southern Ayrshire is renowned as a world class visitor destination and was named on National Geographic’s Cool List for 2024, recognising the UNESCO Biosphere’s provision for meaningful, immersive travel and the chance to connect more deeply with nature and heritage. The GSA Biosphere Partnership alongside destination marketing organisations like VisitScotland and the SSDA, our local authority partners, and South of Scotland Enterprise, are working hard to ensure tourism here is a force for good. Our Visitor Charter celebrates the colours of nature and the rich soundscape that our incredible biodiversity provides, while our trained Biosphere Guides lead bespoke tours and experiences that incorporate biodiversity learning through wildlife-watching, nature ID trips, and outdoor wellbeing activities.


The GSA Biosphere Partnership works with a wide range of public, private, third sector and community organisations to help support biodiversity and understand some of the challenges and the opportunities within our UNESCO-designated region. The team recently met with the Solway Firth Partnership to learn more about the research and nature recovery work taking place in the Solway to help observe and understand our marine natural capital. One of the projects they are working on is the Solway Coast and Marine Pilot Project (SCAMPP), which aims to provide a greater understanding of our marine environment and some of the opportunities it can bring. This has included an ecology and seagrass survey of the Solway, including Loch Ryan, and is now being expanded to include explorations into how coastal communities can benefit from a healthy and thriving coastal and marine environment. Read more about our partnerships on this page; the GSAB Partnership takes pride in being versatile and accessible, with a huge range of equally dynamic partners! We are particularly excited for upcoming opportunities offered by the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and landscape-scale nature restoration that is being programmed in by local and national government in recognition of the importance and value of Scotland’s natural capital. 

If you’d like to get in touch with any of the teams mentioned above to discuss biodiversity in relation to your organisation, project, farm or school, get in touch with us at and we’ll be happy to discuss direct support or connect you with a relevant partner. 

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