Here in our UNESCO Biosphere, the diverse landscapes support a range of different land uses. From farming to forestry, renewable energy to recreation, all of them can be found in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire. The GSA Biosphere’s ethos is sustainability, for people and nature. We have a vision for land use in the region to follow best practice for the environment – championing wildlife, habitats, and a thriving rural economy.
Our uplands’ rough grazing land and some of our coastal areas support small, traditional farming practices of sheep farming and native breed cattle production. Maintaining the cultural significance that people within the farmed landscape have bestowed, whilst putting functioning and healthy ecosystems at the forefront of food production is a challenge the GSA Biosphere is supporting through strategic engagement. We aim to support the farming community and are encouraging of the growing awareness of Regenerative Farming practices. We are supporting upland hill farming through The Wool Gathering project by bringing together farmers of a local native breed, Blackface sheep, and those working with wool in business, the creative arts and cottage industries, to explore ways we can add value to Blackface wool as a product. Our aim is to create a product suitable for apparel which can be sold locally. We want to champion local farming to protect culture, identity, and biodiversity.
Forestry within our region is at an all time high. Dumfries & Galloway is the biggest producer of timber within Scotland and much of our Buffer zone is forestry. Historically, forestry in the region has often been at the detriment of other habitats, for example peatlands, which were drained for planting. Now, regulations protect deep peats from being planted, and restoration of these habitats is the next step to locking away carbon and protecting our water. We would like to see the expansion of continuous cover forestry practices, stronger emphasis on multi-species forests, and a move away from single species of non-native origin. Restoration of degraded peatlands should be part of landscape restoration and many of our partners are paving the way for effective restoration and monitoring of this important habitat. Alongside this we want to see the expansion of native, broadleaf woodland (where appropriate) to create new habitats, cool water courses, and provide cooling cover in future summers that will be increasingly warmer and drier.