Close up of mossy ground cover.

Land Use

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.

Sheep grazing at Loch Doon in East Ayrshire. Samples of knitting using Blackface wool, produced for The Wool Gathering pilot project

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.

One of our most exciting partnerships is delivering the South Ayrshire small-scale tree planting grant, which funds planting of native broadleaf trees on areas of land measuring less than 0.25ha. Click here to find out more and apply.

Young spruce and an area of clearfell with Cairnsmore of Fleet in the background, snow on the hills. River restoration team working on a watercourse at Threave Estate. Two people interacting with Rosnes Benches in broadleaf woodland at Gatehouse of Fleet,
Windy Standard windfarm in East Ayrshire. Tongland Hydro near Kirkcudbright. Clatteringshaws dam.

Renewable energy is going to be key to reaching net zero targets, and whilst we want to encourage green energy and reducing carbon footprints, creation of wind farms must be sensitively managed. Our position statement clearly lays out our desire for the GSA Biosphere’s Core and Buffer zones to be protected from development, with careful consideration of people, nature and habitats in the Transition zone. We are supportive of our Biosphere Communities who are part of micro-renewable programmes and would encourage expansion of small-scale local initiatives.

Recreation in the region is a vital part of our rural economy. We want to ensure this is managed sustainably, with businesses and tourists valuing the unique places within the GSA Biosphere, whilst immersing themselves in the beauty that surrounds them. Our business team is working with local enterprises to encourage and support workplans that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Through our Biosphere Certification Mark programme we offer advice and guidance to those interested in enhancing their sustainability credentials, including for wildlife. We work with Biosphere Guides, local people who are skilled in sharing their crafts and knowledge with visitors to the area. We support them to tell the stories in the land and give the tools to ensure the places we all care for stay intact.  

Community cycling event at Penpont. Endurance riding at Glenluce Bay Dragon Boats on Loch Ken