Biosphere Newsletter – July 2023

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Welcome to our July newsletter!

This month it's all about our once-in-a-decade news that Galloway and Southern Ayrshire's UNESCO Biosphere designation has been renewed for another ten years. This special edition newsletter will explain more about the official announcement made on 4th July and what it means for people and nature in southwest Scotland.

For all our regular updates catch up with us on social media - links are at the bottom of this page. Any feedback on our features, or is there something you'd like to know more about? Contact our team via  

The photo below shows our new UNESCO Biosphere certificate being awarded by Meriem Bouamrane, Head of Research and Policy for the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. Receiving are GSAB's Director, Ed Forrest, and Chair, Melanie Allen.

The news that UNESCO had approved the revalidation of the GSA Biosphere's status was announced by Anna Nsubuga, the UK Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO (front row, second left in the picture below), at a lunchtime reception held at Drumlanrig Castle. Alongside the international delegation from UNESCO who had toured the Biosphere the previous day, we were joined by more than 50 guests including representatives from Scottish Government, local authorities, academic institutions and a host of partner organisations, as well as community leaders and owners of Biosphere Certification Mark businesses. 

The GSA Biosphere's delivery programme covers conservation, education, sustainable development, and climate resilience, and we are delighted to have official confirmation that this work will continue for at least another ten years. Since 2012 GSAB has become a key asset for Scotland as we urgently address the climate and biodiversity crises, and renewal of the region's status recognises what we have already achieved. We work with the public, private and third sectors in projects and partnerships that are driven by core funding from South of Scotland Enterprise, D&G Council, South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council. The photo below shows David Signorini, the Scottish Government's Director for Forestry and the Environment, speaking at Drumlanrig on 4th July about how GSAB has been a "pathfinder" for the 30x30 targets set in 2019 - a national and global goal to protect 30% of land and sea for nature.
Very excitingly, the GSA Biosphere has now increased in size! As part of our Period Review we submitted a request to UNESCO that the renewed designation should include an expanded geographical boundary and this having been approved, GSAB now includes Alloway, the Rhins of Galloway, and 12 miles of the marine environment. (Out in the North Channel our boundary now abuts that of our sister UNESCO Biosphere, the Isle of Man.) Fresh opportunities in conservation have opened up as we take in more Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves, including the Mull of Galloway and Ailsa Craig. And we look forward to sharing even more of southwest Scotland's unique history and heritage - here's the UNESCO delegation getting a head start with a visit to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, where we sat down with representatives from the National Trust for Scotland and South Ayrshire councillor Alec Clark.

It was also our honour to introduce the Ambassador and Mme Bouamrane with our colleagues from the UK National Commission for UNESCO and UK MAB  to the community of Glentrool, which was the first village to join our Biosphere Communities scheme. The Glentrool Hive provided a locally-sourced lunch (much of which was grown in the community garden) and the delegation heard from lead officer Jenna Cains about the GSA Biosphere's learning initiatives.

With the boundary expansion our designated region has grown from just over 5,200km² to almost 9,800km² of land and sea. We will be able to support multiple new communities, both coastal and inland, and widen access to the business development opportunities that the Biosphere offers: advice, networking, marketing, and connection with the multi-award-winning Scotland's UNESCO Trail.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire is one of 748 UNESCO Biospheres in 134 countries around the world. Much of the GSA Biosphere's programme is focused on promoting sustainable land management, regenerative farming, and wildlife and habitat protection, as we seek to resolve the myriad local challenges that have arisen from changing patterns of land use and human impacts over time. UNESCO Biospheres work with a participatory approach, and as Ambassador Nsubuga emphasised to the audience at Drumlanrig, we are all aiming for longer-term thinking that will benefit the generations ahead, not seeking to impose restrictions but to share knowledge that empowers others and ourselves.

A great example of this is shown below as Dr Joanne Tippett from the University of Manchester demonstrates Roundview, a participatory learning tool, to Janette from our team. Roundview and Ketso have been used in the recent Community Visioning Workshops held in Sanquhar, Thornhill and Glencaple, to explore the future of the environments and communities along the River Nith.

There is much, much more to explore about the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere on our website, in particular the Resources section, where digital copies of our main publications are free to download. These include the State of the Biosphere Report (submitted to UNESCO as part of our ten-year review), our Strategic Plan, and learning and marketing tools such as our Sense of Place and Learning for Sustainability toolkits. Biosphere businesses are encouraged to take advantage of the photo and video assets which are also free and available to all.

Thank you to all our subscribers and Proud Supporters for joining us on the journey towards a more sustainable southwest. This is an incredibly exciting time for Galloway and Southern Ayrshire, and to quote Mme Bouamrane in her speech on 4th July, the GSA Biosphere has the space and the platform to put expertise and creativity together - everybody is needed at the table, everyone has something to share.

The photo below shows our Chair, Director, and the Ambassador visiting Loch Trool at the beginning of the month, and the blue button below will take you to the full media release which announced the renewal of GSAB's UNESCO status. As always, you are warmly invited to share your thoughts and ideas; we can be reached at any time via

The GSA Biosphere Celebrates Ten Years of Sustainable Success!
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