Newsletter – December 2016

Explore the big Biosphere ideas in this edition of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere news!
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A reflection on 2016 in the Biosphere
I have just been writing my annual report for the AGM which gives me a perspective on what we have achieved this year and I am so heartened by our progress.
We now have around seventy businesses signed up to our biosphere charter with around one hundred and ninety Proud Supporters. The Biosphere supported business week events in both Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire spreading the word and building on the business engagement events we ran earlier in the year.
On the natural heritage front the success of the launch of the Natural Heritage Management plan has been followed by dialogue with interested land managers to see how we can make ecosystem services real for people on the ground.
Co-operation with universities and colleges, responding to consultations of strategic interest to us, working on Dark Skies initiatives, liaising  with community groups throughout the Biosphere – it’s all happening and on top of that we hosted the first UK Biosphere Conference  in October  which was voted a resounding success.

Well done to the team and all our supporters – 2016 has been a year of real achievement.

Joan Mitchell (Chair Biosphere Partnership Board)

D&G Business Week

The Biosphere hosted two exciting events in October for D&G Business Week. ‘Reaching for the Stars’ was a Biosphere Dark Skies event, supported by Forestry Commission Scotland and the Biosphere Dark Sky Rangers and held at the visitor centre at Kirroughtree. The event asked businesses to take a leap into the dark and be inspired to make the most of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. With estimates that the park has the potential to bring in £1m annually to the region over the winter months it was an opportunity not to miss! Businesses heard how they could take advantage of this amazing place and met with others that are already creating opportunities from the Dark Sky Park and the region’s natural and cultural heritage. The Creative Industries event ‘Great Stories to Tell’ at Glentrool Gallery focused on communications. As well as a great opportunity to connect with others, businesses within D&G that are already successfully using the area’s natural assets in developing their business, shared their stories. Both events successfully demonstrated how the Biosphere can facilitate the bringing together of a range of different partners and organisations who don't usually get to meet.


UK MAB conference

In October the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere welcomed delegates from established and aspirational Biospheres from across the UK and Eire to a three day event designed to help strengthen the existing UK Man and Biosphere - MAB network. Over thirty five delegates attended making it the largest gathering of UK and Eire Biospheres to date.
Delegates started the visit to the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere with an excursion to mid and upper Nithsdale to experience the Crawick Multiverse which was followed up by a discussion at A’ the Airts  a community led local arts enterprise.
The final day saw a visit to  Kirroughtree Visitor Centre the group met with Keith Muir FCS Tourism and Recreation Manager and Elizabeth Tindal one of the Biosphere Dark Sky Rangers . From Kirroughtree the group went on to Cairsnmore National Nature Reserve where they heard  about how the Biosphere has been the catalyst for bring together a partnership of land managers concerned with sustainable land management and its impact on peatland, fisheries, forestry and agriculture
The evening involved a local produce meal prepared by the Holiday Inn chef using ingredients from Kilnford Barn Farm Shop. The local produce meal was a departure from the norm for Holiday Inn and done specifically in response to a request from the Biosphere. The meal was followed with a recital of Tam o’ Shanter by Chris Rollie GSAB Board Member and local RSPB Manager.

Fuel Efficient Driving for Business

The Biosphere Team took part in Fuel Efficient Driving sessions last month. All the team drive many miles across the Biosphere during work so we felt it was a great way to save costs on fuel while reducing our carbon footprint. The session took about 30-40 mins each with the Drivesense instructor, who came to our office and took us out in his car. The reduction in fuel and costs was quite amazing. Our increase in miles per gallon was between 11% and 20%. It worked out at a saving per year for some of us based on the MPG and the miles we drive in our own vehicle at around £230. Which equates to a nice weekend away each year!

We want to give our Biosphere Business Charter supporters the opportunity to have a fuel efficient driving session. Usually a business has to book day sessions with up to 8 participants but as we know many of our business have less employees, so we are working with the Energy Efficiency Centre to host two days which our charter businesses can book on to. The dates are 27th and 28th February 2017. The sessions are free, you use the drivers car and their insurance. The location for where the sessions are delivered has yet to be decided based on interest, but our office base at Kirroughtree is likely to be one of the venues. For more info or to book yourself on contact Marie McNulty on

Peatland Restoration

Over the past few months Emily, one of the Natural Heritage Officers, has been out and about helping with various peatland restoration projects. Peatlands (or peat bogs), in good condition, are very important habitats, providing a home for special plants and animals such as our favourite plant the sundew (the inspiration behind our logo!). Peatlands are also now recognised for their importance as a store of carbon; stored in the form of organic matter as peat. Peat forms because the decay process, which normally breaks down dead plant material, is limited due to the wet and acidic conditions. This means that plant material, particularly the wet spongey sphagnum mosses, builds up over time gradually forming carbon rich peat. Maintaining peatlands so they remain in good ecological condition is really important, not just for maintaining the very special habitat they provide, but because dry and eroding peatlands can loose their carbon in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), as well as directly through the action of wind and rain.
Luckily there are lots of exciting projects happening in the Biosphere to help restore some of our peatlands. If you are out and about at Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve after Christmas keep an eye out for excavators working out on the open hill. Scottish Natural Heritage has brought them in to do some “re-profiling” work. This involves smoothing out the steep, bare peat sided haggs, reducing erosion and peat loss and encouraging re-vegation.
If you want to know more about peatlands in the Biosphere have a look at our Natural Heritage Management Plan at
That's all for now, but in the meantime Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Team!
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