Our UNESCO Biosphere

The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere covers more than 9,700km² of southwest Scotland and is home to more than 100,000 people. Its geographical boundary was defined in 2012 based on catchments of the rivers flowing out of the Galloway Hills, and extended to include the marine environment in 2023.

The Core Area of any UNESCO Biosphere is the region of highest conservation value; in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire, these are the wetlands at Silver Flowe, and the National Nature Reserve (NNR) at Cairnsmore of Fleet.  Silver Flowe is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a RAMSAR site (wetland habitat of international importance). Cairnsmore of Fleet is an upland region where a mix of heath, heather and blanket bog supports a wide range of wildlife. Our work in the Core Area is focused on research and the protection of species, habitats, landscapes and ecosystems.

The UNESCO Biosphere is part of Scotland’s rural southwest, where the land and its uses remain integral to everyday life. Beyond its Core Area the Biosphere is home to historic industries such as farming, fishing and forestry; a variety of micro-businesses and SMEs; and communities that range in size from tiny hamlets to small towns.

We are working hard to promote the idea that ecologically sound activity can take place alongside conservation and research. Education, employment, tourism and enterprise can all be sustainable, and through a cooperative approach we can achieve a balanced relationship between people and nature.

Right across Galloway and Southern Ayrshire the GSA Biosphere Partnership celebrates positive cultural values and identity, helping people learn more about where they live and better understand the heritage we share.

There are more than 740 UNESCO Biospheres around the world
all of which share the same goals:


promoting the conservation of landscapes, wildlife and habitats.


Supporting a better understanding of global challenges.

Sustainable Development

Fostering a sustainable economy and society.

Climate Change

supporting the resilience of communities in facing climate change impacts.

People and Place in the Biosphere

Our commitment to global goals

Find out more