Our UNESCO Biosphere designation was awarded by UNESCO in 2012. In common with all UNESCO Biospheres internationally we are required to report back to the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO every 10 years on our key achievements, challenges and future priorities.
During 2021/22 the Biosphere team facilitated a range of opportunities for local communities, businesses and strategic partners to take part in this process identifying significant achievements, challenges to biodiversity and ecosystems, changes in the local demographic and where our activity should be directed in the years ahead. This consultation process led to publication of our The State of the Biosphere Report – essentially the story of our first ten years. The report was submitted to UNESCO as part of our Periodic Review, which included a request to extend the GSA Biosphere’s geographical boundary to include Alloway, the Rhins of Galloway, and 12 miles of the marine environment.
This State of the Biosphere report identifies how this first decade has seen the GSA Biosphere taking a key role in local, regional, and global collaborations which amplify voices speaking up and taking action for our natural and cultural heritage. Among these were PLACE in the Biosphere, the SHAPE Project, Biosphere Communities, the Forland Project, Learning Journeys, Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, and many more.
The State of the Biosphere Report was launched on 5th October 2022 at a special event in the Biosphere Community of St John’s Town of Dalry, attended by the Minister for Environment & Land Reform, Mairi McAllan MSP. We also welcomed the Chair and Chief Executive of South of Scotland Enterprise and representatives from the Biosphere’s three local authority areas – all of whom provide the core funding that supports development and delivery of our initiatives. You can read more about this event in our feature article here, and click the button below to view and download a PDF copy of The State of the Biosphere Report.
View & download The State of the Biosphere Report
Following submission to UNESCO, there followed a wait of several months to hear the outcome of our Periodic Review. Then in spring 2023 plans began to take shape for an international delegation to visit Galloway and Southern Ayrshire – representatives from the UK Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme would accompany Anna Nsubuga, the UK Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, on a tour of the region, and to an official reception for more than 50 invited guests.
It was our whole team’s privilege and joy to see these plans realised at the beginning of July 2023. With GSAB’s Director, officers, and members of the Partnership Board, the UNESCO delegation visited key sites including Girvan, Glentrool, Wigtown Harbour, Clatteringshaws Loch, and St John’s Town of Dalry. We talked about social enterprise with Adventure Carrick and Biosphere Bikes; how to generate a sustainable income to benefit the community with Glentrool Hive; opportunities around seagrass, saltmarsh, and marine conservation with Solway Firth Partnership. Colleagues from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership and RSPB Scotland introduced the delegation to heritage, culture, and the creative arts. And we were able to share some of the very best views in the region, from the silhouette of Ailsa Craig to the valleys and hills on the Donald Watson Trail.
We also visited Alloway, birthplace of Robert Burns, where the group sat down with the National Trust for Scotland and South Ayrshire Councillor Alec Clark. This was a particularly special visit, as we discussed the future of the Biosphere and the projects and partnerships that could grow in an expanded region.
The next day, at an reception held at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway, the official announcement was made that Galloway and Southern Ayrshire’s UNESCO Biosphere status was renewed for another ten years. It was also confirmed that the proposed boundary extension had been approved, increasing the Biosphere’s geographical coverage from just over 5,200km² to almost 9,800km² of land and sea.
Those joining us in celebrating this news at Drumlanrig included representatives from Scottish Government, local authorities, South of Scotland Enterprise, community leaders from across the Biosphere region, owners of Biosphere Certification Mark businesses, and key partner organisations including NatureScot and Forestry & Land Scotland. The speakers were Melanie Allen (GSAB’s Chair), Anna Nsubuga; David Signorini (the Scottish Government’s Director for Environment & Forestry); and Meriem Bouamrane (Head of Policy and Research for UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme).
With the Periodic Review complete, our Strategic Plan published, and the revalidated UNESCO Biosphere certificate in hand, we are stepping into a future for Galloway and Southern Ayrshire that is not only vital but filled with potential. As Mme Bouamrane described, what the GSA Biosphere does is not only important for Scotland but for the whole world, critical in the period we find ourselves within the history of humankind, and demonstrates “how to find purpose in living by celebrating life.”
Read the full announcement of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire’s renewed UNESCO Biosphere status