Welcome to bioregioning. I am Ed Tyler and live on the west coast of Scotland on the Kintyre peninsula west of Glasgow. During the past 5 years or so I have been doing a lot of community activist work in my area supporting the development of a local food culture and helping people save energy in their homes.
At the same time I have been teaching permaculture. This has taught me the importance of patterns, which in turn makes me think of things in terms of scale. Whilst a lot of community development work is being done at the village/town scale, very little – in Scotland at least – seems to be happening in terms of bioregions.
Bioregions work at scales well beyond that of a single town and its environs, for they are areas based around a shared climate, topography and often geology. Let’s take where I live as an example. Its most distinctive aspect is that it is oceanic, exposed to the north Atlantic ocean with all the humidity (in the form of sea mists as well as rain storms) which that brings. It also means that our coast is relatively mild, with little temperature variation throughout the year, giving rise to cool summers and warm winters with little (sometimes no) frost. This gives enables specific plants to grow (some of them grow nowhere else); hence the name “temperate rainforest”.
It is also termed “Celtic Rainforest” – and this brings us to the other important determinant of a bioregion: culture. Similarity in climate and soil type gives rise to specific forms of agriculture (with us it is pastoralism, meaning the rearing of animals for meat and for milk); which in turn gives rise to a particular form of culture. The early Celts, who brought their language of Gaelic across from present County Antrim in Northern Ireland around 1500 years ago, were pastoralists, and this form of agriculture is still dominant today. Inevitably, being near the ocean, a strong seafaring culture has developed. The birlinn, modern fishing (both line and trawl) and creel boats, herring skiffs, puffers, ferries are just some of the vessels developed for specific purposes over the centuries. An important part of the culture is food, in the form of traditional dishes and modern recipes using the same locally sourced ingredients. We have great seafood, but also game in the form of venison and rabbit and lamb and beef as well.
The administrative region I inhabit is Argyll, which in the Gaelic is Earra Ghaidheal (“land of the Gaels”). I can actually see the coast of Antrim from my house. Argyll is the birthplace of the ancient kingdom of Dalraida which the Gaels established when they settled in Scotland all those years ago.
I would say that my bioregion roughly corresponds to area currently known as Argyll, merging into the Clyde bioregion to the east, the Lorn region to the north and the Grampian mountains to the north east. It includes the Inner Hebridean islands but not Arran and Bute which are placed within the Clyde.
An important point to note is that bioregions grade into each other, with fuzzy edges. At those edges folk may well feel that they belong to both. Between ecosystems there are ecotones, that share the characteristics of the two merging ecosystems. Bioregions are the same.