I am reviewing various models which might be pertinent when it comes to us defining bioregions here in Scotland and across the UK. I have looked at landscape zoning, and now turn my attention to Biosphere reserves: a UNESCO initiative.
According to the Unesco website, these reserves “harmonize conservation of biological and cultural diversity, and economic and social development, through partnerships between people and nature. They also contribute to the transition to green societies by experimenting with green development options…” It is interesting that there is mention here of a transition to a green society, which is what bioregioning is all about.
There are five reserves in the UK. I will focus on the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire reserve, which comprises “a major biogeographic region represented by an upland massif centered on the Merrick and the rivers that flow from this upland down through forests and farmland to the sea.” Here we have a proto-bioregion defined by a river catchment system which crosses administrative boundaries.
How are the managers of this reserve (presumably the relevant council authorities in Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway) planning their transition to a green society? I looked under the socio-economic heading and found the following:
“The 20th Century witnessed a steady decline in the area’s traditional industries (livestock farming, textiles, mining, energy generation, iron smelting etc) resulting in geographic shifts in investment, jobs and population and significant landscape changes. The decline of these industries has removed the economic base of many communities and this change has had a marked and persistent effect on unemployment and other social problems in a number communities. This has led to a new understanding of the significance of the landscape and ecosystems to future prosperity. New projects and activities are more strongly linked to biodiversity and habitat management and increasingly based on an integrated view of what sustainability means to the communities within the area, and beyond.”
I’m interested to see how this is panning out on the ground. The other reserves in UK are: Beinn Eighe, Biosffer Dyfi, North Norfolk Coast and Braunton Burrows (North Devon), so if you have any experience of any of these, I’d love to hear from you.