Four biosphere reserves delisted


Four of the eight biosphere reserves in Scotland have been removed from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. This emphasises the Executive's commitment to ensuring that natural heritage designations are only used where they serve a useful purpose.

A review of all 13 biosphere reserves in the UK has taken place and, following consultation with national and local interests, it has been decided that St Kilda, Rum, Claish Moss and Caerlaverock no longer meet the criteria for inclusion in the Network.

Commenting on the decision, Mr Allan Wilson, Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development, said:

"Designations are important in the recognition and protection of our most important areas of natural heritage. There are a large number of different designations currently in operation in Scotland but any designation must be appropriate to the site in question. It is clear that St Kilda, Rum, Claish Moss and Caerlaverock no longer meet the criteria for listing as biosphere reserves. This is no reflection on the importance of these sites, and they will continue to receive protection under other designations."

The four remaining Scottish biosphere reserves are Beinn Eighe, Taynish, Loch Druidibeg and Cairnsmore of Fleet/Merrick Kells/Silver Flowe. Although the review has demonstrated that none of these sites currently meets in full the biosphere reserve criteria, Scottish Natural Heritage will be considering how they might be restructured with a view to continuing as part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Biosphere reserves are areas nominated by national governments and designated under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Since the establishment of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1976, UNESCO has designated 368 sites in 91 countries. The 13 reserves in the UK were designated in 1976 and 1977, and all carry other national, European or international conservation designations.

Since the late 1970s the intended functions of biosphere reserves have changed significantly with a greater focus on sustainable development, research, training and education in addition to conservation. Revised criteria for biosphere reserves were agreed by UNESCO in 1995, and many of the original reserves do not match the new criteria.

In reviewing the UK reserves the Government commissioned a report from Dr Martin Price, then of the Climate Change Unit at Oxford University, now of the University of the Highlands and Islands based at Perth College. Following consultation at both the national and local level, Scottish Ministers decided that St Kilda, Rum, Claish Moss and Caerlaverock had little or no potential to meet the new criteria, and should be removed from the list of biosphere reserves. Although the remaining 4 Scottish sites currently also do not meet the criteria, they do have the potential for restructuring in ways that would allow them to continue as biosphere reserves, and Scottish Natural Heritage is giving this further consideration.

The decision to remove the 4 sites from the World Network of Biosphere Reserves is to be reported to the meeting of the MAB International Co-ordinating Council meeting in Paris on 19 th March.