Geodiversity is 'the process of recognising and assessing the value of geological features, collections, sites, monuments, artworks, and landscapes and the application of practices for their care, maintenance and management for the long-term benefit of all'.
This page and map aim to explore Geodiversity and the ways in which it is protected and celebrated around the world in the form of GeoParks and World Heritage Sites.
This ethos is reflected by OneGeology, which aims to make digital geological data available to everyone around the world via the Onegeology portal. The OneGeology objectives endorse this aim:
- Improve accessibility of geological map data
- Exchange know-how and skills so that all nations can participate
- Use the global profile of OneGeology to increase awareness of the project and the relevance of the geosciences
Together the Global Geopark Network supported by UNESCO, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and OneGeology aim to increase awareness of geology on both a local and global scale.
Thank you to each GeoPark for their contribution to these pages and to UNESCO for their collaboration.
What is geodiversity?
Geodiversity can be described as the variety of elements of geology — the rocks, minerals, fossils and soils — and the natural landforms and processes that shape them throughout geological time.
Best known are those rare and exceptional occurrences such as dinosaur footprints or mammoth tusks, but there are many more less exceptional, but equally important, pieces of the geological jigsaw puzzle. When pieced together, these give an insight into past climates, earlier environments and life on earth.
Geodiversity also recognises the link between people, landscape and their culture.
The recognition of the concept of geodiversity represents an opportunity for the geological sciences to raise their profile, and raise awareness of the importance of abiotic (physical rather than biological) parts of ecosystems.
Local plans and designated areas offer opportunities and avenues for outreach by geologists to all levels from tourism to governments.
There are many benefits to getting out in the field with people interested in geology and palaeontology, and following one of the main maxims of environmental action: 'Think global, act local', a view echoed by OneGeology.
There are many geological sites around the world that are of international importance and we have a responsibility to conserve this geological heritage.
An area of geodiversity encompasses:
- the interactive relationships between geology and other interests
- sites or features where representative examples of the areas of geological deposits and features can be seen
- the historical legacy of geological research within the area
- sites and features currently used in interpreting earth science
- the location and nature of past and present mineral workings
- the influence of geology in shaping the built and man-made environment
- materials collections and records, published literature and maps
All geological features are potentially vulnerable. In addition to obvious threats posed by inappropriate site development and the infilling of quarries, geological sites are also threatened by the encroachment of vegetation, natural weathering and general deterioration, which with time, may damage or obliterate important geological features.
Identifying sites as geologically important allows measures to be taken to prevent these things from occurring.
Think global, act local
At the global level a number of conservation programmes now recognise, or are beginning to recognise, that geodiversity is an important element in our natural heritage, must be managed effectively if we are to realistically manage biodiversity, and is a potentially important component of sustainable development strategies, particularly in the developing world.
Global programmes include the World Heritage Convention, the Global Geopark Network supported by UNESCO and the Convention on Biodiversity. These provide the basis for international recognition of natural heritage management, but draw upon local and regional actions to make them a reality.
Many global programmes can only be effective if they recognise the need for close involvement by local communities in heritage management programmes. Local community involvement can only happen if the people who live and work in an area understand and value the heritage with which they live and for which they have a responsibility.
These labels and boundaries provide convenient areas to deal and work with, but geodiversity can and should be recognised beyond these protected area boundaries. Concepts and techniques can be applied at local, regional and national scales and geodiversity management can be successfully carried out to effectively promote geodiversity management.
In many countries worldwide, geodiversity and geoconservation is being recognised for its value and importance. There are now 63 official geoparks and many other recognised and protected areas.
The Global Geopark Network (GGN) supported by UNESCO was established in 2004 to conserve Earth's geological heritage, as well as to promote the sustainable research and development by the concerned communities. The GGN membership is formed by national geological parks, or geoparks — local areas focused on the protection of geological features and heritage.
The first members to the GGN were announced during the first International Conference on Geoparks in 2004. To date (January 2014) 100 geoparks from 30 countries are officially part of the GGN family.
What is the European Geoparks Network?
The European Geoparks Network (EGN), established in 2000, now consists of 49 Geoparks from 19 European Countries. Working together, the members co-operate to promote the protection of their geological heritage and to use that heritage to promote sustainable economic development in their respective regions.
More about the Global Geopark Network supported by UNESCO.
World Heritage Sites
World Heritage areas are also widely representative of geological and geomorphological phenomena, including:
- arid landforms
- caves and karst
- coasts, reefs and islands
- ice fields and glaciers
- fluvial, lacustrine andestuarine systems
- mountain regions
- tectonic, structural and stratigraphic features
Of the 936 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, 725 are cultural, 183 are natural and 28 are mixed sites. Only 20 are inscribed primarily because of their geological interest.
Explore and learn about UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Geodiversity on a map
Information and links about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Geoparks plus the site's geology are shown in the OneGeology Portal.
Such sites are often designated sites of regional and global importance due to the presence and characteristics of the geology.
Links are available to the portal maps, and to the geological organisations providing the geological data.
View Geoparks and World Heritage sites linked to geology on a map.