GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 152-1
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


BRILHA, José, University of Minho, Earth Science Centre, Campus de Gualtar, Braga, 4710-057, Portugal

The concept of geologic heritage, or geoheritage in short, is becoming increasingly recognized and accepted around the world. It is now clear that certain geologic features that allow us to better understand how our planet works are at risk due to several man-made threats. These threats may destroy these records, compromising future scientific research and the advancement of geosciences. The well-being and prosperity of human population is based on the knowledge produced by geoscientists and this is one of the main reasons why special geologic features need to be properly managed. There are distinct geoheritage values (scientific, educational, scenic, cultural, etc.) and of different significance (international, national, and local).

Four main initiatives aiming the identification of geologic features with international scientific significance were established in the last 40 years: i) The definition of global standards of the fundamental scale to express the Earth’s history, implemented in the 1970s by the International Commission on Stratigraphy of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS); ii) The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted in 1972 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); iii) The Global Geosites Project implemented in 1996 by the IUGS; and iv) The UNESCO’s International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme, established in 2015.

In all these four initiatives, the challenge is to use rigorous and objective methods, not only to select the most important geologic features but also to assess their possible international significance. A working group was established in 2017 under the IUGS’s International Commission on Geoheritage to produce guidelines to evaluate the geoheritage significance in new UNESCO Global Geopark applications. It is expected that these guidelines will be adopted in 2020, helping evaluators to make this assessment more objectively.