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Environment

Reef limestones of carboniferous age

Reef limestones of Carboniferous age, Parkhouse Hill, Longnor, Derbyshire.

Why are geodiversity conservation issues important to councillors?

Introduction
Britain has had a significant influence on the study of geology since the 19th century and many geological sites within the country are of international importance. Several periods of geological time were named after localities found in the Britain, e.g. Cambrian (Cambrian Mountain, N Wales), Ordovician, Silurian (Welsh border tribes), Devonian (Devon). The naming of Epochs, such as the Wenlock named after Wenlock Edge in Shropshire, show the high importance of British geological sites to international geoscience. We therefore have a responsibility to conserve this geological heritage.

The minerals industry has a long link with geodiversity; exploration has increased our knowledge of geology while extraction has exposed many new and interesting features that would otherwise have remained hidden.

However, imprudent quarrying activity could result in the destruction and permanent loss of some of our most valuable geological exposures. It is the duty of the planning system to ensure that geodiversity is maintained through careful planning, quarry operation and sympathetic restoration schemes.

What is geodiversity?
     
Geodiversity has been defined as 'the link between people, landscape and their culture: it is the variety of geological environments, phenomena and processes that make those landscapes, rocks, minerals, fossils and soils which provide the framework for life on earth'.
 
Geodiversity has been defined as 'the link between people, landscape and their culture: it is the variety of geological environments, phenomena and processes that make those landscapes, rocks, minerals, fossils and soils which provide the framework for life on earth.' (Stanley, 2001). An area's geodiversity thus encompasses:
  • The inter-relationship and inter-dependence between geology and other interests.
 
  • Sites or features at which representative examples of the area's geological deposits and features may be seen.
  • The historical legacy of geological research within the area.
  • Sites and features currently used in interpreting earth science.
  • The whereabouts and nature of past and present mineral workings.
  • The influence of geology in shaping the built and man-made environment.
  • Materials, collections and other records.
  • Published literature and maps.
The geodiversity of an area may be viewed as one of its chief natural resources. Following the publication of PPS9: - Biodiversity and Geological Conservation, the profile of geodiversity in planning policy has been raised so that it is now seen as equal in importance to biodiversity. Conservation of geodiversity, and creation and protection of new geodiversity sites during mineral working and restoration, should therefore be provided for in all stages of the planning process.

It is a common misconception that geological and landscape features, other than those already afforded some measure of protection as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, are sufficiently robust not to require active management or action planning. All geological features are potentially vulnerable. In addition to obvious threats posed by inappropriate site development and the infilling of quarries, the encroachment of vegetation, natural weathering and general deterioration with time may threaten to damage or obliterate important geological features.

Hutton's unconformity

Hutton's unconformity, Siccar Point, Berwickshire.

 

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