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Environment

Why is geodiversity important?
     
Recognition of natural and cultural heritage features and their sustainable management are today accepted as important functions within a civilised society. The importance of the range and diversity of geological features, the geodiversity of an area, is as important a facet of its natural heritage as its wildlife interests.
 
Geology is fundamental to almost every aspect of life. Geological resources provide the raw materials for civilisation, be they fuels, water supply, metal ores, building materials, bulk or industrial minerals. A clear understanding of geology is vital to the design and siting of buildings, roads, railways and airports as well as to the safe control of waste disposal, and the management of a wide range of natural and man-made hazards. All are aspects of geodiversity.

Recognition of natural and cultural heritage features and their sustainable management are today accepted as important functions within a civilised society. The importance of the range and diversity of geological features, the geodiversity of an area, is as important a facet of its natural heritage as its wildlife interests.

Cycling in the Peak District

Mining heritage can form the basis for a viable tourist industry.

The key points relating to geodiversity are:
  • Geodiversity may be one of the most significant factors in areas of high landscape value, or areas previously or currently developed for mineral extraction.
  • Geodiversity issues may contribute significantly to inform a wide range of planning and environmental policies.
  • An appreciation of geodiversity is important to a full understanding of many aspects of biodiversity.
  • Geodiversity interests need to be integrated into management and conservation strategies relating to parallel interests, including wildlife and archaeological features, and offers very substantial opportunities to enhance the conservation, management, educational use and interpretation of such related features.
  • Because it has hitherto received little serious consideration, geodiversity needs to be proactively addressed in planning policy and application of policy.
3D landscape over the Cheltenham area of the UK

The interaction between geology and landscape can be seen when a geological map is overlain on top of a 3D topographic map. Here, hard resistant limestone forms the tops of the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire.

  Durdle Door

Durdle Door, Dorset.

Addressing geodiversity
Geodiversity is managed through the recognition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) and the creation and implementation of Local Geodiversity Action Plans (LGAPs). Within this system the minerals industry has contributed considerably to British geodiversity by exposing a great variety of geological features that would otherwise have remained hidden. The minerals industry has already contributed to the creation of over 500 geological SSSIs and, through careful planning of site operations, restoration and management, even more can be done to conserve existing features and expose new ones.

Regionally Important Geological Sites

     
The designation of RIGS is one way of recognising and thereby protecting important geological and landscape features for the future.
 
RIGS are designated by locally developed criteria. They are important as an educational, historical and recreational resource.

The designation of RIGS is one way of recognising and thereby protecting important geological and landscape features for the future.

RIGS are the most important places for geodiversity studies outside of SSSIs and fall into two main categories.
  • Integrity sites: These are sites whose scientific or educational value lies in the fact that they contain finite and limited deposits or landforms that are irreplaceable if destroyed.
  • Exposure sites: Sites whose scientific or educational value lies in providing exposures of a deposit, which are extensive or plentiful underground but are rarely visible at the surface other than in areas where soil cover has been removed, such as cuttings, cliffs, mines and natural outcrops.
Although local criteria are used to select RIGS, usually defined in a LGAP, all RIGS selection criteria incorporate these four themes:
  • Educational fieldwork in primary and secondary schools, at undergraduate level and in adult education courses.
  • Scientific study by both professional and amateur geologists. Such sites demonstrate, alone or as part of a network, the geology or geomorphology of an area.
  • Historical significance in terms of important advances in geological knowledge.
  • Aesthetic qualities in the landscape, particularly in relation to promoting public awareness and appreciation of earth sciences.


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