Launch of the IUCN WCPA Best Practice Guidelines on Geoconservation in Protected and Conserved Areas

These Best Practice Guidelines, No.31 in the IUCN WCPA series, are the first to address a fundamental part of nature - geodiversity and geoheritage and its protection and conservation. 

A unique combination of geothermal activity and glaciation given enhanced protection in 2020 at Kerlingarfjöll Nature Reserve and Landscape Protected Area, Iceland.

Guidelines for geoconservation in protected and conserved areas Photo: IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Written by an international team of experts in easy-to-understand language, these guidelines are principally for the use of protected area managers, staff, and their advisors. It spells out why geoheritage conservation (geoconservation for short) is needed, contrary to the popular view that geoheritage is stable and cannot be damaged. It describes the commonly accepted values of geoconservation, including the all-important link with biodiversity conservation through ecosystem functionality. Nine fundamental principles of geoconservation are described and examples provided. In particular, the guidelines focus on how to establish geoconservation in protected and conserved areas alone, or as an addition to existing systems for biodiversity and cultural diversity conservation, for example. Much of the publication focuses on setting up management systems and monitoring change, with examples provided from around the world on contemporary best practice. Specific attention is given to the management of threats from human activity, including climate change, and what steps should be taken to deal with them. There is also a particular focus on four situations common around the world: cave and karst areas, glacial and periglacial areas, volcanic areas, and minerals and fossils. The guidelines conclude with a section covering the best practices in educating the public.

The publication is arranged in a manner that renders it easy for readers to find information relevant to their particular interests and needs, with a signposted chart and table in the first section. 22 best practice guidelines are provided to help users in their work. Over 150 photographs and a dozen boxed examples provide information on situations from most continents. A comprehensive and up-to-date reference list is attached and is readily accessible through DOI. To ensure that the language and technical terms are easily understood by users, it uses relatively few complex terms in the text and provides, for the first time in IUCN, a comprehensive glossary of earth science terms.

This work could not have taken place without the financial support of the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea.

Launching the publication, the lead author and production manager Roger Crofts said,

“Embracing all aspects of nature, recognising their interactions and ensuring conservation of features and processes is even more important now than ever before. I hope that this guideline, with the examples provided, will help managers, staff, and their partners recognise the importance of geoconservation and improve its achievement in practice.”

Dr Kathy MacKinnon, Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) in her foreword states,

“These guidelines are the result of an international cooperation within the recently formed WCPA Geoheritage Specialist Group. This group is expanding all of the time and has expertise and experience on all aspects of geoheritage and its conservation. Members are ready and willing to help protected and conserved area colleagues in their work. I commend these guidelines on geoheritage to all involved in the establishment and management of protected and conserved areas to ensure that we protect our geodiversity as well as biodiversity heritage.”

The volume is dedicated to Dr Graeme Worboys, one of the authors, a global figure on geoconservation, who sadly died before its completion.

The document can be accessed at

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