The IUCN WCPA Geoheritage Specialist Group (GSG) facilitates the conservation and effective management of protected area geoheritage and provides specialist advice on all aspects of geodiversity in relation to protected areas and their management. These roles recognise the concept of ‘geo’ as an integral part of ‘nature’ in IUCN’s 2008 definition of a protected area and the clear links between geodiversity and biodiversity in the conservation of nature.
Various definitions of geodiversity and geoheritage have been proposed. Put simply, geodiversity is the variety of rocks, minerals, fossils, landforms, sediments, water and soils, together with the natural processes which form and alter them; geoheritage comprises those elements of the Earth's geodiversity that are considered to have significant scientific, educational, cultural or aesthetic value. Geoconservation is actions and measures taken to preserve geodiversity and geoheritage for the future.
The story of the Earth, our geoheritage, is preserved in its geodiversity. Plate movements, volcanic activity, ice ages, mountain building, environmental changes and the evolution of life are all recorded in varying detail in rocks, landforms, sediments, fossils and soils and enable us to understand the evolution of our dynamic planet.
Geodiversity also provides the foundation for life on Earth and the diversity of species, habitats, ecosystems and landscapes. It is a vital link between people, nature, landscapes and cultural heritage. It supports sustainable management of land and water, climate change adaptation, historical and cultural heritage, economic development and people's health and well-being. In doing so, geodiversity underpins or delivers most of the ecosystem services identified in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It also provides substantial ‘knowledge’ benefits (e.g. records of past climate changes and understanding of how Earth systems operate). Without an understanding of geodiversity, management of protected areas will not be as effective as it should be.
Conservation of geodiversity is necessary both for its own particular geoheritage values and for its wider ecosystem values. This requires better integration of geodiversity and geoheritage into the management of protected areas.
The purpose of the Geoheritage Specialist Group is to facilitate geoconservation and specifically to:
1) provide advice and guidance for all aspects of geodiversity as it relates to the establishment and effective management of protected areas;
2) provide specific advice on the conservation and effective management of geoheritage in protected areas and to prepare guidance material as appropriate;
3) identify significant geoheritage areas that could be formally reserved as protected areas by nations;
4) provide specialist geoheritage advice for the assessment of World Heritage Site nominations;
5) provide a mechanism for integrating geodiversity into all relevant IUCN programmes and activities;
6) provide, as appropriate, a professional interface for IUCN between geodiversity and geoheritage stakeholders such as UNESCO, the mining industry and others.
Priority tasks for the Geoheritage Specialist Group are to:
1. prepare the Geoheritage Chapter for the IUCN’s Protected Area Governance and Management e-book;
2. prepare a Best Practice Guideline for Protected Area Geodiversity Management;
3. prepare a Geoheritage Guidance Statement for IUCN World Heritage Criterion (viii);
4. develop Background Geoheritage Guidance Material for Protected Areas;
5. address issues and initiatives identified by Resolution-5.-048 (adopted at the 5th WCC 2012): Valuing and Conserving Geoheritage Within the IUCN Programme 2013-2016.
Specialist Group Leader