What are geoparks?

Geoparks are geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Our bottom-up approach is to combine conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities whilst promoting international tourism and travel.

European Geopark Network

The European Geopark Network (EGN) was set up in 2000 by areas in France, Greece, Germany and Spain.  They were so successful that the idea spread and now the network has now grown to 74 geoparks in 24 countries across Europe. The EGN holds annual meetings every March hosted by one of the European Geoparks, attendance is compulsory for every geopark.

Map of European Geoparks to celebrate the 20th year of the EGN.

Global Geopark Network

In 2004, the European and Chinese networks came together at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to form the Global Geopark Network (GGN) where national initiatives contribute to and benefit from their membership of a global network. The GGN holds annual meetings every September hosted by one of the Global Geoparks, attendance is compulsory for every geopark.

UNESCO Global Geopark Network

On 17 November 2015, the 195 Member States of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new programme, the UNESCO Global Geoparks. This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.

Currently there are 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries; here is detailed information on each UNESCO Global Geopark including the 8 other UK geoparks.

A UNESCO Global Geopark must contain geology of international significance in a living, working landscape where science and local communities engage in a mutually beneficial way.

Education at all levels is at the core of the UNESCO Global Geopark concept. From local community groups to university researchers, they Geoparks encourage awareness of the story of the planet as read in the rocks, landscape and ongoing geological processes. They also promote the links between geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, clearly demonstrating that geodiversity is the foundation of all ecosystems and the basis of human interaction with the landscape.

UNESCO Global Geoparks sit within UNESCO’s International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP) which encourages international cooperation between areas with geological heritage of international value, through a bottom-up approach to conservation, local community support, promotion of heritage and sustainable development of the area.

The international geological significance of a UNESCO Global Geopark is determined by scientific professionals, who make a globally comparative assessment based on the peer-reviewed, published research conducted on geological sites within the area. UNESCO Global Geoparks use geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of that area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on.

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