International Geodiversity Day – increasing global awareness of geological heritage

 

Over 600 participants from more than 60 countries gathered at the Oxford Geoheritage Virtual Conference in May 2020 to share their research in geodiversity and geoheritage. At this occasion, four of the conference delegates called for the establishment of an International Geodiversity Day to increase global awareness of geodiversity and geoheritage issues.

What is geodiversity?

“Geodiversity is defined as the variety of the non-living elements of nature – including its minerals, rocks, fossils, soils, sediments, landforms, topography, geological and morphogenetic processes, and hydrological features such as rivers and lakes. Geodiversity underpins biodiversity and is the basis of every ecosystem, but has its own values independent of biodiversity.” (Source: UNESCO proposal on an International Geodiversity Day)

Prof. Iain Stewart has recently narrated the geodiversity concept and its importance for our Planet in a video:

The elements that comprise geodiversity provide multiple benefits for us, as individuals, and for society, as a whole:

“From the soils we grow crops in, to the natural resources our society is built upon; from geology’s regulation of our environment, to the outdoor landscapes people visit for recreation – geodiversity underpins it all.” (Source: https://www.geodiversityday.org/)

The role of geodiversity is also essential for the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Why do we need an International Geodiversity Day?

Creating an official International Geodiversity Day will allow to develop educational and awareness raising activities in a coordinated way, highlighting the importance of geodiversity all across the world on a single day. Since its initial presentation, the International Geodiversity Day concept has received support by organisations from all around the world, including 18 international geoscience or nature conservation organisations, 7 Regional Organisations, and more than 80 national organisations in 40 countries with all continents represented. The European Federation of Geologists supports the initiative through its Panel of Experts on Geological Heritage.

“The Panel of Experts on Geological Heritage subscribes to the concerns and fundamentals presented in the International Geodiversity Day proposal and strongly recommends its approval by the United Nations.” (Mónica Sousa, coordinator of the EFG PE on Geological Heritage)

How to implement it?

Following the support of colleagues from around the world, the proposal for an International Geodiversity Day was officially included on the agenda for the UNESCO Executive Board Meeting in April 2021. On 17 March, the Preparatory Group of the UNESCO Executive Board met to discuss a number of proposals in advance of the Executive Board meeting in April. This included the International Geodiversity Day concept. The response of Member States was resoundingly positive, and the initiative has been recommended for acceptance at the April meeting. 

The proposal will now be presented for a vote at the 211th session of the Executive Board, which takes place between 7-21 April. The final decision is expected to be made at the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2021, with the first International Geodiversity Day being scheduled for 6 October 2022.

Following the support of so many Member States at the Preparatory Group of the UNESCO Executive Board for an International Geodiversity Day, the initiators of the Day have decided to host a workshop on 16 April to explore how such a Day can be used to promote public and policy engagement.

Why does the PE of Geoheritage support the initiative?

“Geodiversity supports life on Earth and thus it has a great influence on biodiversity and its evolution. From microscopic to macroscopic life, geodiversity is always present.

Throughout history, human societies benefited and continue to benefit from this geological diversity: (i) geological resources (e.g., rocks, minerals, fossil fuels, water, etc.) for the development of their communities and cultural expressions; (ii) many landscapes, geological phenomena, fossil locations have always attracted tourists, artists, explorers for their aesthetic, cultural and spiritual values and artistic inspiration.

Geodiversity will continue to bring many benefits to our modern society, and in fact our way of living could not exist without the Earth’s geological resources. Geodiversity is also a reflection of geological phenomena like natural hazards that shape our planet and the lives of its inhabitants. Although their impact may be one of destruction, new environments are also created, thus enabling the emergence of life and new opportunities for us humans.

Although our society depends on geological resources to its development, there is also a need to preserve those parts of geodiversity that are important for reconstructing Earth history and the evolution of life on our planet. These parts of geodiversity that need to be preserved are defined as geoheritage or geological heritage. By conserving geoheritage we are also preserving human history, allowing us to acknowledge and understand our place in the history of the planet. Implementing geoconservation measures on geoheritage sites prevents their destruction or damage and allows to preserve special places that are of scientific, cultural and aesthetic importance and that play a crucial role in outreach, educational and training purposes.

The International Geodiversity Day is a great opportunity to call for the Society’s attention to the importance of geological heritage, its legacy and the need for its preservation.”

What is your vision for the day?

“An International Geodiversity Day will have a tremendous impact around the globe, helping to highlight the importance of geology and geodiversity to our Society and to our Planet and will enhance Earth Science literacy for a knowledge Society through educational and outreach activities.”

Mónica Sousa

Coordinator of the EFG Panel of Experts on Geological Heritage, eurogeologists.eu/european-network

How to support the initiative?

Several countries already support the proposal but there is still time for more countries to show their support. We invite you therefore to contact your country’s UNESCO Permanent Delegation. Member States wishing to add their name to the proposal should contact the Portuguese Delegation. 

Some of EFG’s actions in relation to this initiative

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