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Geoheritage and geoconservation - History, definition, scope and scale

Brocx, M. and Semeniuk, V. (2007) Geoheritage and geoconservation - History, definition, scope and scale. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 90 (2). pp. 53-87.

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Geoheritage and geoconservation are concerned with the preservation of Earth Science features, and are important endeavours globally, as reflected in various international and intra-national bodies set up for conservation, with agreements, conventions, and inter-governmental initiatives. Historically, the United Kingdom is considered the birthplace of the discipline of Geology, and with its history and its leadership role in the preservation of geological sites, it is also the birthplace of geoheritage and geoconservation; both endeavours are integral components of education, tourism, planning and environmental management. In addition, in Pan-Europe, and globally under the World Heritage Convention, inventory-based geoconservation has been adopted as a whole-of-government approach. Australia presents an internationally contrasting, and a nationally internally diverse history in the arena of geoconservation. Western Australia, for instance, generally lags the world trend in practicing geoconservation, while Tasmania is a leader in the arena of geoconservation. For this reason, an objective of this paper is to raise the consciousness of Western Australian scientists, planners, and land managers, who are outside the field of geology, to the issues of geoheritage and geoconservation. Geoheritage encompasses global, national, state-wide, and local features of geology, at all scales that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference. As geoheritage focuses on features that are geological, the scope and scale of what constitutes Geology, such as its igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, stratigraphic, structural, geochemical, palaeontologic, geomorphic, pedologic, and hydrologic attributes, needs to be defined - from there, all that is encompassed by this discipline will be involved in geoheritage, and potentially, geoconservation. Geoconservation is the preservation of Earth Science features for purposes of heritage, science, or education. While globally, and to some extent in Australia, there has been identification of sites of geoheritage importance, and development of inventory-based selection of such sites, currently there are no definitions and no framework that addresses the full breadth and scope of what constitutes geoheritage, nor adequate treatment of the matter of scale, both of which are important to identifying sites of significance. Geoconservation should encompass all important geological features from the regional scale to the individual crystal. The various scales useful for dealing with sites of geoheritage significance include regional, large, medium, small, fine, and very fine scales. While significance is noted in many works dealing with geoconservation, to date the various levels of significance, from international to local, have not been adequately addressed or defined. The level of importance attributed to a given feature of geoheritage significance is related to how frequent or common is the feature within a scale of reference, and/or how important is the feature to a given culture. Five levels of significance are recognised in this paper: International, National, State-wide, Regional, and Local.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Royal Society of Western Australia
Copyright: © Royal Society of Western Australia 2007.
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