Scotland’s geodiversity : development of the basis for a national framework

Gordon, J.E.; Barron, Hugh F.. 2011 Scotland’s geodiversity : development of the basis for a national framework. Scottish Natural Heritage, 168pp. (Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 417)

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Geodiversity is the variety of rocks, minerals, fossils, landforms sediments and soils, together with the natural processes which form and alter them. It delivers important ecosystem services through its influence on landscape, habitats and species, economic activities, historical and cultural heritage and people’s health and well-being. Understanding of geodiversity also has a key part to play in climate change adaptation and in sustainable management of the land, river catchments and the coast. The aim of this study was to undertake an assessment of the value and status of geodiversity in Scotland and to develop the basis for a national framework to enable better integration of geodiversity within relevant policy areas, including helping to deliver the Scottish Government’s Strategic Objectives. Main findings  The geological development of Scotland has given rise to a remarkable geodiversity for a country of its size. Many sites in Scotland are of great importance to geoscience for their rocks, fossils and landforms, demonstrating important geological processes or events. Scotland’s marine geodiversity is less well known, but also includes outstanding features.  Geodiversity is important both as an intrinsic part of the natural heritage and because it provides ecosystem services and functions for the benefit of Scotland’s people and environment. In doing so, it contributes to the delivery of the Scottish Government’s 5 Strategic Objectives, National Outcomes and the 5 key themes for a Greener Scotland. The ‘ecosystem approach’ provides a potentially powerful framework for developing better integration of geodiversity and biodiversity, as well as a means of demonstrating the wider values and benefits of geodiversity through its contribution to delivering ecosystem services.  Understanding geodiversity has a key part to play in adapting to climate change and sea-level rise. Changes in geomorphological processes are likely to have significant implications for most ecosystems. Effective conservation strategies for managing ecosystem responses will need to work in sympathy with natural processes. The iv concepts of working with nature and making space for natural processes have broader value to society as a whole.  Pressures on geodiversity arise principally from planning developments and land-use changes. These may damage key features, impair their visibility and accessibility or fragment the interest. Sites located on the coast, adjacent to rivers or on active slopes are most likely to be impacted by climate change, sea-level rise and increased erosion or flooding. The human responses to these changes, in the form of ‘hard’ coastal protection or river and slope engineering are, however, likely to have the greatest impact on geodiversity.  A separate commissioned review of the current Scottish policy environment concluded that there was limited recognition of the value of geodiversity in a range of relevant key areas such as economic development, landscape, climate change adaptation, health, recreation and education. The following conclusions were reached:  There is a responsibility to ensure that the best geodiversity sites and features continue to be protected not only as part of our geoheritage, but also as an essential resource for field education, training and lifelong learning.  The concept of biodiversity and our need to protect this component of the natural heritage at local, national and global scales is relatively well developed and understood at a strategic level. It forms the basis for much of the effort and activities in nature conservation and is relatively well integrated into the wider policy framework. Conversely, the concept and values of geodiversity are less well appreciated and, by comparison, relatively undervalued and poorly integrated.  Proposals for the vision, aim and outcomes for a ‘Scottish Geodiversity Framework’ are set out for discussion. Such a framework would help to ensure that geodiversity is recognised as an integral and vital part of our environment, economy and heritage to be safeguarded for existing and future generations. It would instigate a process through which key stakeholders would work together to identify strategic priorities for geodiversity action, in a similar way to ‘The Scottish Soil Framework’. It would help to achieve an environment in which the rich geodiversity of Scotland can be understood, valued and conserved, and make geodiversity relevant to the way we work and live, as well as the decisions we make about a sustainable future for our environment, for both people and nature. In doing so, it should contribute to delivering the Scottish Government’s National Outcome on Natural Resource Protection and Enhancement.  It is proposed that a ‘Scottish Geodiversity Framework’ covers the following areas of activity: 1. ‘Future-proofing’ ecosystem services, particularly in a context of climate change and sea-level rise. 2. Integration of geodiversity into all relevant policies. 3. Sustainable management of geodiversity for the wider benefit of Scotland’s people, environment and economy. 4. Conservation of geodiversity. 5. Raising awareness of the values and benefits of geodiversity and their contribution to ecosystem services. 6. Improving understanding of geodiversity and key knowledge gaps.  Promoting wider awareness, understanding and involvement is also crucial. At policy, planning and decision-making levels, there is a need to make understanding v of the way the Earth works one of the cornerstones of sustainable development. Improving public awareness and engagement at a community level is also essential.  In the present economic climate there is a need to strengthen links with the business community to generate financial returns as well as real benefits for geodiversity from geoconservation and use of the Earth’s resources in a sustainable way.  It is recommended that the framework outlined in this report provides a starting point and should be developed and formalised through the mechanism of a ‘Scottish Geodiversity Forum’ or Working Group, set up with the support of the Scottish Government with clear leadership and appropriate convening power and involving appropriate partners and stakeholders. This should also be tasked with preparing a prioritised implementation plan, targets and actions.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Geology and Landscape (Scotland)
Funders/Sponsors: Scottish Natural Heritage, British Geological Survey
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item can be downloaded for free from
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 09 Aug 2012 15:13 +0 (UTC)

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