An IUGS Geological Heritage Site is a key place with geological elements and/or processes of scientific international relevance, used as a reference, and/or with a substantial contribution to the development of geological sciences through history.
Selection and ratification process
Following IUGS procedures the assessment and final selection of Sites is done by the voting members of the Subcommission based on high quality standards. The proposal must be discussed and approved at the Commission level, which will forward it to the IUGS Executive Committee for final approval and ratification.
The global coverage of the proposals is guarantied by a wide participation of many commissions and international affiliated organizations that represent different disciplines of Earth Sciences. Geological Surveys can play also an important role in the selection of proposals.
1. All kind of typologies related to Earth Sciences can be recognized: paleontological, geomorphological, stratigraphic, sedimentologic, petrological, tectonic, mineralogical, volcanic, meteor impacts…
2. An IUGS Geological Heritage Site must be a key place, preferably a specific outcrop, landform or process, with a single geological feature or a group of geological features that characterize it as one of the best examples of its kind globally. All kind of typologies related to Earth Sciences can be considered, but it should preferably stand out by one specific typology.
NOTE: Movable Geological Heritage cannot be considered in this designation. Geological elements of international reference that belong to collections ought to be recognized as IUGS Geocollections. This program is currently being developed and hopefully will be activated in 2023.
3. An IUGS Geological Heritage Site must be of global significance. The geological feature does not need to have a global distribution, but the site should be one of the best examples of its kind globally.
4. An IUGS Geological Heritage Site must be a global scientific reference where important scientific research has been carried out. The scientific knowledge / relevance must be well demonstrated with scientific publications.
5. Iconic places for geological sciences (noteworthy waterfalls, glaciers, columnar joints, fossil localities, structures…) ought to be recognized as IUGS Geological Heritage Sites not only for their scientific value, but also for their educational potential.
Boundaries and size
6. An IUGS Geological Heritage Site must have well defined boundaries and must be well mapped according to the guidelines of the program.
7. There is no minimum or maximum size for an IUGS Geological Heritage Site. Its boundary on the map must include the area that best displays the geological feature(s) of high scientific value.
8. The proposed boundary must always be sufficiently justified. An IUGS Geological Heritage Site should preferably be based on the specific key sites (outcrops or landforms) that best represent the larger geological feature. Examples:
- For a specific unit in a basin, an IUGS Geological Heritage Site would be a relevant stratigraphic section, such as a stratotype, but not the entire sedimentary basin encompassing that sedimentary record.
- A good outcrop of a transcontinental fault where important research has been carried out should be considered as an IUGS Geological Heritage Site, but not the entire length of the fault.
- In contrast, big scale landforms such as a great canyon or a big sand dune complex might be considered in their entirety, because only that way the entire feature may be perceived.
Relation between sites
9. Coexisting sites. Several geosites with different typologies may be located very close to each other or even overlap, as long as both are of global significance. For example:
- An IUGS Geological Heritage Site may be a canyon that includes within it another IUGS Geological Heritage Sitesuch as an unconformity, as long as both are of global significance.
- An IUGS Geological Site may be a big and significant geological structure such a fold or a diapir that includes within it another IUGS Geological Heritage site such as an important paleontological outcrop, as long as both are of global significance.
10. Serial sites. Only in those cases where a geological element of global significance unavoidably needs to be explained with more than one site of the same typology that respond to the same geological process, an IUGS Geological Heritage Site can be defined as a serial site that includes more than one single outcrop / representation. Most of these individual outcrops must fulfil the requirement of global significance. For example:
- If there is meteorite impact crater with several good outcrops (pieces of the meteorite, suevite outcrops, impact landforms…) that have been studied together or separately, contributing to the general value and global significance of the crater, all of them could be integrated in a unique IUGS Geological Heritage Site.
- If there is a special stratigraphic section that comprises several sites of global significance in a small area such as chronostratigraphic boundaries, important paleontological outcrops or paleoclimatic records of global reference, the whole section can be considered as an IUGS Geological Heritage Site.
11. Although accessibility is not a compulsory criterion, an IUGS Geological Heritage Site should preferably be accessible, especially for scientific research. Accessibility conditions must be specified in the application documents.
State of Conservation
12. An IUGS Geological Heritage Site must be in a good state of preservation. This does not mean that it must be in its original natural state. It may include anthropic modifications as long as they do not degrade the scientific value of the site. The outcrop itself may be due to human action (road trench, open pit, etc.). Information about the state of conservation must be specified in the application documents.
13. The declaration as an IUGS Geological Heritage Site can and should be used to promote its protection. If a site becomes so degraded that its geological significance is no longer evident, the IUGS-ICG could remove a designation. In those cases, information about Geoconservation measures and actions must be supplied in the application documents if needed.
NOTE: IUGS Geological Heritage Sites designation aims to give recognition to those geological sites of scientific international relevance, used as a reference, and/or with a substantial contribution to the development of geological sciences through history. This recognition may bring protection and educational activities in the future. IUGS will welcome such initiatives, but selection criteria related to those are not critical in our designation process.