“Geotourism”: UNESCO identifies 8 new sites
UNESCO has approved the designation of eight new global geoparks, bringing the number of sites in the Global Geoparks Network to 177 spread across 46 countries, the Paris-based UN agency said on Wednesday.
According to UNESCO, a geopark is an area with outstanding geological heritage and a strategy to promote that heritage for the benefit of the local community.
Local communities promote and create geoparks to celebrate the earth’s heritage and achieve sustainable development of their region through “geotourism,” according to UNESCO.
“It’s much more than a label. It is a recognition of geological sites of international value,” said Kristof Vandenberghe, head of UNESCO’s Earth Sciences and Geoparks Section, at a press event.
“You can’t express everything in monetary terms. Sometimes people discover and recognize how connected they really are to their landscape.”
Two countries, Luxembourg and Sweden, have joined the global network for the first time with the designation of their first Geoparks.
There are five existing Geoparks in Canada: Stonehammer in New Brunswick, Tumbler Ridge in BC, Perce in Quebec, Discovery in Newfoundland and Cliffs of Fundy in Nova Scotia. No new Canadian locations were added to the list this year.
The eight new UNESCO Global Geoparks are:
Seridó bears witness to the last 600 million years of geological history and, according to UNESCO, is home to one of the largest scheelite mineralizations in South America. (Source: Getson Luís/Seridó UNESCO Global Geopark)
UNESCO Global Geopark Seridó, Brazil
According to UNESCO, the Seridó UNESCO Global Geopark is home to more than 120,000 residents, including communities like the Quilombolas, “who keep alive the memory of their enslaved ancestors from Africa”.
The geopark bears witness to the last 600 million years of earth history and, according to UNESCO, is home to one of the largest scheelite mineralizations in South America.
Southern Canyons Pathways has some of the most remarkable canyons in South America. (Credit: GABRIEL ZAPAROLLI: ©Gabriel Zaparolli via UNESCO)
Southern Canyons Pathways UNESCO Global Geopark, Brazil
Caminhos dos Cânions do Sul in southern Brazil is characterized by the Atlantic forests, which according to UNESCO are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.
The place also has some of the most notable canyons in South America.
Water covers about 21 percent of this geopark, while trees take up more than half of it. (Source: Johannes Sipponen/Geopark Salpausselkä)
UNESCO Global Geopark Salpausselka, Finland
The UNESCO Global Geopark Salpausselkä is located in southern Finland. Water covers about 21 percent of the Geopark, according to UNESCO, while trees take up more than half of it.
The Geopark’s hundreds of lakes, as well as the long, unique Salpauros ridges are prominent features of the terrain.
According to UNESCO, a meteorite fell to earth at this point around 15 million years ago. (Source: Dietmar Denger / Geopark Ries e. V. via UNESCO)
Ries UNESCO Global Geopark, Germany
The UNESCO Global Geopark Ries is mostly in Bavaria, with a tiny part in Baden-Württemberg. According to UNESCO, a meteorite fell to earth at this point around 15 million years ago.
According to the NASA Earth Observatory, the impact crater of the Nördlinger Ries is the best preserved meteorite crater in Europe.
This geopark is rich in sites such as caves, sinkholes and underground streams that highlight a geological history of over 250 million years. (Source: Kefalonia-Ithaka via UNESCO)
Kefalonia-Ithaka UNESCO Global Geopark, Greece
Kefalonia – Ithaca is a Heptanese archipelago in western Greece.
The Geopark is rich in sites such as caves, sinkholes and underground streams that highlight a geological history of over 250 million years.
Luxembourg’s Mllerdall UNESCO Global Geopark has been a popular tourist destination since the late 19th century. (Source: NGPM, Uli Fielitz via UNESCO)
Mëllerdall UNESCO Global Geopark, Luxembourg
Luxembourg’s Mllerdall UNESCO Global Geopark is one of Western Europe’s “most spectacular sandstone landscapes” and has been a tourist destination since the late 19th century, according to UNESCO.
It contains the Luxembourg sandstone formations, which are up to 100 meters thick and date from the Lower Liassic period (205 to 180 million years ago).
The Buzău Land UNESCO Global Geopark is home to 45,000 people in the Romanian Carpathian region. (Credit: Buzău Land NGO / Răzvan-Gabriel Popa via UNESCO)
Buzău Land UNESCO Global Geopark, Romania
The Buzău Land UNESCO Global Geopark is home to 45,000 people in the Romanian Carpathian region.
According to UNESCO, the geopark has a 40 million year old geological history and is one of the most geodynamically active places in Europe.
The Platbergens in western Sweden are known for their landscape of 15 flat-topped mesas, formed by erosion 115,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. (Credit: Henrik Theodorsson via UNESCO)
Platåbergen’s UNESCO Global Geopark, Sweden
The Platbergens in western Sweden are known for their landscape of 15 flat-topped mesas, which UNESCO says were formed by erosion 115,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.
The Västgöta plain with shallow lakes, hills and well-preserved cultural landscapes is also part of the region. According to UNESCO, it is also home to Sweden’s first known stone church, built by Christian Vikings in the early 11th century.
UNESCO noted in a press release that it was unable to evaluate new applications from Asia, Africa or the Arab region due to COVID-19, but several projects for geoparks are underway in those parts of the world.
While the UNESCO World Heritage designation is more familiar and includes landmarks with legal protection under international conventions, the Global Geopark title is relatively new, having been introduced in 2015.