What is a Geopark?
Category:Science Popularization

1  What is a Global Geopark?


   The term "Geopark" first appeared in UNESCO Geoparks Programme published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1997. UNESCO proposed the Geopark concept in 1999. It defines a geopark as an area containing geological heritage sites of particular and international importance. These Earth heritage sites require a comprehensive and coordinated management framework and a strategy for sustainable economic development. A geopark achieves its goals through a three-pronged approach. Firstly, it protects geosites and the natural environment. Secondly, it promotes popularization of earth sciences and improvement of public science literacy. Thirdly, it supports sustainable local economic and social development. The main goals of a Geopark are as follows:

   To protect the geo-areas within the geopark through proper planning, management and legislation;

   To encourage the sustainable use of geo-sites for knowledge-transfer activities;

   To promote geo-tourism and local engagement activities in the geo-areas and neighborhood area.

2  Is a Geopark only about geology?

   No! While a geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, the purpose of a geopark is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between that geological heritage and all other aspects of the area's natural, cultural and intangible heritages. It is about reconnecting human society at all levels to the planet we all call home and to celebrate how our planet and its 4,600 million year long history have shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies.

3  What is the Global Geoparks Network?


   The Global Geoparks Network (GGN) is a legally constituted not-for-profit organization. The GGN is a dynamic network where members are committed to working together and exchanging ideas of best practice and joining in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a Global Geopark. While the GGN as a whole comes together every two years, the GGN functions through the operation of regional networks such as the European Geoparks Network which meets twice a year to develop and promote joint activities. To become a global geopark, a geopark has to apply to its national government first, and submit its global geopark application document to UNESCO through the relevant state agencies. The geopark is then assessed by UNESCO, and candidate geoparks that fulfill all the stringent requirements are awarded Global Geopark status, and continue to be assessed every four years.


4  What is a Chinese Geopark Network?


Because it covers such a large area, China is rich in geological resources and its geoparks have been developing rapidly, with 241 national geoparks established in seven groups since 2001. To become a National Geopark of China, a geopark has to fulfill a comprehensive set of regulations and requirements. Candidate geoparks are assessed by professionals from the National Government. Successful candidates are designated National Geoparks.


5  Where are the Global Geoparks?

   By the end of 2014, 111 global geoparks in 32 countries have been established since UNESCO advocated establishing global geoparks in 2004. Of these more than 100 global geoparks, 31 are in China.

6  Geoparks and education


   It is a pre-requisite that all Global Geoparks develop and operate educational programmes at a range of levels to spread awareness of our geological heritage and its links to other aspects of our natural, cultural and intangible heritages.


7  Geoparks and science


   Global Geopark are special areas where the geological heritage, or geodiversity, is of international importance. Global Geoparks are thus encouraged to work with academic institutions to engage in active scientific research in the Earth Sciences, and other disciplines as appropriate, to advance our knowledge about the Earth and its processes.

Scientists from Paleovertebrates and Paleoanthropology Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been studying fossils in Tianzhushan Global Geopark


8  Geoparks and Culture


   The motto of the Global Geoprk Network is “Celebrating Earth Heritage, Sustaining Local Communities.” Geoparks are fundamentally about people and about exploring and celebrating the links between our communities and the Earth. The Earth has shaped who we are: it has shaped our farming practises, the building materials and methods we have used for our homes, even our mythology, folklore and folk traditions. Global Geoparks therefore engage in a range of activities to celebrate these links.


9  Geoparks and sustainable development


    Even if an area has outstanding, world-famous geological heritage of outstanding universal value it cannot be a Global Geopark unless the area also has a plan for the sustainable development of the people who live there. This development may take the form of sustainable tourism through, for example, the development of walking or cycling trails, training of local people to act as guides, encouraging tourism and accommodation providers to follow international best practise in environmental sustainability. But it can also be about simply engaging with local people and respecting their traditional way of life in a way that empowers them and respects their human rights and dignity. Unless a Global Geopark has the support of local people it will not succeed. Global Geopark status does not imply restrictions on any economic activity a Geopark where that activity complies with local, regional or national legislation.








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