In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geodiversity and Geoconservation

  • Introduction
  • General Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Describing Geodiversity
  • Valuing Geodiversity
  • Threats to Geodiversity
  • International Geoconservation
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Global Geoparks
  • National Geoconservation
  • Policies and Plans
  • Measuring Geodiversity
  • Geodiversity–Biodiversity Linkages
  • Geodiversity as Part of Integrated Land Management and Sustainable Development
  • Criticisms of Geodiversity
  • Extraterrestrial diversity (exogeodiversity)

Environmental Science Geodiversity and Geoconservation
Murray Gray
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199363445-0022


Although nature is often equated with wildlife, it does in fact comprise both living and nonliving elements. The living elements are the plants and animals that make up the world’s biodiversity (biological diversity). Geodiversity (geological and geomorphological diversity) refers to the variety of nonliving nature, that is, the minerals, rocks, fossils, soils (though these also consist of organic matter and a soil ecology), landforms, and processes that make up the physical surface and subsurface of planet Earth. It does not generally include either the atmosphere (climate diversity) or the ocean waters, but it does include the physical diversity of the ocean floor and terrestrial water features (springs, rivers, ponds, lakes, etc.). The term geodiversity was first used in 1993, shortly after agreement of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 made it difficult for geoscientists to avoid introducing the abiotic equivalent of the biological concept and term biodiversity.

General Reference Works

The main general reference work on the topic of geodiversity is Gray 2013, the second edition of a book first published in 2004. After reviewing a number of definitions, the work defines geodiversity as “the natural range (diversity) of geological (rocks, minerals, fossils), geomorphological (landforms, topography, physical processes), soil and hydrological features. It includes their assemblages, structures, systems and contributions to landscapes” (p. 12). Related concepts include “geoheritage” (those parts of the world’s geodiversity that deserve conservation [Sharples 2002]) and “geoconservation” (the endeavor of trying to conserve the geodiversity of geoheritage). An important reference work on these two concepts is the edited volume Reynard and Brilha 2018, while Henriques, et al. 2011 outlines some principles of geoconservation. Gray 2008 also reviews the early history of geodiversity. The early development of the concept was carried out in Tasmania, where it was first defined and used in geoconservation work (see Sharples 2002). It was also introduced into the Australian Natural Heritage Charter (Australian Heritage Commission 2002). Also significant is Johansson 2001, published by the Nordic Council of Ministers on the geodiversity of the Nordic countries. Crofts 2014 and Crofts 2018 argue that geodiversity should learn the lessons from biodiversity that have made it much more high profile and successful in policy formulation. Specific terminology has been suggested for some elements of geodiversity, including pedodiversity for soils, in Ibáñez, et al. 1995, and geomorphodiversity for geomorphology, in Panizza 2009.

  • Australian Heritage Commission. 2002. Australian Natural Heritage Charter. 2d ed. Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission.

    This charter, first published in 1996, has the term and concept of geodiversity interwoven throughout its forty-three articles. It therefore acts as a benchmark for integrated nature conservation policy.

  • Crofts, R. 2014. Promoting geodiversity: Learning lessons from biodiversity. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 125.3: 263–266.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2014.03.002

    Points out that geodiversity lacks the status and standing of biodiversity in political and public forums and makes eight suggestions for increasing the understanding of geodiversity beyond the geoscience community.

  • Crofts, R. 2018. Putting geoheritage conservation on all agendas. Geoheritage 10:231–238.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12371-017-0239-y

    This paper examines why geodiversity plays a minor role in wider environmental and sustainable development agendas, and it makes suggestions for improving the situation.

  • Gray, M. 2008. Geodiversity: The origin and evolution of a paradigm. In The history of geoconservation. Edited by C. D. Burek and C. D. Prosser, 31–36. Special Publication 300. London: Geological Society.

    Describes the early history and development of the concept of geodiversity, which Gray refers to as a paradigm.

  • Gray, M. 2013. Geodiversity: Valuing and conserving abiotic nature. 2d ed. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

    The second edition of the standard book on the subject of geodiversity is divided into fifteen chapters grouped into five parts.

  • Henriques, M. H., R. P. dos Reis, J. Brilha, and T. Mota. 2011. Geoconservation as an emerging geoscience. Geoheritage 3:117–128.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12371-011-0039-8

    Assesses the place of geoconservation within the geosciences, including the topics of earth science education, geological resource depletion, sustainable development, and geotourism.

  • Ibáñez, J. J., S. de-Alba, F. F. Bermudez, and A. Garcia-Alvarez. 1995. Pedodiversity concepts and tools. Catena 24:215–232.

    DOI: 10.1016/0341-8162(95)00028-Q

    Defines pedodiversity as part of geodiversity, explains the main methodological tools for assessing it, and outlines some applications in analyzing soil patterns.

  • Johansson, C. E., ed. 2001. Geodiversitet i Nordisk Naturvård. Copenhagen: Nordisk Ministerraad.

    Describes (in Swedish) the geodiversity of the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland).

  • Panizza, M. 2009. The geomorphodiversity of the Dolomites (Italy): A key of geoheritage assessment. Geoheritage 1:33–42.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12371-009-0003-z

    Introduces the term geomorphodiversity to describe geomorphological diversity and applies this idea to the Dolomite Mountains of Italy.

  • Reynard, E., and J. Brilha, eds. 2018. Geoheritage: Assessment, protection and management. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Twenty-four chapters in seven sections plus an introduction and conclusion, describing principles and examples of geoheritage conservation from around the world.

  • Sharples, C. 2002. Concepts and principles of geoconservation. Hobart, Australia: Parks & Wildlife Service.

    A detailed, online guide to the principles of geoconservation as founded on geodiversity.

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