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What is a geopark?

A geopark is an area of outstanding interest for its rocks and landforms, and where greater appreciation and understanding of that geological heritage can benefit local people and businesses through tourism and education initiatives. In November 2015 UNESCO created a new accreditation of 'UNESCO Global Geopark' external site , giving geoparks within the Global Geoparks network the same level of recognition as World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves.

Where are they?

There are over 30 European Geoparks external site  that together with others word-wide make a network of 120 Global Geoparks external site in 33 countries.

In Scotland we currently have 2 UNESCO Global Geoparks, North West Highlands Geopark and Geopark Shetland. Additionally Lochaber still operates as a Geopark, though without the UNESCO accolade after losing European and Global Geopark status in 2011 due to lack of funding.  Together these 3 geoparks cover around 10% of Scotland's land area.  Each Geopark has its own website telling the geological story of the area, and giving up to date information on accommodation, publications, events and activities.

How are they selected and designated?

In Scotland, proposals for geoparks have been developed by partnerships of local communities, local authorities, Earth scientists and Scottish Natural Heritage.  Applications for geopark status are submitted to the European Geoparks Network external site who undertake a visit to the area and a rigorous assessment of the application. Once accepted as a European Geopark, the geopark is automatically endorsed by UNESCO, so that all European Geoparks are also UNESCO Global Geoparks.

How are they protected and managed?

Each geopark has an established management group. These groups co-ordinate activities and promotion of the geopark.  Businesses within the geopark that make use of or benefit from the areas geological heritage are encouraged to ensure that their activities and environmentally sustainable and support conservation of that heritage. Businesses that adhere to the geopark's aims may use the geopark logo to help promote their business. Land owner and managers day-to-day management of the land is unaffected by designation as a geopark.

Last updated on Tuesday 23rd February 2016 at 13:50 PM. Click here to comment on this page