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Protecting our geodiversity

In Scotland, we have a range of international, national and local designations which help to safeguard our geodiversity.


Geoparks - the UNESCO accolade of Geopark is based on an areas outstanding geodiversity and its successful use as a tourist attraction. There are currently two UNESCO Geoparks in Scotland: North West Highlands Geopark, and Shetland Geopark.


National Parks - Geodiversity is part of the special qualities of Scotland's National Parks, and both National Parks contain internationally important geodiversity. Around 11% of our National Parks area (15% Cairngorms, 1.5% Loch Lomond and the Trossachs) has Geological Conservation Review (GCR) site status. Some, but not all, of these GCR sites are protected by Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) legislation. The remainder are protected by policies for GCR site protection that exist in the Local Plans for both National Parks. National Parks also benefit locally important geodiversity sites, for example, there are 89 proposed Local Geodiversity Sites in the Cairngorms National Park.

National Nature Reserves (NNR) - Many NNRs contain significant geological and geomorphological interest, with around 39% (524 km2  ) of NNR area having GCR site status (March 2011). This geodiversity benefits from the sympathetic management and promotion associated with NNR status. 

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the primary statutory mechanism for geodiversity protection in Scotland. The Great Britain-wide Geological Conservation Review (GCR) underpins designation of Scotlands geological SSSIs. In June 2012, there were 656 notified Earth Science features in SSSIs in Scotland. This is an increase from 612 in 2005, mostly due to the review of notified features in SSSIs following the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.

Marine Protected Areas (MPA)  - Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 allows for conserving of geological or geomorphological features inside 12 nautical miles in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). No MPAs have yet been selected. However, a survey, similar to that carried out for the Geological Conservation Review has identified 32 key geodiversity areas within Scottish territorial waters and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland.


Local Nature Conservation Sites (LNCS) - These include Local Geodiversity Sites (LGS), sometimes also called 'Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites' (RIGS).

Wider protection

An Ecosystem Approach, as outlined in our ecosystem approach framework, 'Applying an Ecosystem Approach in Scotland: A framework for Action'  PDF document ,  is a new basis for delivering sustainable development in Scotland. It provides a potentially powerful framework for developing better integration of geodiversity and biodiversity, and a means of demonstrating the wider values and benefits of geodiversity through its contribution to delivering ecosystem services . Adopting the Ecosystem Approach means taking an holistic view of ecosystems (both their geodiversity and their biodiversity) during decision-making, and valuing the services they provide.

We also promote conservation, enhancement and sympathetic management of geodiversity outside designated areas through

What can I do to help safeguard our geodiversity?

Last updated on Wednesday 26th August 2015 at 09:46 AM. Click here to comment on this page