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Geological conservation review (GCR) sites

Designation of geological and geomorphological features in Sites of Special Scientific Interest  (SSSIs) is underpinned by the Geological Conservation Review (GCR).  The GCR, undertaken by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), selected the very best and most representative geological and geomorphological features of Britain.  These are features of national and international importance that are considered to qualify for designation in SSSIs.  The geological features selected by the GCR range from rocks, minerals and fossils, to landform features formed during the Ice Age, modern rivers and coasts.  More information on the GCR including detailed information on individual GCR sites can be found on the JNCC website external site

The majority of 'GCR sites' now have statutory protection through designation as geological features in SSSIs; though some remain as yet unprotected.  SSSIs containing geological/geomphological or geo features may be designated either solely for their geo interest ('geo SSSIs'), or have an additionally biological interest ('mixed SSSIs'). 

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is responsible for the conservation and enhancement of the SSSI network in Scotland, and as such provides advice relating to the conservation and enhancement of GCR sites. 

GCR site statistics for Scotland

There are currently (June 2012) 895 GCR sites in Scotland.

Of these, 204 (23%) have no protective Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation status. These are termed 'unnotified GCR sites'. Significant areas of a further 28 (3%) also have no protective SSSI designation status. National Park Authorities and some Local Authorities treat these unnotified GCR sites as candidate SSSIs and afford them the same protection. Some unnotified GCR sites are also Local Geodiversity Sites (LGS), and as such they are afforded levels of protection appropriate to locally important sites (though they are, themselves, considered to be of national or international importance).

The remaining unnotified GCR sites have no statutory protection.

The condition of notified Earth Science features (protected GCR sites) in SSSIs is monitored under Scottish Natural Heritage's (SNH's) Site Condition Monitoring (SCM) programme initiated in 1998. By June 2012 636 (out of 656) Earth Science features had been assessed (many more than once). Two features (representing 2 GCR sites) were recorded as destroyed and a further 12 had suffered some irreversible damage. Of the remaining resource, 94% of features were in favourable condition, and a further 3% were under positive management to return them to favourable condition.

Soils in GCR sites and SSSIs

The GCR site series and SSSI designations cover geology and geomorphology but do not specifically cover soils. However, the quality and nature of soils within GCR sites and SSSIs are often integral aspects of the features (both geological and biological) for which the sites were selected (e.g. peat soil in pollen sites, or in sites designated for bog habitats). Thus soil conservation is an intrinsically important part of the SSSI conservation system.

Last updated on Friday 26th February 2016 at 14:48 PM. Click here to comment on this page