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Last edited 25 Jul 2022
|Hangzhou Daming Mountain Geopark, Floating Plank.|
The current understanding of a geopark is an area unified by its geological heritage, that is protected but used in a sustainable way to promote the economic wellbeing of the people who live there. The term geopark itself is not a protected classification as such, and therefore it can be open to interpretation.
The International Day for Biological Diversity 2022, “Building a shared future for all life”, highlights the importance of World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks for biological diversity, combined these cover 6% of the Earths landmass.
The name geopark and its following classification stems from the German word geotope, which is a geological feature specifically relating to rocks and soil. This differs from the general land formation of an area, which is referred to as a physiotope. Both geotopes and a physiotopes are non-living, they are chemical and physical parts of the environment which are in themselves abiotic.
The biological or biotic equivalent of a geotope is a biotope, which originates from the Greek words for life and place which has a very similar meaning to the more familiar term habitat. The related term biosphere refers to the global ecosystem as composed of living organisms (biotic / biota) and the non-living factors (abiotic / abiota) from which they derive energy and nutrients. The earths biosphere (later referred to as the ecosphere) is divided into biomes which are regional or global land areas that are characterised by the plants, animals and climate of which it is generally accepted there are 10 globally. A biodome is a human-made building which is a closed environment containing plants and animals existing in equilibrium that in many ways mimics a biosphere on a smaller scale. Bioparks apply similar principles of interdependent self sustaining systems applied to defined areas of open land.
 Associated terms
An area containing the three biotic and abiotic elements of a physiotope, geotope and biotope was first defined as an ecotope in 1936 by T. Sørensen. A few years later it was described by A.Tansley as "the particular portion, [...], of the physical world that forms a home for the organisms which inhabit it". In 1945 C.Troll applied the term to landscape ecology as "the smallest spatial object or component of a geographical landscape" and as such is now understood as the smallest ecological land unit that is relevant. An ecotope classification will normally now also include specific reference to its scale or size as it is mapped and the period of the time in years that the feature has existed.
In around 1900 the predominantly biosphere related macroscopic view of the world, changed to take organisms more into consideration, as well as microbes (the chemical product of organisms). By the 50's this helped define ecology which saw the organism at a core part of its make up and lead to realign biosphere to ecosphere which focuses on the part of the globe that more directly supports life. This global understanding was then divided into ecosystems by Odum in 1971 in what he called ecosystem ecology, environmental biology or the study of the structure and function of nature.
Ecological thinking somewhat pervaded as the awareness of global issues such as climate change gradually came to the forefront, right up to today. As a result eco has become a popular prefix to many words from eco-homes to eco-cities, industrial eco-parks to eco-parks, each with a different range of criteria, meaning and significance. Although at times generic titles, these indicate environmentally driven agendas with a view to achieving sustainability by one means or another.
Global Geoparks are defined by UNESCO as 'single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.' This is a bottom-up approach combining conservation with sustainable development whilst involving local communities and at present (2022), there are 177 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 46 countries.
A European Geopark is a territory, which includes a particular geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy supported by a European program to promote development. It must have clearly defined boundaries and sufficient surface area for true territorial economic development. In the case of the a European Geopark it has an active role in the economic development of its territory through enhancement of a general image, linked to the geological heritage and in particular the development of Geotourism.
A National Geopark contains a geological site (geotope) of a certain size or an ensemble of several geotopes that are of regional and national geo-scientific importance, rarity or beauty, and that can be considered representative of a landscape and its geological formation history.
For more information visit https://www.geopark-ries.de/en/nationale-geoparks/
- Ancient woodland.
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- Common area.
- Conservation areas.
- Designated land.
- Designated areas.
- Ecological network.
- Local green space.
- Local Nature Reserve.
- National nature reserves.
- National parks.
- National Scenic Area NSA.
- Ramsar sites.
- Site of biological importance.
- Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
- Special areas of conservation.
- Special protection areas.
- The history of conservation areas.
- Tree preservation orders.
- Types of land.
- Village greens.
- World heritage site.
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