Geology should be central to National Parks

National parks tend to be areas of outstanding natural beauty and are areas of high biodiversity. Geology and geodiversity are fundamental aspects to these features which are often overlooked. Without the combination of the underlying geology, and the geological and geomorphological processes that have shaped the landscape, the dramatic scenery of the Cairngorms and of Loch Lomond would not exist. Scotland's geological record contains around 4 billion years of world history and a wealth of geodiversity. The geology of any new national park should be taken into consideration when making decisions, and the geology of the park should be celebrated and explained for both local communities and tourists. Scotland already has a number of Geoparks, two of which have UNESCO status (NW Highlands Geopark and Shetland). These Geoparks do not receive the national support that they deserve. Why not support existing Geoparks instead of creating a new national park? Or maybe make one of these a new National Park?

Why the contribution is important

Geology and geomorphological processes control not just landscape topography but also interact with the local climate to influence soil type and thus biodiversity. Geology is therefore fundamental to many of the factors that people consider important for national parks. The role of geology in landscapes, biodiversity, and cultural heritage is often overlooked and minimised. This means that both local communities and tourists are missing out on the opportunity to engage with the stories told by the rocks beneath their feet, and in the landscape. This can translate into a disconnect with the non-living natural world for many people and a failure to grasp just how important Earth sciences are to society (geology and the Earth sciences are the source of most raw materials that we can't grow; appreciation of the depth of geological time can better help people grasp some of the issues related to climate change, such as rate of CO2 emissions and past climates). Building geological knowledge into all national parks will thus help local communities and visitors to better engage with, understand, and appreciate their surroundings, and build knowledge and awareness that is essential for a society committed to living sustainably.

by SFlude on June 06, 2022 at 01:37PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.8
Based on: 7 votes


  • Posted by camusfearna June 06, 2022 at 13:52

    Interesting proposal which is worthy of consideration though careful assessment would be needed as to whether existing Geoparks meet the criteria to be designated a national park. Even if they don't, the geology and geomorphology of a new national park, indeed of the existing national parks, could be celebrated.
  • Posted by Spike June 06, 2022 at 13:53

    Agree, and let's not get too hung up on the term National Park. Enhance existing designations and create new ones where there are no existing coalescing bodies. So add, not duplicate or confuse engaged communities with new titles.
  • Posted by BobHoldsworth June 06, 2022 at 14:10

    Its geology is one of the things that makes Scotland so utterly unique - yet time and again it gets either sidelined or taken for granted. This is an opportunity to do something about this.
  • Posted by RobB June 06, 2022 at 15:06

    Geology can be core to designation but should always be part of the characterisation of any natural area; the idea complements the proposal for a UNESCO Global Geopark in Southern Scotland
  • Posted by RWH_Butler June 06, 2022 at 15:34

    Sharing the deep history of places - their geological foundations - ties people to landscape... including in their interactions with it.... This could be more tangible stuff - like the impact on soils and land use, or the use of particular building stones - which give so many places their unique qualities. Or the story of the rocks - and the planet - before humans. Elsewhere in the World, the geology (as well as other parts of the natural history) is celebrated very effectively in National Parks. Scotland can do better, not only in the existing two parks but in Southern Scotland... and there is a thriving community of enthusiasts who can help tell these stories....
  • Posted by mrsphene June 06, 2022 at 16:53

    Geological aspects of landscape, and access and maintainence of geological features (engineering of roadcuts, and other construction features, vegetation control around key outcrops etc) and appropriate use of geological resources (eg geotourism, local low energy, low-carbon, local building materials, ornamental and gem stone use, suitable-scaled mining and quarrying) have been pretty much ignored in National Park managment and planning to date. The Geodiversity Charter sets out excellent principles, but few involved in planning or finance have time to engage with this, given resource pressures. This should change, and be formally considered as parts of the fundamental aims of things like National Parks, and in the managment of Nationla Scenic Areas and similar. An example: using local stones excavated on, or near-site maintains local geodiversity, and can save carbon costs on transport inward of external rock for construction, and removal of onsite rock to landfill or similar. Good rock faces resulting from wconstruction work should be preserved where appropriate to maintain and improve understanding of the landscape and geology. Examples such as Laxford Brae are now workd-famous, but there is no reason why similar practice should not be normalised. This should be encouraged.
  • Posted by rwga June 06, 2022 at 16:53

    Neither of the existing National Parks do enough to celebrate Scotland's geology. The SQA has stopped geology qualifications in schools, the Scottish Government has failed to support several geoparks. Yet we have a fantastic geological heritage - more varied than most countries in the world - contributing to our sense of place, and underpinning the Scottish economy over centuries - from the stone age, slate and building stone production, coal, oil and gas and now underpinning our move to renewables and underground storage of gas. Geotourism is a growing world industry and Scotland can lead it through National Parks and geoparks.
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