For its size, Scotland has world-class geodiversity–the variety of rocks, landforms, sediments, soils and the natural processes which form and alter them span a vast 3 billion-year-long geological timescale.  It is internationally regarded the birthplace of modern geoscience, led by James Hutton’s great insights on deep time in the late 18th century.  ‘Hutton’s unconformity’ at Siccar Point, Berwickshire, unlocked ‘the abyss of time’ and presented a vision of a living world that recognised the crucial links between geology, soils, plants, animals and human beings. Our geodiversity is vital as the foundation of life, providing essential benefits for society through its profound influence on landscape, habitats and species, the economy, historical and cultural heritage, education, health and well-being.

Hutton’s unconformity at Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland – a place of pilgrimage for geologists worldwide. Basal conglomerate of Upper Old Red Sandstone (Devonian) resting unconformably on vertical siltstone and greywacke of Silurian age. Siccar Point has outstanding historical associations, stemming from a visit paid by James Hutton in 1788, accompanied by Sir James Hall and Professor John Playfair. Hutton’s was the first geologist to grasp the true significance of such a structure.

The Scottish Geodiversity Forum has worked with partners to prepare a Geodiversity Charter for Scotland that sets out why geodiversity is important, and presents a vision that geodiversity is “recognised as an integral and vital part of our environment, economy, heritage and future sustainability to be safeguarded for existing and future generations in Scotland”. The Charter includes recommended actions for different stakeholders and a range of case studies. It was prepared by a working group of the Scottish Geodiversity Forum, with observers and facilitation from the British Geological Survey, the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage.  Scotland’s Geodiversity Charter was launched in June 2012 and gained the support of 61 signatory organisations.  It has been successful in a widening appreciation of the many facets of geodiversity and its impact on society. The international importance of this, the world’s first Geodiversity Charter, is recognised in similar initiatives being taken forward in other nations of the UK. The Charter encourages everyone to work together to promote and manage Scotland’s geodiversity and to ensure that it is better integrated in policy and guidance consistent with the economic, social, cultural and environmental needs of Scotland. This will help to protect our geoheritage and deliver more sustainable management of Scotland’s natural resources, including minerals, land, river catchments, the coast and water resources, and will better inform climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Bass Rock with nesting gannets – ‘geodiversity underpinning biodiversity’. Located in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland, the Bass Rock is a 107 metre high volcanic plug of phonolitic trachyte rock of Carboniferous age. The rock was first recognised as an igneous intrusion by James Hutton.

For further details on how geodiversity contributes to the Scottish Governments five strategic objectives see the Scottish Geodiversity Forum.  The Forum has worked with partners to revise and update the Charter during 2017. This renewed Charter will then be launched at an important conference at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh on Thursday 16 November 2017 – this conference will celebrate what has already been achieved and encourage further activity. The International Appalachian Trail has been a signatory to the Charter from 2012.  It is hoped that all IAT Chapters will also promote geodiversity for the important role it plays in creating and sustaining life on planet earth.

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