Nature conservation is one strand in our wider endeavour to achieve a sustainable society. Geological information has an important part to play in this context, not least because it tells us how our landscape has evolved over many millions of years.
Geological processes have shaped and continue to shape our natural environment. The form, distribution and composition of bedrock and superficial deposits determine the appearance of the landscape, both above and below sea level, and set the stage for our flora and fauna. A knowledge of geology thus helps us to understand the variations in our natural environment and how our landscape has formed.
Geology in nature conservation
Nature conservation is about identifying and managing areas and sites with natural features of specific interest. Geological phenomena are of value in their own right, as type and key localities for landforms, rocks, minerals and fossils, for example, or because they reflect the geological development of a region, short- or long-term. Such sites may form part of a network of similar localities, representing for example one aspect of geological history.
In addition, the geology of an area forms part of the defining framework for its biological diversity – often, there is a direct link between the occurrence of different plants and animals and the shape of the land surface, the composition of the bedrock, the distribution of superficial deposits, and the chemical properties of the soil.
Areas of national interest
Some 2000 areas or sites in Sweden have been declared to be of national interest for the purposes of nature conservation. Of these, around 780 are areas with features of national geoscientific interest, i.e. national nature conservation areas whose geology accounts for a major share of their conservation interest. Lake Vättern, Utö, Kinnekulle and Fulufjället are examples of such areas.
In 2000, the High Coast, a stretch of the north-eastern coast of Sweden, was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, primarily because it is a key area for our understanding of the process of crustal uplift following the melting of the latest ice sheet. The landforms in the area illustrate the effects of glaciation and postglacial crustal uplift – processes that are still going on today.
On a contract basis, SGU has produced ‘geotourist’ maps of a few areas of Sweden, including the High Coast. These maps are aimed at members of the public with an interest in the natural environment, who want a broad overview of the geology of a particular area, a brief history of its geological development, and suggestions for excursions. They are available in Swedish only.
For more information about our geotourist maps, please contact Customer Services.
SGU’s responsibilities as a government agency do not include nature conservation work or the designation and protection of sites of geoscientific interest. We are, however, making an inventory of and documenting and classifying such sites. The aim is to generate information that can feed into nature conservation projects and physical planning, as well as into education and tourism initiatives.
Documentation of geoscience sites is being undertaken in the framework drawn up by ProGEO, a European organization working to establish common guidelines in the field of geoconservation.
Geological information for nature conservation
Geosites are sites or areas which in various ways illustrate geological events or particular geological processes. SGU is documenting Swedish geosites and building up a geosite database.
SGU is a member of ProGEO, the European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage, whose membership consists of companies, government agencies and individuals with an interest in geoconservation. SGU was one of the association’s founders.
Geological conservation – a guide to good practice. Published by English Nature (ISBN 1 85761 906 9).