Throughout history, geological conditions have shaped and influenced human culture. The availability of materials, energy and favourable land conditions have driven the development of society. For this reason, nature and the world around us encompass a vast quantity of values related to geology.
Conservation involves identifying and managing areas that have specific natural values, such as geological phenomena. These have a value as reference areas for, e.g. landforms, rocks, minerals and fossils or by reflecting geological evolution, in both the short and long terms.
Geology is fundamental to several contexts and so there are several different ways to describe values. In order to assess a value, the difference between conditions and phenomena needs to be observed. Geological natural values encompass the values that tell us something about geological history or demonstrate geological phenomena and processes. These are the formations that give us a glimpse into the immense history of the planet Earth. If, however, geological conditions are a prerequisite for a valuable flora and fauna – such as a calcareous glacial till or an easily weathered and nutrient-rich rock type– these natural values are ecological. Geological conditions have governed where ore mining has been able to emerge, while industrial environments preserved around mines and foundries represent cultural and historical values.
In other words, geological conditions are not synonymous with geological natural values, but may of course contain such values.
Different forms of conservation
In nature conservation work, geological information is an important piece of the puzzle, not least because it shows how our landscape has evolved over the millions of years.
Geological conditions make up part of the basic prerequisites for biodiversity – there is often a direct link between the occurrence of different plants and animals and the form of the land surface, the composition of the bedrock, the distribution of soils, soil water conditions and the soil's chemical properties.
However, there are interesting differences between geological and biological natural values. Geological samples may need to be taken from the site in order to be documented and preserved. Therefore, geological nature conservation can relate to the protection and care of both sites and samples.
A further aspect of geological natural values and conservation is that exploitation activities do not pose an automatic threat to these values. Excavation and mining exposes geological formations, thus enabling geological natural values to be uncovered. For these sites, however, it is always the task of conservation to ensure protection against damage to valuable geological formations and to promote their management.