“Few places in the world were ever home to as many volcanoes as the Swabian Alb 200 million years ago”
Celebrating Earth Heritage
The Swabian Alb UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, about 40 kilometers south of Stuttgart and is the only UNESCO Global Geopark in this federal state. Its boundaries correspond with the natural area Swabian Alb. In the northern part the so called Alb escarpment, a steep slope of approximately 400 m in height, and in the southern part the river Danube limit the UNESCO Global Geopark.
The Swabian Jura - also called Swabian Alb - is the central part of this chain of the Jurassic highlands between the Swiss and the Franconian Jura. Jurassic rocks dominate the area, but older and younger periods are also represented. Altogether they provide an outstanding variety of geological, paleontological and ecological features. The Geopark is a Karst-foothill with the highest density of caves in Germany. 12 visitor caves and about 40 accessible wild caves are located in the area. The karst landscape has many interesting geosites including dolines, fossil reefs, springs and the highest density of caves in Germany. Of particular interest is the Böttinger Marble, a special limestone with many plant and animal fossils. In some caves of the oldest artworks of humanity were found. Major findings are, for example, “Venus of Hohle Fels” or the so called “Löwenmensch” from the Lone valley. A special highlight is the richness of fossils. Some fossil sites are of world-wide significance such as Holzmaden, Nusplingen or Dotternhausen. Further, the Steinheim Basin in the eastern part of the UNESCO Global Geopark is a meteorite crater. The impact occurred around 15 million years ago. The Steinheim Basin is world-wide unique because of the very well preserved central hill. 350 volcanic vents between Bad Urach and Kirchheim are subsumed under the popular name "Swabian Volcano".
Sustaining local Communities
The area comprises 10 counties, 133 rural municipalities and 47 cities. About 1.45 million people live within its boundaries.
The Swabian Alb offers not only globally significant geological and paleontological features like fossil sites, two meteorite craters and the "Swabian volcano" with more than 350 chimneys, but also archaeological elements like the oldest art sculptures and one of the oldest music instruments. The geology has had a major impact on humankind’s living situation. People of the Stone Age came here to search for flint stones and to use the caves as shelters. Rich iron deposits have been built up during the time of the Swabian Jurassic ocean and are present today. Celtic people used the smelted iron brass of the oldest smelting places known in Europe. The various bizarre cliffs of the Swabian Alb have their origin in the sponge and coral reefs of the Jurrasic Sea. Noblemen of the middle age used the fossil reef rocks for building their castles on top of them. Still today the pattern of human settlements in an area ill supplied by water shows the characteristics of the petrography as some rocks like the basaltic fillings of the volcanic chimneys retain water. Villages emerged around so called "Hühlen" were rainwater accumulated on top of these chimneys.
The Geopark’s most important partners are 20 GeoPark-Infocenters. These are entities like Cave-houses, nature conservation centers or museums. They all present local phenomena in different ways, mainly for educational purposes. They address not only the general public, but also especially schools. In order to guarantee high-standard guides, the personnel of the information centres are trained in special courses. Publications like a geotouristic map of the Swabian Alb, flyers, leaflets and books dealing with single localities like Nusplingen and Steinheim or with geology and paleontology of the whole area contribute to the educational process. Also nature trails, teaching materials on geo-topics for schools are developed in cooperation with the University of Tübingen. A focus is put on residents of the Alb. The establishment of a consciousness of the geological past of their home area is an important aim of the Geopark.