Reykjanes (Iceland) ©UNESCO/Reykjanes Geopark Olgeir Andrusson
Nine new sites were added to the UNESCO-supported Global Geoparks Network during the 4th Asia-Pacific Geoparks Network Symposium that took place in the San’in Kaigan Geopark, Japan, from 15 to 20 September.
Global Geoparks are territories, which promote their geo-diversity through community-led initiatives to enhance regional sustainable development. They promote awareness of geological hazards and many help local communities prepare disaster mitigation strategies. They celebrate the 4.6-billion-year history of our Planet and the geo-diversity that has shaped every aspect of our lives societies.
The Global Network now numbers 120 Geoparks in 33 countries. The sites newly inscribed are:
Located east of the Tarim plate, in the westernmost part of China, Dunhuang Global Geopark is rich in geoheritage of great scientific value that is of interest for both education and tourism. The site features yardangs, rock protuberance shaped by wind erosion, typical of this extremely arid part of China. The Geopark also encompasses the Mogao Caves, a World Heritage site, which were excavated in the Quaternary strata (2.6 to 1.5 million years ago).The caves are of combined geological and cultural value as they house statues and wall paintings, which span 1,000 years of Buddhist art.
Zhijindong Cave (China)
Zhijindong Cave Global Geopark is located in the west of the Guizhou Plateau in southern China. It is composed of three geological land formations: Zhijindong Cave Scenic Area, Qijiehe River and Dongfenghu Lake. The Global Geopark features many beautiful and precious karst landforms of various shapes and types, among them caves, gorges, natural bridges and sinkholes.
The mountainous Troodos Global Geopark is located in the central part of Cyprus. It has the highest peak of the Island, the 1,952 metre-high Mount Olympos. Troodos is known amongst geoscientists for its stratigraphic completeness and well-preserved and well-exposed plutonic, intrusive, volcanic rocks and chemical sediments. Formed 92 million years ago in the Neotethys Ocean by the spread of the seafloor above a subduction zone, it was uplifted and placed in a dome structure by the collision between the Eurasian and African plates. The asbestos mine, chromite mining galleries, ancient copper slag heaps and graben (depressed blocks of land bordered by faults) account for the site’s important geodiversity, which has contributed significantly to the development of current theories of plate tectonics and ocean spreading.
Sitia Global Geopark is on the easternmost edge of Crete, in the Municipality of Sitia. It has abundant mammal fossils of the Pleistocene epoch (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, last part of the Quaternary Period). The discovery of three fossils of the elephant-like Deinotherium giganteum at the site, its extensive cave systems and the palaeo-shorelines around Zakros are unique to Crete. Abundant karstic structures on the limestone environment of the site constitute its most salient characteristic. More than 170 caves and many gorges have been found in the area.
The Global Geopark is located in southwest Iceland, near the capital Reykjavík. The Reykjanes Ridge is part of the volcanic Mid-Atlantic Ridge separating the Eurasian and North American plates. The site is characterized by numerous lava flows, lava shields, crater rows, geothermal fields, faults and fissures. Krýsuvík is renowned for its explosion craters, caused by the interaction of geothermal steam and magma. Some of the lava flows have become new land. The five towns and settlements scattered across the area bear witness to a millennium-long history of human habitation and activity at the site.
Gunung Sewu (Indonesia)
Gunung Sewu is an enormous mountainous limestone zone, marked by conic karst hills spanning Yogyakarta, central and east Java. The karst landforms grew through dissolution, when the limestone was uplifted from the seabed about 1.8 million years ago. The uplift notably led to the formation of coastal and river terraces as well as sandstone outcrops. The earliest signs of human presence date back 180,000 years, with evidence of settlements along the riverbanks and in limestone rock-shelters and caves. The stone-terraces that surround almost every hill bear witness to local-knowledge passed from generation to generation to preserve a relatively thin soil for agriculture.
Pollino Global Geopark is located in Southern Italy. The area of the Pollino chain has always been of great geological interest as a key to scientists’ understanding of the structural relation between the Peloritano-Calabrian Arch and Southern Apennines. The area consists of several massif mountains between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. They rise up to the higher elevations of the Southern Apennines: the Pollino Massif, the Orsomarso mountains and Mount Alpi. The Pollino massif consists of five summits all over 2,000m. The 2,267m high Serra Dolcedorme is the only Italian massif from where it is possible to get a glimpse of three seas: the Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas.
Mount Apoi (Japan)
Mount Apoi is located in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the Japanese Archipelago. It is 810 metres high and its name derives from the language of the indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido. The most distinctive feature of Mt Apoi Global Geopark is its peridotites from the Earth's mantle. The pure peridotites on and around the mountain contain valuable information about the Earth's mantle, which is of great scientific interest. Mt Apoi provides geological information on plate collision, masses of solidified magma, and rocks from the distant southern seas.
Lanzarote and Chinijo Islands (Spain)
Lanzarote and Chinijo Islands Global Geopark encompasses the entire island of Lanzarote, the islets La Graciosa, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste y Alegranza, known collectively as the Chinijo Island. The abrasion platform around these islands is also part of the Geopark, whose surface area is over 2.500 km2 including 866 km2 of land. Lanzarote and Chinijo Islands are almost entirely formed of basaltic materials. During the Timanfaya volcanic eruption of 1730 to 1736, the association of numerous volcanic structures along an extremely long fissure led to the appearance of one of the largest historic lava fields in the world.