Geodiversity: the origin and evolution of a paradigm
‘Geodiversity’ can be defined as the range of geological, geomorphological and soil features. Although the word itself was first used only in the early 1990s, the principles behind its application to nature conservation have a longer history. For example, the search for representative sites has been a guiding principle for conservation site selection in the UK since the Second World War, and can also be detected as the basis for new site selection criteria in the USA, Ireland and many other countries. It is also starting to be used as a means of analysing the existing World Heritage Sites list and may become one factor in assessing new site applications. The word was first widely adopted in Tasmania and has a status equal to biodiversity within the Australian Natural Heritage Charter. Despite some opposition, the term is increasingly being used around the world, but has been adopted most enthusiastically in the UK, where many Geodiversity Audits, Local Geodiversity Action Plans and Company Geodiversity Action Plans have been published or are planned. A national Geodiversity Action Plan will be published in 2008. The term has also been adopted in national planning guidance in the UK and, as a result, is finding its way into regional and local planning policies. The paper concludes with some speculations about its future use in geoconservation.