Geodiversity in the wilderness: a brief history of geoconservation in Tasmania
Since the early 1980s, conservation-orientated Earth scientists in Australia's island state of Tasmania have developed an approach to geoconservation that places emphasis on geomorphology, soils and landform processes, in contrast to the stronger emphasis in some places on the scientific values of bedrock geological features. Although bedrock geoheritage has not been ignored, this geomorphological emphasis emerged from Tasmania's recent political history, during which the conservation of large areas of wilderness has dominated local political debate from the early 1970s to the 1990s. With the recognition of undisturbed natural landscapes and ecosystems (wilderness) as having conservation value, it was only a short step to valuing natural landforms, soils and ongoing geomorphological processes as the key abiotic elements of that broader focus. With popular and political acceptance during the 1980s and 1990s of the conservation of wilderness values as a legitimate government policy, Earth scientists within Tasmanian state government land management agencies had a mandate to develop and implement geoconservation policies. The optimum strategy for the small community of geoconservation workers in Tasmania has been to focus on developing theoretical, legislative and management tools for geoconservation in public land management agencies. Tasmanian workers found existing theoretical frameworks for geoconservation inappropriate for their needs, and adopted additional concepts to identify, justify and implement geoconservation. The concept of geodiversity has proven to be a powerful framework for developing classification systems which in turn allow thematic, georegional analyses to provide a systematic, objective and scientifically defensible context for identifying well-expressed representative examples of the various elements of geodiversity. This approach has resulted in the adoption of a terminology distinct from that previously used on mainland Australia, which is, however, convergent with terminology now used in Europe.