The Geological Conservation Review (GCR)


Cliffs of South Pembrokeshire, Wales, a site selected for the GCR for its importance in studying coastal geomorphology © Stewart Campbell

A major initiative to identify and describe the most important geological sites in Britain began in 1977, with the launch of the Geological Conservation Review (GCR). This was a major step forward in Earth heritage conservation, and is an international first. No other country has attempted such a systematic and comprehensive review of its Earth heritage.

The GCR was designed to identify those sites of national and international importance needed to show all the key scientific elements of the Earth heritage of Britain. These sites display sediments, rocks, fossils, and features of the landscape that make a special contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Earth science and the geological history of Britain, which stretches back over 2,800 million years. After over two decades of site evaluation and documentation, over 3,000 GCR sites were selected for around 100 categories (GCR 'Blocks'), encompassing the range of geological and geomorphological features of Britain.

Although the main phase of the GCR was concluded in 1990, advances in science mean that periodic review of certain parts of the GCR is required in order to ensure that the GCR remains credible and robust. Updating the GCR is therefore an on-going process, and is undertaken by the appropriate Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) – Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, or Scottish Natural Heritage.

The results of the Geological Conservation Review programme are being published in a series of 45 volumes, the Geological Conservation Review Series. The aim of the Geological Conservation Review Series is to provide a public record of the features of interest and importance at localities already notified or being considered for notification as 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest' (SSSIs). The sites selected – GCR sites – form the basis of statutory geological and geomorphological site conservation in Britain.

More information regarding the publication and content of the GCR volumes, both published and in preparation is available on the GCR Series webpages. Publication of the GCR series transferred to the Geologists' Assocation in 2011, and the final nine volumes (Volume 37 onwards) are being published as Special Issues of the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.

In addition to the detailed site reports available in the series, JNCC has developed the GCR site database, which contains basic site information for the 3,000 GCR sites already selected, together with some fuller reports (as published in the GCR volumes). Users of the resource can search for information in various ways, for example by site name, geographical location or geological context. For more information on the database>>>