UK geoconservationCliffs of the South Gower Coast, Wales. A site of international renown for its geology and geomorphology @ Stewart Campbell


The landforms, rocks, minerals and fossils of the UK are a vast and valuable resource, and tell the story of the country's long and complicated history.  They provide evidence of past life, environments and conditions, stretching back over 2,800 million years.  

The variety of these rocks, fossils, minerals, natural processes and soils that underlie and determine the character of our landscape and environment is defined as 'geodiversity', and the most widely used term for the conservation of our geodiversity is 'geoconservation'.  Geoconservation in the UK involves recognising, protecting and managing sites and landscapes identified as important for their rocks, fossils, minerals, or other geological or geomorphological features of interest. 

Some of the concepts of geoconservation are still being developed, in particular those related to the wider landscape and climate change, and more discussion and debate will be needed before these developing concepts can be turned into practical applications.  However, in some areas a good deal has been achieved in the UK by JNCC and the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage  including developing an understanding of the links between biodiversity and geodiversity, and the creation of the UK Geodiversity Action Plan (UK GAP)

A major component of JNCC's work has been the development of the Geological Conservation Review (GCR), whose aim is to identify and catalogue the most important geological sites in Great Britain (a similar initiative, the Earth Science Conservation Review (ESCR), exists in Northern Ireland).  The GCR began in 1977 under the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC), and the identification of over 3,000 sites was completed in 1990. This hugely important programme is fundamental to the identification of geological SSSIsEuropean and Global Geoparks, and natural World Heritage Sites, and underpins the expert geoconservation advice provided by the SNCBs.

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 relevant country SNCB (e.g. Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, or Scottish Natural Heritage).

Following identification of the sites, the results of the programme are being published in a series of 45 volumes, the Geological Conseration Review Series.  Publication of the series transferred to the Geologists' Association in 2011, and the final nine volumes (37 onwards) are being published as Special Issues of the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.

Additionally, JNCC has developed the GCR database, which contains all of the information about the GCR sites in a digital format. Users of the database can search for information on GCR sites in a number of ways, including by site name, location, or geological context.

Relevant JNCC publications include:


Further information about geodiversity and geoconservation work being undertaken throughout the UK by the SNCBs is available on the Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and Scottish Natural Heritage websites, and through publications such as Earth Heritage Magazine.