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Geoscientist Online

Geodiversity - valuing and conserving abiotic nature (2nd Edn)

arehTo quote the author, this book “is about the value of difference, diversity and distinctiveness in the natural world”.  It uses geological and geomorphological diversity – geodiversity – as a demonstration of this variety and sets out the intimate relationship and influence of geodiversity on our world: its evolution, changing landscapes and biodiversity, and our own history, culture and well-being. Following the simple formula ‘value + threat = conservation’ Murray Gray establishes the value and importance of geodiversity, demonstrates that geodiversity is threatened and then sets out how geodiversity is conserved reflecting both established approaches and new concepts in geoconservation.

This is the second edition and much has changed since the first was published in 2004.  Notably global geoconservation effort, co-operation and profile have seen significant development.  Here perhaps the greatest advance has been in relation to Geoparks.  In 2004 this was a relatively new initiative with 15 European Geoparks.  Now worldwide there are 120 Global Geoparks recognised in 33 countries and, as of 2015, the “UNESCO Global Geopark” has become the first new UNESCO designation in over 40 years. 

There has also been a gradual shift in geoconservation emphasis.  The established protected area approach remains (for example in the UK: World Heritage Site, National Park, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Local Geological Site) but alongside there is a growing realisation of the importance of taking a wider and more integrated approach to geodiversity and geoconservation.  Gray examines in detail the role of geodiversity as an ‘ecosystem service’, considers different approaches to landscape characterisation (which all use geodiversity as a fundamental character) and discusses the importance of integrating geodiversity and biodiversity conservation. 

My personal view remains that the greatest challenge for geoconservation is the value placed on geodiversity (and therefore the need for its conservation).  Here Gray has made a significant contribution.  The term ‘geodiversity’ has gained global traction and his second edition will continue this growth: a plethora of new examples of geoconservation in practice make this the most comprehensive account of geodiversity and geoconservation (from a global to a local level) to date. 

For anyone (geologist or not) who wishes to make the case for geodiversity and geoconservation then this is highly recommended reading and, if you own the first edition then don’t worry, the second is an invaluable companion.

Reviewed by Jonathan Larwood

GEODIVERSITY: VALUING AND CONSERVING ABIOTIC NATURE 2nd Edn, by MURRAY GRAY, 2013.  Published by: Wiley Blackwell 508pp ISBN 978-0-470-74215-0 (sbk) List price: £37.50