What is a Geopark?

A Geopark is a territorial area with clearly defined boundaries that includes a notable geological heritage associated with a sustainable development strategy.
A Geopark must have a specific set of sites of international, national and/or regional importance that allow the geological history of the region to be recounted and learned. Geosites are locations of geological interest with scientific, aesthetic, educational or economic value. A Geopark must also highlight the protection and dissemination of the ecological, historical and cultural values of the region.
This sustainable development strategy is based on three main components: geoconservation, education and geotourism. Geoconservation aims to safeguard the geological heritage of a given region for future generations; education aims to promote the study of geosciences in schools as well as among the general public; and geotourism aims to stimulate the creation of economic activities supported by the geodiversity of the region, involving the local community.

The origin of the geopark concept and its evolution:

The origin of the Geopark concept started with the Digne-les-Bains Convention in France, where the 'Declaration of the Rights to the Memory of the Earth', signed by more than 30 nations in June 1991, pointed out that it was time to protect our natural heritage recorded in rocks and landscapes, that is, our geological heritage.

For the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a geopark is an area where sites of geological heritage represent part of a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development. It should generate economic activity, notably through tourism, and involve a number of geological sites of scientific importance, rarity or beauty, including landforms and their landscapes. Archaeological, paleontological, ecological, historical, or cultural aspects can represent important components of a Geopark.

In the year 2000, with the aim of preserving geological heritage - as there was a growing market for fossil smuggling at that time - four geologists from Germany (Vulkaneifel), France (Réserve Géologique de Haute-Provence), Greece (Lesvos Petrified Forest), and Spain (Maestrazgo Cultural Park) met and signed a protocol to establish the European Geoparks Network (EGN).

The idea and concept of a geopark established by this protocol were so important and promising that they drew the attention of international institutions. Thus, in 2004, it aroused the interest of UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences to participate in this ambitious project. Strategically, the founders of the EGN allowed UNESCO to support the project immediately, and consequently, the network became more solid and recognized worldwide. As a result, representatives from other countries that did not belong to the European Community also became interested in participating in the program.

Therefore, at the beginning of the same year 2004, to meet the growing demand, the Global Geoparks Networks (GGN), a worldwide network of Geoparks, was established.

After some years, during the 38th General Conference of the Global Geoparks Network Organization, on November 17, 2015, after intense political articulation, the representatives of the 195 states and the members of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new nomenclature: The UNESCO Global Geoparks, that is, UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Thus, UNESCO ceased to be just a supporter and began to act as the great articulator of Geoparks. With this, it assumed the responsibility of supporting, managing, promoting, disseminating, and including the geoparks endorsed by its competence holistically.

In summary, a geopark, in UNESCO's concept, should:

- Preserve geological heritage for future generations (geoconservation).
- Educate and teach the general public about geological and environmental themes and provide research opportunities for the geosciences.
- Ensure sustainable development through geotourism, reinforcing the population's identification with their region, promoting respect for the environment, and stimulating socioeconomic activity by creating local enterprises, small businesses, hospitality industries, and new jobs.
- Generate new sources of income for the local population and attract private capital.

The steps to become a Geopark.

To become a UNESCO-approved Geopark, the application process must go through three stages, which are:

Project: the first stage of the process. This is when the Geopark is only a proposal, with small initiatives and collaborations. There has been no contact with any member of UNESCO yet.

Aspiring: the second stage of the process. At this stage, the Geopark in question must have been operational for at least 1 year. The Geopark project is sent by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty) to UNESCO, which becomes aware of the existence, proposals, and intentions of that Geopark project, and after this stage, it receives the recognition of Aspiring Geopark.

Geopark Label: the third and final stage. The Geopark team prepares a candidacy dossier with a letter of interest and sends it to the UNESCO Global Geoparks Executive Council between October 1 and November 30. In this way, UNESCO will designate two evaluators to carry out a field evaluation mission, which will take place from May 1 to August, paid for by the aspiring Geopark, to verify all the actions reported in the dossier and check the compliance with the self-assessment actions, a form provided by UNESCO. With this, the UNESCO team provides the receipt of the green card, that is, the UNESCO label, or, if not approved, the team will receive the red card indicating the refusal of its proposal to become a member of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.

The Geoparks Project of the Geological Survey of Brazil - CPRM.

Currently, there are only 3 UNESCO-endorsed geoparks in Brazil, but there are other aspiring territories and projects for the Global Geoparks Network.

1- Araripe Geopark - Endorsed in 2006.
(Click here to visit our partner's website.): http://geoparkararipe.urca.br/

Caminhos dos Cânions do Sul Geopark - Endorsed in 2022.
(Click here to visit our partner's website.): https://canionsdosul.org/

3- Seridó Geopark - Endorsed in 2022.
(Click here to visit our partner's website.): https://geoparqueserido.com.br/

There is a CPRM project called 'Geoparks of Brazil-Proposals', organized by geologists Carlos Schobbenhaus and Cassio Roberto da Silva, which aims to identify areas in Brazil with the characteristics of a Geopark in the concept of UNESCO.
Launched by the Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM) during the 46th National Geological Congress, the study describes proposals for 17 geoparks from different regions of Brazil, presenting the contribution of 55 authors. Most of the proposals are the result of the CPRM Geoparks Project, in partnership with other federal and state entities, including university professors.
The first chapter reveals the role of the Geological Survey of Brazil in creating geoparks and conserving geological heritage; in the second, Professor José Brilha from the University of Minho, Portugal, presents the 'Global Network of National Geoparks: An Instrument for the International Promotion of Geoconservation'. The following chapters present proposals for geoparks in Brazil.
The official project website is from CPRM (click here) but below, you can check the full content of this excellent work:

In Brazil, the Brazilian Geological Survey (CPRM) is an extremely important institution in the preservation of Brazilian geological heritage. CPRM is a public company, linked to the Ministry of Mines and Energy and has the mission:
'Generate and disseminate geoscientific knowledge with excellence, contributing to the improvement of the quality of life and sustainable development of Brazil'.

The Brazilian Geological Survey was born as the Mineral Resources Research Company (CPRM), a mixed economy company, authorized by Decree-Law No. 764 of August 15, 1969, and its first activities started on January 30, 1970. On December 28, 1994, CPRM through Law No. 8.970, changes its legal regime and becomes a public company with specific functions in the function of geological service of Brazil.
CPRM created the Geoparks Project of the Geological Survey of Brazil in 2006, which has the function of analyzing and supporting the creation and identification of the geosites of geoparks in Brazil. Its premise is:
Identification, survey, description, diagnosis, and broad dissemination of areas with potential for future geoparks in the national territory, as well as the inventory and quantification of geosites.... In addition to the contribution of studies and proposals from the geoscientific community.
It is up to CPRM to provide primary scientific support for the GGN's requirements regarding the identification and diagnosis of potential geoparks' geosites. CPRM has developed and manages an application that has added and contributed to the area of geoconservation, the Geo-sites and Geodiversity Sites Registration and Quantification System (GEOSSIT).
Access the Geossit: https://www.cprm.gov.br/geossit/geossitios
In this way, Brazil has technical support from a Brazilian institution for this purpose, providing an opportunity for geopark projects to obtain information and support regarding the expertise of the CPRM team to verify the relevance of their geological heritage. Therefore, interested parties have this assistance in identifying the selection of relevant and representative points of Brazilian geodiversity. Thus, as an open system for external public use, both scientists, geologists, researchers, and tourism professionals, as well as the population, especially educators, can rely on the scientific and educational value of this service's information (GEOSSIT, 2021).

UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, Sciences, and Culture. To achieve this, cultural activities are carried out that aim to protect cultural heritage, stimulate creation and creativity, and preserve cultural entities and oral traditions, as well as promote books and reading. UNESCO's programs contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in the 2030 Agenda, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

The Sustainable Development Goals in Brazil.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals that the United Nations is contributing to in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda in Brazil.

Currently, the network has global reach: there are 177 geoparks endorsed by UNESCO, which are spread across 44 countries. Of this total, 3 are located in Brazilian territory.

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