Northern Ireland's Geodiversity Charter: safeguarding our rocks and Kirstin Lemon

The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) has just launched Northern Ireland's Geodiversity Charter. Kirstin Lemon, a Team Leader at GSNI and co-author of the Charter tells us more.

What is a Geodiversity Charter?

A Geodiversity Charter is a guidance document that sets out a clear ambition to recognise geodiversity as a vital and integral part of the economy, environment heritage and future sustainable development. This is necessary to safeguard and manage geodiversity for both current and future generations.
The aim of a Geodiversity Charter is ultimately to better inform decision makers and support policy at a strategic level as well as encouraging stakeholders to work together and take a more holistic approach to conservation management of geodiversity. By raising the awareness of geodiversity at a variety of levels it will lead to better protection of geological heritage, and the ability to sustainably manage natural resources, so that the full range of economic, social, educational and environmental benefits can be realised.

Why does Northern Ireland need a Geodiversity Charter?

Northern Ireland for its size, is one of the most geologically diverse places on Earth and it is this geodiversity that has helped shape the fabric of our every day lives. Geodiversity has not only shaped our natural and built environment, but it influences our historical and cultural heritage, biodiversity, education, the economy and our health and well-being so it provides essential benefits for our society.
Geodiversity in Northern Ireland is often overlooked despite the fact that it is an integral part of our natural environment. As a result, it can be taken for granted and it is constantly under threat. By increasing the understanding of the true value of geodiversity in Northern Ireland, the economic, social, cultural and education benefits will be realised. By changing the attitude, it will be possible to achieve a better and more sustainable outcome for every person in Northern Ireland.

Is this the first Geodiversity Charter in the UK?

No, there are already Geodiversity Charters for Scotland and England. Scotland had the first Geodiversity Charter in the world which was published in 2012. It has been very successful in widening the appreciation of Scottish geodiversity and its impact on society, and now has over 60 signatories.

Who will benefit from the Geodiversity Charter?

Northern Ireland's Geodiversity Charter will benefit every citizen in Northern Ireland but specifically a number of key sectors have been targeted who will not only benefit from the Charter but can help to achieve some of the main objectives.
  • Individuals and Communities: Who can experience and enjoy the local landscape and geodiversity and appreciate its value and importance.
  • Landowners and Managers of NGOs: Who can take into account the geodiversity of the land that they manage, try to work in sympathy with natural processes and consider how geodiversity can be appreciated and understood.
  • Industry and Business Sector: Who can endeavour to ensure that new industry and business opportunities take geodiversity into consideration and strive to meet best practice standards.
  • Local Authorities and Public Agencies: Who can ensure that due consideration, management, enhancement and promotion of geodiversity are an integral part of decision-making.
  • Education: Who can share and promote the values and applications of Northern Ireland's geodiversity through teaching at all levels.
  • Academia and Research: Who can continue to develop the geodiversity framework of Northern Ireland including its wider values and applications.

What does the Geodiversity Charter mean for the future?

To date, there are over 20 organisations that support Northern Ireland's Geodiversity Charter. This collective voice will help to maintain and enhance our geodiversity and achieve the future vision of raising awareness, policy integration, enhanced conservation, and continued research. As the success of the Charter spreads, it is hoped that more organisation will add their support, which will help to achieve the overall objective of safeguarding and managing our geodiversity appropriately for current and future generations.

Northern Ireland's Geodiversity Charter was produced by Kirstin Lemon and Sam Roberson at the GSNI with financial assistance from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affair's Environment Fund (2016-2017). Funding was awarded under Theme 2: Promotion of health, well-being, resource efficiency and sustainable economic development, realising the full value of our environment.