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Grand Canyon: a one-of-a-kind geoheritage site

Attendees of the IUGS 60th Annual Meeting on the Basque Coast at Zumaia, Spain. (Photo/Geoparkea, IUGS)

Attendees of the IUGS 60th Annual Meeting on the Basque Coast at Zumaia, Spain. (Photo/Geoparkea, IUGS)

What do Grand Canyon, the dramatic sea cliffs of Zumaia (Spain), the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, the top of Mount Everest, Siccar Point (Scotland) and Yellowstone’s geysers have in common?

They were all formally selected within the First 100 IUGS Geological Heritage Sites at the 60th Annual Meeting of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

An IUGS Geological Heritage Site is “a key place with geological elements and/or processes of international scientific relevance, used as a reference, and/or with a substantial contribution to the development of geological sciences through history.”

Grand Canyon was the only location with two successful IUGS Geoheritage Sites: “The Grand Canyon”, and “The Great Unconformity at Grand Canyon.”

The first highlights the spectacular Canyon itself: the rocks and geologic history that are spectacularly visible. The second highlights the “black holes” where erosional processes have removed part of the rock record and the place where the term ‘Great Unconformity’ was coined.

While many of the new Geoheritage sites, like Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, are protected to an extent, others do not have additional status and will benefit from international recognition.

It is not only geology that is being protected; numerous global examples exist of the significance and value of linking cultural and geological heritage, with participation and management by indigenous communities.

The Grand Canyon nominations were written and presented by Grand Canyon geologists Karl Karlstrom and Laura Crossey from the University of New Mexico.

Think it’d be gneiss to learn more? Check out https://iugs-geoheritage.org/ to view summaries of all 100 locations.

Geologists Karl Karlstrom and Laura Crossey were instrumental in creating the Trail of Time Exhibit on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park > https://go.nps.gov/T0T (407) Trail of Time.

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