UNESCO’s Executive Board today approved the designation of eight new sites demonstrating the diversity of the planet’s geology as new Geoparks. The Executive Board also approved the extension of three existing Geoparks. With this year’s additions, the number of sites in the Global UNESCO Geoparks Network is brought to 147 in 41 countries.
The newly designated sites are:
The Kütralkura UNESCO Global Geopark, which in the language of the Mapuche people means stone (kura) and fire (kütral), or firestone, is characterized by some of the world’s most active volcanism. It is situated 700 km south of Santiago and reaches the border of Argentina to the east. It encompasses the municipalities of Curacautín, Vilcún, Lonquimay, and Melipeuco, settled by their indigenous inhabitants two millennia ago. Its iconic peaks are mostly active volcanoes such as Llaima, Lonquimay, Tolhuaca, and Nevados de Sollipulli, as well as an extinct volcano, the Sierra Nevada. The thick ice masses that once partially covered the territory, have been shrinking for the past 20,000 years.
The Funiushan UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the east section of Qinling Orogenic Belt and collision zone between the North China plate and Yangtze plate. Its unique geological structure and complex activities account for its rich geoheritage, which includes paleontological fossils and exquisite granite land formations. It is in this region that researchers discovered groups of fossilized dinosaur-eggs, unmatched in terms of range of distribution, quantity and variety. The fossils have international significance in the study of paleobiology and global geological issues, such as the evolution and extinction of cretaceous dinosaurs. The Funiushan landforms are constituted by a series of granite peaks and walls, the deep Jiguan and Tianxin Caves, tectonic rock formations, waterfalls and pools formed by the site’s rapid uplift process.
The UNESCO Global Geopark of Jiuhuashan, which translates to “Nine Glorious Mountains”, is located in the Qingyang County of China’s Anhui province. Four of them are crowned by sacred Buddhist temples, some dating back to the fifth century CE, on their peaks. Beyond their religious, historical and cultural significance, these mountains also provide a major source of the fresh water that feeds the Yangtze River system. Jiuhuashan’s unique and favourable geological conditions have contributed to the flourishing of the region’s biodiversity and cultural traditions. In 2016, the natural landscape of this area and its religious sites attracted 9.9 million visitors, a major economic contribution to local communities.
The Sanqingshan UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the territory of Shangrao City, Jiangxi Province, in southeast China. The natural beauty of Mount Sanqingshan derives from the juxtaposition of granite stone and vegetation in a landascape that is ever changing visually due to meteorological factors. The history of Sanqingshan, one of the birthplaces of Taoism, dates back more than 1,000 years. It retains 238 Taoist relics and other important emblems of cultural heritage such as ancient academies, dwellings, a theatre, monumental halls and more. The region, largely inhabited by the Han people and the She ethnic group, is home to traditions like Gan Opera, Madeng Drama, and the Hetangjiu Banquet.
The Taishan UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the eastern part of the North China Plain, at the centre of Shandong province. Mount Taishan, which rises majestically above the many peaks that surround it, preserves rich cultural heritage dating back more than 5,000 years. The mountain has spiritual significance and has become a major tourist destination for both domestic and foreign visitors. The 158.63 km2 Geopark is composed of eight areas of exceptional scenic beauty: Hongmen, Zhongtianmen, Nantianmen, Houshiwu, Taohuayuan, Culaishan, Lianhuashan and Taoshan. Its unique, abundant geoheritage makes this Geopark a natural geological museum.
The Yimengshan UNESCO Global Geopark is located on the eastern coast of China, near Jinan City, the capital of Shandong Province. The site is home to one of Asia’s largest kimberlite-type diamond mines, the first primary diamonds discovered in China. The landscape is dotted with Daigu, castle-shaped land formations, as well as multiple sites of cultural heritage, including the Zhou dynasty Wanshou Palace, the Xialou Pavillion where Confucius is believed to have once visited, the 1,500 year old Marshal tree, the Menglianggu Battle Monument, and several renowned temples.
Vis Archipelago, Croatia
The Vis Archipelago UNESCO Global Geopark is located off the coast of Croatia, formed by some of the oldest rock in the Adriatic Sea. The northeastern region of the archipelago features large sand deposits formed by fierce winds in the Ice Age, which also created several unique caves and land formations. Before the sudden rise of the sea level around 12,000 years ago, these islands were much larger and extended more than 20 miles. In this extended area, called the Mala Palagruža, archaeologists discovered flint quarries that served for the production of early tools, believed to have been made by the islands’ first inhabitants up to 8,000 years ago. Some of the most famous sites on this Archipelago are the Blue Cave (Modra špilja) and the Monk Seal Cave (Medvidina špilja).
The Imbabura UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the northern inter-Andean region, in the Republic of Ecuador. It is known for its great multitude of lakes and magnificent geological formations, such as the Peguche Waterfalls. The highest summit is of this Geopark, the 4,939 metre high Cotacachi Volcano, is located within the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve. The provincial capital, Ibarra, also known as the “White City,” encompasses indigenous villages and colonial towns attracting thousands of visitors every year. This area is currently inhabited by different ethnic groups, among them the Caranqui, the Cayambis, the Otavalos, the Zuletas, the Natabuelas, the Montubio, the Afro and the Awa.
The Trollfjell UNESCO Global Geopark is an area with unique characteristics shaped by a long history of human habitation. While some of this area’s bedrock is poor in nutrients, resulting in barren stretches, others are fertile supporting lush vegetation and considerable biodiversity. Naturally occurring soapstone has been exploited locally since the Iron Age, to make utensils ranging from pots to fishing weights. Archaeologists have discovered soapstone quarries dating back to Viking period, which in the 12th and 13th supplied stones used to build churches. Passages in Trollfjell’s Solsem Cave feature prehistoric rock engravings of dancing stick figures, dating back thousands of years.
Colca y Volcanes de Andagua, Peru
The Colca y Volcanes de Andagua UNESCO Global Geopark, in the Southern Peruvian Andes, boasts a vast array of volcanic landscapes, lakes, geological faults, pre-Hispanic ruins and colonial churches. Formed 400 million years ago, the landscape features the great Colca Canyon, one of the largest and deepest in the world. The landscape of the Geopark, one of the few areas in the world with a multitude of volcanic cones, has been carved by rivers of lava and melting glaciers. This majestic scenery is known as Valley of Volcanos Andagua, extending between the Colca Canyon-Ayo, Chachas-Andagua and Orcopampa. Most of the inhabitants of these territories belong to pre-Hispanic cultures, heirs to rich customs, festivals and dances, many of which connect them to their unique, volcanic-tectonic territory with its hot springs and highly arable soils.
Courel Mountains, Spain
In the northwest region of Spain, the Courel Mountains UNESCO Global Geopark is home to a variety of Galician communities living in what remains of small medieval villages and monasteries. The territory’s deep valleys and canyons have been formed by erosion. The remarkable aspect of its mountains is impacted by mining, reflecting the relationship between humans and the mineral resources of the region’s Paleozoic rocks, which separate the peninsular interior from the Atlantic facade. Between the first and second century CE, the Roman Empire is believed to have operated dozens of gold mines in this region, extracting Paleozoic primary gold associated with the erosion product of gold-bearing quartz dykes and concentration of their deposits. Remnants of pre-historic fauna and flora, as well as Neolithic paintings, can also be found well-preserved within the deep caves of the mountains.
Agnès Bardon, Media Service -- firstname.lastname@example.org ; +33 (1) 45 68 1764