European Project Geopark H2020 Rise

According to the Charter of the European Geoparks Network adopted in Greece the 5th June of 2000, a European Geopark “is a territory which includes a particular geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy supported by a European programme to promote development. […]”.These territories have been labelled regarding their geological, cultural and ecological heritage – since the early 2000s this Label knows a growing success among European countries, particularly in the West (France, Germany, Italy, Spain). In 2013, 54 European Geoparks received the precious label. This international recognition by UNESCO attracts Southern countries to implement development strategies in line with the recommendations of good-practices management oriented by international organizations. Indeed, UNESCO takes into account a plurality of selective criteria such as a remarkable heritage (geology, archaeology, biodiversity, cultural), citizen participation, sustainable regional economic development plan, heritage and socio-economic values for local populations, etc. to proceed to the inscription process. It is based on an integrated and sustainable management & conservation strategy of natural and cultural heritage from an interdisciplinary approach (Humanities and Life & Earth Sciences) in consultation with local stakeholders (local communities, universities and civil society). Currently, there is no “Geopark methodology” adapted to the South. Thus, the GEOPARK project aims to study potential and compared areas with remarkable geological, ecological, social and cultural heritage in North Africa (Morocco). One located in Central Catalunia (Spain) and the other in the Zat Valley (Morocco) – 60 km from the city of Marrakech which Medina was inscribed in 1985 on the World Heritage List. Endowed with varied skills in Humanities and Life and Earth Sciences, GEOPARK project partners (public, private) propose to study biodiversity, geology, prehistory, social aspects, geo-tourism, transfers of technical expertise regarding both territories, but also Geopark inscription process for Southern countries and local development.

This project is based on a multidisciplinary and scientific approach composed of top-down, bottom-up and interdisciplinary views and methodologies, but also on knowledge transfer between Western and Southern countries (Europe and Africa) and inter-sectorial experiences (public, private). Both case studies, located in developed and developing countries (Morocco, Spain), are eager to conserve and manage these heritage territories from UN and European recommendations and good-practices (Geopark Central Catalonia, Spain). This project will lead to an innovative and interdisciplinary methodology on Geoparks for Maghreb Region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) based on empirical surveys, field collecting data and shared experiences North-South from scientific activities (summer universities, conferences, publications, distance learning programme, inventories, field analyses, etc.).

Areas of Geopark study : 

  • Zat Valley (Morocco/AF): The Zat valley is located in the Moroccan High Atlas at about sixty km from the city of Marrakech (World Heriatge City, 1985). Covering an area of 452 km ., the valley is crossed by the Oued Zat, areas of medium and high mountain (highest point: Jebel Meltsen 3600m altitude), high plateau Yagour. With a semi-arid climate and Mediterranean and mountain vegetation type, the Zat valley based on traditional agricultural activity which barely allows the rural population to support their needs. Like other valleys of the High Atlas, the valley has a very rich and varied geological, ecological and archaeological heritage including the rock carvings (Yagour). (Bellaoui, 1989).
  • Geopark of Central Catalunia (Spain/EU): The region of the Global Geopark coincides with the “Geological and Mining Park of Central Catalonia”. It has an extensive geo-diversity with outstanding examples from the fields of stratigraphy, sedimentology, tectonics, karst systems, palaeontology, and palaeoanthropology. The faunal content of its sedimentary rocks shows multiple examples of rich diverse life from past geological eras. The best known and most abundant fossils are of marine origin originating from organisms living in warm shallow seas which covered the region 55 million years ago. Geodynamics and mining are part of the Catalan Potassic Basin, one of the largest potassium salt mining areas in Europe. It shows some of the best global examples of sedimentation of evaporite rocks in a dynamic context; these are sedimentary deposits that result from the evaporation of seawater. Mining activity has left an important heritage. The exploitation of halite, commonly known as rock salt, first appeared here during Neolithic times and continued until the time of the Roman Empire. Activities such as kiln and tile workshops using traditional skills are important tourist attractions.


Selected references on European geoparks or geological sites: 
  • McKeever, Frey and Weber (2013). “Global geoparks and geological world heritage: a case study from Germany”. In World heritage review, Unesco, Vol. 70, pp. 34-40.
  • Megerle, H (2012). “Geomorphosites in South West Germany – a neglected natural and cultural heritage of high value”, Géocarrefour, Vol. 87/3-4 | 2012, 157-170.
  • Nikolaus, Z (2005). « Assessment, protection, and promotion of geomorphological and geological sites in the Aegean area, Greece »,Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement, 3/2005 | 2005, 227-234.

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