Can you think of an area that combines geology with environment, sustainable development, culture and tourism? Well, the answer is Global Geoparks. According to UNESCO, that has developed a Network of such Geoparks, these places are “single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development”. A UNESCO Global Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness about climate change effects, while at the same it encourages sustainable development through geotourism and rural activities, as long as the geological resources of the area are protected.
Local communities (eg land owners, community groups, tourism providers, indigenous people and local organisations) play an important role in Global Geoparks, as they are empowered to develop cohesive partnerships and comprehensive strategies with the aim to promote the area’s significant geological processes, features and historical themes linked to geology, while they are engaged in protecting the Earth’s geodiversity.
UNESCO’s work with geoparks began in 2001 and at present, there are 147 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 41 countries. Greece, a land of major geological change, has five Global Geoparks and is also member of the European Geoparks Network. The five UNESCO Global Geoparks in Greece are: Chelmos Vouraikos UNESCO Global Geopark in the Peloponnese, Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark in the Aegean, Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark & Sitia UNESCO Global Geopark in Crete and Vikos – Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark in Epirus. Millions of years of continuous mountain building have endowed Greece with amazing natural monuments. The Greek Geoparks are all members of the Hellenic Geoparks Forum that was established to coordinate and enhance their actions.