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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

UNESCO Global Geoparks and the Vikos-Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark

I feel extremely fortunate to be able to escape from the tragic waste management problems of nearby Ionian Islands to the fresh mountain air and spectacular, clean environment of this immensely beautiful 'global geopark'.


"Vikos - Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the region of Epirus, Ioannina, northwestern Greece. It occupies the NW part of the Pindus Mountain Range and is characterized by high rugged relief and an impressive landscape. It includes Mt. Smolikas (2,637 m asl), the 2nd highest mountain in Greece, and Mt. Tymfi (2,497 m asl), and the two spectacular gorges of Vikos and Aoos.

Vikos - Aoos UNESCO Global Geopark is made of deep sea sedimentary rocks that, 20 million years ago, due to the collision of African and Eurasian plates, were folded and faulted by the powerful compressive movements that prevailed in the Greek area. Part of the UNESCO Global Geopark is belonging to an ophiolitic complex. The masses of rocks of oceanic origin (ophiolites and accompanying sediments) are thrusted onto the sediments of the Pindos zone and which are in turn thrusted on the sediments of the Ionian Zone. The present-day landscape reveals a 2500-metre-high elevated karstic field, which was sometimes covered by glaciers during the Pleistocene. The alternating glacial and interglacial environments, and the geodynamic processes which created fast ascendant movements, combined with the tectonic – karstic phenomena, resulted in favorable conditions for intense erosion, giving the relief of the area its present form. On the other hand, the large amounts of water released have flown amid the discontinuities caused by the faults and have deeply carved the limestone blocks, creating deep gorges. These deep gorges reveal the stratigraphic column of rocks making up the geological structure and history of the area. Mt. Tymfi with its calcareous bedrock is associated with steep, rocky slopes and cliffs, deep gorges, glacial lakes, springs, streams and rivers with pure water. Evergreen shrubs, deciduous oak woods, sub-Mediterranean conifers and beech forests cover the area, whereas the higher altitude zone is characterized by Balkan pine woods, sub-alpine pastures, bare rocks and screes".

The Geopark Concept:

"The Geopark concept arose in the mid-1990s as a response to the need to conserve and enhance the value of areas of geological significance in Earth history. Landscapes and geological formations are key witnesses to the evolution of our planet and determinants for our future sustainable development. From the outset, Geoparks adopted a “bottom-up” or community-led approach to ensure that an area’s geological significance could be conserved and promoted for science, education and culture, in addition to being used as a sustainable economic asset such as through the development of responsible tourism. In 2004, with the support of UNESCO, 17 members of the European Geoparks Network and eight Chinese Geoparks came together to create the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) which, with then more than 100 Global Geoparks as members, acquired legal status in 2014. A UNESCO Global Geopark must contain geology of international significance. It is independently evaluated by scientific professionals in the relevant discipline of Earth Science. UNESCO Global Geoparks are living, working landscapes where science and local communities engage in a mutually beneficial way. Education at all levels is at the core of the UNESCO Global Geopark concept. From university researchers to local community groups, UNESCO Global Geoparks encourage awareness of the story of the planet as read in the rocks, landscape and ongoing geological processes. UNESCO Global Geoparks also promote the links between geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, clearly demonstrating that geodiversity is the foundation of all ecosystems and the basis of human interaction with the landscape. UNESCO Global Geoparks contribute to achieving UNESCO’s objectives by promoting geology and science in general through a wider contribution to UNESCO’s mandate while cutting across education, culture and communication".

More about UNESCO Global Geoparks (pdf)


Revalidation Process 

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