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Geological Conservation

The landforms, rocks, minerals and fossils of the UK are a vast and valuable resource, and tell the story of the country's long and complicated history.  They provide evidence of past life, environments and conditions, stretching back over 2,800 million years.  The variety of these rocks, fossils, minerals, natural processes and soils that underlie and determine the character of our landscape and environment is defined as 'geodiversity', and the most widely used term for the conservation of our geodiversity is 'geoconservation'. 


Geoconservation in the UK involves recognising, protecting and managing sites and landscapes identified as important for their rocks, fossils, minerals, or other geological or geomorphological features of interest. 

Some of the concepts of geoconservation are still being developed, in particular those related to the wider landscape and climate change, and more discussion and debate will be needed before these developing concepts can be turned into practical applications.  However, in some areas a good deal has been achieved in the UK by JNCC and the country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs) – Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage – including developing an understanding of the links between biodiversity and geodiversity, and the creation of the UK Geodiversity Action Plan (UK GAP).


Relevant JNCC Earth heritage publications include:


The Geological Conservation Review

A major component of JNCC's work has been the development of the Geological Conservation Review (GCR) (a similar initiative, the Earth Science Conservation Review (ESCR), exists in Northern Ireland).  The GCR began in 1977 under the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC), and was a major step forward in Earth heritage conservation, and is an international first. No other country has attempted such a systematic and comprehensive review of its Earth heritage.  The GCR was designed to identify those sites of national and international importance needed to show all the key scientific elements of the Earth heritage of Britain. These sites display sediments, rocks, fossils, and features of the landscape that make a special contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Earth science and the geological history of Britain, which stretches back over 2,800 million years. After over two decades of site evaluation and documentation, over 3,000 GCR sites were selected for around 100 categories (GCR 'Blocks'), encompassing the range of geological and geomorphological features of Britain.

Although the main phase of the GCR was concluded in 1990, advances in science mean that periodic review of certain parts of the GCR is required in order to ensure that the GCR remains credible and robust. Updating the GCR is therefore an ongoing process, and is undertaken by the appropriate country nature conservation body (CNCB) – Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, or Scottish Natural Heritage.


The GCR Series

The results of the Geological Conservation Review (GCR) programme are being published in a series of books, known as the Geological Conservation Review Series.

The aim of the Geological Conservation Review Series is to provide a public record of the features of interest and importance at localities already notified or being considered for notification as 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest' (SSSIs). The sites selected – GCR sites – form the basis of statutory geological and geomorphological site conservation in Britain. 

This hugely important programme is fundamental to the identification of geological SSSIsGlobal Geoparks, and natural World Heritage Sites, and underpins the expert geoconservation advice provided by the country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs).

Volume 1, the first volume in the Series, provides an introduction to the Geological Conservation Review. The subsequent volumes include descriptions of the sites selected for the GCR blocks which form the subject of each volume. 


Precambrian and Structural Geology

Volume Number Title
3 Caledonian Structures in Britain: south of the Midland Valley
20 Precambrian Rocks of England and Wales
34 Lewisian, Torridonian and Moine Rocks of Scotland


Igneous Petrology and Mineralogy

Volume Number Title
4 British Tertiary Volcanic Province
5 Igneous Rocks of South-West England
17 Caledonian Igneous Rocks of Great Britain
27 Carboniferous and Permian Igneous Rocks of Great Britain North of the Variscan Front
36 Mineralization of England and Wales


Palaeozoic Stratigraphy

Volume Number Title
8 Marine Permian of England
11 British Upper Carboniferous Stratigraphy
18 British Cambrian to Ordovician Stratigraphy
19 British Silurian Stratigraphy
29 British Lower Carboniferous Stratigraphy
31 The Old Red Sandstone of Great Britain


Mesozoic–Cenozoic Stratigraphy

Volume Number Title
15 British Tertiary Stratigraphy
21 British Upper Jurassic Stratigraphy
23 British Upper Cretaceous Stratigraphy
24 Permian and Triassic Red Beds and the Penarth Group of Great Britain
26 British Middle Jurassic Stratigraphy
30 British Lower Jurassic Stratigraphy



Volume Number Title
9 Palaeozoic Palaeobotany of Great Britain
10 Fossil Reptiles of Great Britain
16 Fossil Fishes of Great Britain
22 Mesozoic and Tertiary Palaeobotany of Great Britain
32 Mesozoic and Tertiary Fossil Mammals and Birds of Great Britain
35 Fossil Arthropods of Great Britain


Quaternary Geology And Geomorphology

Volume Number Title
2 Quaternary of Wales
6 Quaternary of Scotland
7 Quaternary of the Thames
14 Quaternary of South-West England
25 Quaternary of Northern England



Volume Number Title
12 Karst and Caves of Great Britain
13 Fluvial Geomorphology of Great Britain
28 Coastal Geomorphology of Great Britain
33 Mass Movements in Great Britain


These volumes are available to purchase through NHBS.

Publication of the GCR series transferred to the Geologists' Association in 2011, and the final nine volumes (Volume 37 onwards) are being published as Special Issues of the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.


The GCR database

In addition to the detailed site reports available in the series, JNCC developed the GCR site database, which contains basic site information for the 3,000 GCR sites selected, together with some fuller reports (as published in the GCR volumes). Users of the resource can search for information in various ways, for example by site name, GCR Block (geological context), or geographical location. 

JNCC maintains the database, which is updated when there are amendments to the site lists or site details. 

The original database was produced over 10 years ago, and is not compatible with JNCC's new website. We are exploring options for a new database, but in the meantime you can access the database via The National Archives version of our old website (though note some of the functionality of the database may not work). A spreadsheet version of the site information is also available via our Resource Hub.


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