A method for assessing the scientific and additional values of geomorphosites

Reynard, Emmanuel and Fontana, Georgia and Kozlik, Lenka and Scapozza, Cristian (2007) A method for assessing the scientific and additional values of geomorphosites. Geographice Helvetica, 62. pp. 148-158.

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During the last two decades, several attempts have been made to evaluate the quality of geomorphological heritage in various contexts, for example in environmental impact assessment (Rivas et al. 1997; Coratza & Giusti 2005), inventories of natural heritage sites (Serrano & Gonzälez-Trueba 2005), tourist promotion (Pralong 2005) or management of nature parks (Pereira et al. 2007). In order to reduce subjectivity (Bruschi & Cendrero 2005), numerous more or less quantitative assessment methods have been developed (e.g. Grandgirard 1997; Coratza & Giusti 2005; Serrano & Gonzälez-rueba 2005; Pereira et al. 2007). The various methods are based on several assessment criteria - three of them are recurrent, that is rarity, representativeness and integrity (Grandgirard 1999), and others, for example «ecological value», palaeogeographic importance, «educative value», etc., are dependent on the context of the assessment and on the aims of the research. They also depend on the actual definition of geomorphological heritage. Geomorphological heritage can refer to a collection of sites of interest called geomorphologjcal sites or geomorphosites (Panizza 2001). Different terms have been used in literature to refer to the individual components that make up geomorphological heritage (Reynard 2004), such as geomorphologjcal assets(Panizza & Piacente 1993), geomorphologjcal goods (Carton et al. 1994), geomorphologjcal sites (Hooke 1994), geomorphological geotopes (Grandgirard 1997), sites of geomorphologjcal interest (Rtvas et al. 1997), and finally geomorphosites (Panizza 2001). In this paper, we use the term «geomorphosites» to refer to sites of particular interest in terms of geomorphological heritage. Study of the literature shows that the various terms cover a relatively broad pectrum of definitions(Reynard 2005a): for some scholars (e.g. Grandgirard 1997), geomorphosites are sites of particular importance for the knowledge of Earth history and for the reconstruction of history of life, climate and Earth; for others (e.g. Panizza & Piacente 1993; Panizza 2001), the importance of eomorphosites is not only related to their «scientific value» that is their importance for knowledge of Earth history, but also to other possible «ecologjcal», «economic» or «cultural values» (Panizza & Piacente 2003). The two definitions are not exclusive and their use depends on the objectives of the research (Reynard 2005a): for inventories of sites to be protected, the more restrictive definition of the term should be used because the sites and areas to be selected would need to be of particular importance for the knowledge of Earth history; on the other hand, within the context of geotourism or integrated cultural landscape management, the broader definition may be used in order to facilitate the analysis of possible links to other areas of culture or science. The coexistence of different types of definitions and various terms for more or less the same coneept does not facilitate the development of assessment methods. Further, as Grandgirard (1999) points out, the choiee of the assessment method and criteria depends on the objectives of the research. It depends also on whether a broad or narrow definition of geomorphosites has been chosen. To contribute towards clarification of the debate on value of sites, we propose here the use of two value sets (Reynard 2005a): a central set dealing with «scientific value», and an additional set taking possible other aspects into consideration («cultural», «economic», «aesthetic» and «ecologjcal value»). Following the description of the proposed assessment method, the paper presents the results of its implementation in two different areas in Switzerland.

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