6.1. Determinant Analysis at the Global Scale
Quality implementation requires reliability and credibility. Longstanding activities, or a pressing issue, will determine decision outcomes until these two factors are not present. Geoheritage as a scientific discipline embraces a bottom-up approach and lack of need for developing regulatory policies. Consequently, the conceptual background can be shaped to make implementation happen in receptive areas rather than in rapid geoheritage loss areas to avoid the difficulties that specific adaptation imply. The geoheritage concept continues to gain popularity, with communities recognizing the value of their natural features. Year by year, new geoparks appear in the network, involving an increasing number of a wide variety of scientists in the program. Global activities achieved a level that allows us to investigate what determines this evolution. The question is what indicators can uncover such determinants. The primary purpose of the United Nations is to solve international problems, creating numerous bodies to work towards goals solving these problems. The Sustainable Development Goals were launched in 2015 and became a core framework of national strategies. The Commission on Sustainable Development defined 14 indicator themes: poverty; governance; health; education; demographics; natural hazards; atmosphere; land; oceans, seas and coasts; freshwater, biodiversity; economic development; global partnership; consumption and production patterns. We chose the closest themes to geoheritage as indicators for our research. These are land, biodiversity, economic development and global partnership. Each country that adopted the Agenda 21 plan and Rio Declaration on Environment and Development committed themselves to working towards sustainable development and should work towards adopting the highest standards for geoheritage conservation.
The limitation of a procedure based on scientific literature and research metrics is that it cannot use unpublished material, technical reports or gray literature (e.g., literature appearing in magazines not listed on Web of Science or Scopus or any major global science database). The survey has also not included scientific outputs published in non-English languages. We acknowledge that geoheritage conservation initiatives often take place in non-academic environments. The countries in our study are not the target subjects, they were the chosen as test subjects through a replicable procedure. With the help of these countries’ publicly available statistical data, trends in global practices can be extracted and used to understand how New Zealand measures up to international practices.
The authors’ backgrounds are Earth sciences, environmental sciences, social sciences and agricultural Sciences. There is a fair share of business and economics background that explains the geotourism aspect of geoheritage. The citation of these authors, steadily rising from the early 1990s, proves the scientific field achieved an amount of data that can unveil underlying trends and patterns in geoheritage practices. Knowing what drives policy makers to put geoheritage on all agendas helps to adjust evaluation methods to provide adequate information for successful policy impact. Geoheritage conservation is still not compensating for the losses of important Earth science sites and landscapes worldwide.
UNESCO took over the global network of geoparks that added a new dynamic in the phenomena. In the age of sustainability and conservation, there is an unprecedented number of bottom-up proposals for UNESCO.
The figure (Figure 12
) shows that most countries struggled to increase the number of geoparks, while China, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Japan had more success with a continuous expansion of this form of geoheritage conservation. Today, most countries have recognized the benefits of a geopark and wish to make an appearance on the UNESCO Global Geopark Network’s map. However, the evaluation process of the applications is very strict and follows a different approach to IUCN Protected Area management. Communities hold their geological landscape in such high esteem and potentially avoid the high standard assessment practice required by UNESCO. Synthesis of the global state of geoparks sheds light on the approach they need to take to prepare successful applications.
Multivariance analysis enabled us to observe more complex relationships appearing between geoheritage conservation practices. Due to the nature of our study, this is not a robust instrument to measure and monitor geoheritage popularity but, on the one hand, to identify rising trends over time and prompt action for an international framework to avoid adverse interpretations and applications on the subject. On the other hand, the study aimed to understand the complexity of decision making when the natural environment is at high risk of devastation. All conservation planning requires trade-offs. Geoheritage assessments cannot occur without including the demands of the local society and the limited resources of the land. However, when talking about conservation trade-offs, the principles of sustainability cannot be stressed hard enough. Approaches must consider the support of small and medium enterprises and the restoration of cohesive communities with a sense of belonging.
Basic indicators were chosen to first uncover basic trends. To consider further indicators, in-depth data are needed that are not necessarily publicly available from creditable sources. Such work can only be carried out by an international working group under the umbrella of a non-governmental, non-profit organization requiring contributions from practitioners from all around the world.
The derived sets of associated indicators formed three well-distinguished bundles. They formed clusters with population-, tourism industry- and geoheritage-related items. We could also observe that with the formation of the population bundle in the bibliometric indicator, geoheritage citations appeared to be associated. This result suggests a particular proportion of the size of the population, land, urban land and the pace of urban growth triggers enhanced interest in geoheritage research, as opposed to the number of international tourist arrivals and their economic effect. Conservation efforts are triggered by the witnessing of loss. It is a very interesting observation that the GDP of the country does not link to any trend, rather the size of the rural population. Globally, the present issues in today’s world provide opportunities for communities in the countryside. Addressing geoheritage in these areas seems to attract positive geoheritage outcomes.
Analyzing the formation of relationships within the categories offered further insight into the dynamics of geoheritage conservation. In effect, our analysis also supports the theory that high trade openness attracts more visitors and positively affects the economic aspect of the tourism sector. The first axis, dimension 1, ordered the existence of geoparks according to this phenomenon, as well as the maintenance of a larger protected area network, small land area and higher population density. In some countries, an overall intensified conservation strategy was made necessary due to the higher proportion of population to land. These countries encountered the problem of land limitation and noted that society must learn to coexist with the environment in the best way possible. The globalized market and large number of international arrivals lead to a more open approach to imply the idea of extending conservation to geoheritage. At the same time, these circumstances seem to drive decision makers to acknowledge and utilize the power of Earth science education to generate sustainable tourism that can take place in geoparks. Our model ordered the concept “Earth science” according to these conditions.
The category of “no geopark” bonded with categories of sparse population, scattered tourism opportunity, fewer international visitors and lower value of trade openness. Here, the protected area network tends to be smaller and the growth of the urban population is taking place. This suggests there is no land pressure nor social pressure to force conservation policies to be more inclusive in terms of geology. The arrivals use the existing facilities without risking adverse effects and the urbanization has not yet exerted the level of pressure on policies that leads to changes. The concept of “geodiversity” aligns the most with this state. The reason is that the primary focus is yet to shift from merely biodiversity and geodiversity is looked at as a factor for more accurate biodiversity conservation measures.
With dimension 2, we arrived at the main interest of ours, which is the is the categories associated with a high interest in geoheritage. It was no surprise that significant Earth science research activity falls into this group. Other members of this group are small tourism share, urban population, medium land area and a very slow rate of urban population growth. The concept of sustainability falls in line with the categories. The lower contribution from the tourism sector to GDP and the lack of pressure to create opportunities for rural populations makes it less important to guide tourists, or to create geoparks. At the same time, urbanization is becoming stronger, causing scientists to research geoheritage.
The opposite end of the axis showed us that a population living in rural areas, receiving a large tourism share and experiencing a decrease in urban population has low interest in geoheritage. Such a trend is possible in a small or medium country that has a culturally strong and cohesive society with an authentic landscape that attracts tourists. As there is no pressure to expand urban land, society does not experience the loss of geoheritage features. Efforts primarily address an overall economic growth without the weight of losing cultural identity or significant harm to the environment. These circumstances should not stop decision makers to prevent conservational issues from becoming prominent with rapid urbanization.
Dimension 3 had the least common relationships. Here, we can observe the type of rural population with existing geoparks that have a smaller number of arrivals. This is the case where attracting more visitors to the area to enhance local economy opens ways for geoheritage practitioners to create geoparks. In these areas, however, there is no real pressure on geoheritage loss, rather using aesthetically pleasing geomorphological features with the secondary goal of promoting Earth science and geotourism. This approach has its place in an overarching geoheritage conservation framework but cannot grow at the expense of scientific importance. Our model ordered the concept “geotourism” according to this bundle.
On the opposite end, we attained our last category, that is, small land area without geoparks, high population density, large number of arrivals and an urban population. In such areas, urbanization reached an extent where there is no organic landscape to preserve. Visitors here are interested in the built landscape with impressive technology and recreational landscaping aided by urban geoheritage aspects and ex situ geoeducational aspects such as specialist museums or exhibition centers explaining the landscape and geology buried under the urban landscape [110
6.2. Determinant Analysis at a Local Scale
This study sheds light on the underlying trends of geoheritage conservation. The rise in geoheritage publications suggests that the discipline has gained ground at a global scale. However, it is possible that important geological sites and landscapes may keep disappearing due to developments at a local scale. To understand how trends change with the change in scale, we zoomed into our results and had a closer look at geoheritage determinants in an urban area. We selected Auckland, the city where all pressing issues are present with governance is aiming to create a sustainable city for both Western and indigenous communities by 2050. The unique volcanic land paired with a unique socio-economic landscape provided a perfect textbook example for the understanding determinants of geoheritage conservation.
New Zealand is a relatively sparsely populated country (population density: 18 per km2) by OECD standards. Its population density is relatively low but highly concentrated in the Auckland area. Conserving land is a challenging task and is determined by a conflict of interests. Cultural land and geoheritage sites keep disappearing and the reserves and green spaces left for recreation and cultural purposes do not provide compensation for the rapid sprawl. Therefore, there is no better place to conduct a case study and contribute to the world information on what gaps need to be closed to achieve the status needed for geoheritage conservation.
From a geopark perspective, New Zealand has no UNESCO Global Geopark yet, despite that, recognized scientists are involved in the construction of geopark proposals. Interestingly, out of the “expected” locations considered as conservation and tourism hotspots, there is the Central Volcanic Plateau on the North Island or the Rotorua geothermal areas [112
]. New Zealand has a pending application for the Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark on the South Island [114
]. Cultural values of the country are invaluable for the world and should be an important node of the network by all means. However, the slower rate of historic events and lower population density limits the cultural aspect of an otherwise geologically unique area shaping a social landscape such as Auckland.
OECD tourism policies highlight the need for coherent and comprehensive approaches. One of the main focuses is the rethinking of tourism through a sustainability lens [115
], following up on the growing argument that tourism success is measured by visitor numbers instead of by its contribution to local economies and benefits to destinations. However, there is no standard response to these problems and the OECD Tourism Committee still reports a failure to adequately address the value of tourism for destinations [115
]. New Zealand took additional steps to integrate sustainability into tourism through a program managed by New Zealand’s tourism industry association “Tourism Industry Aotearoa” developed by industry for industry. The aim is to achieve sustainability for every New Zealand tourism business by 2025 (https://www.sustainabletourism.nz/
New Zealand has a set of categories between sustainability and geodiversity. It is sparsely populated, but the country strives to create opportunities for rural communities without undermining community well-being. Additionally, the country regionally experiences immense pressure from rapid urbanization, especially in the Auckland region. According to our analysis, New Zealand not only measures up to international practices but stands out. It shows special interest towards saving geoheritage features of scientific and indigenous value, however, it is a difficult and complex process to carry out, with numerous obstacles to overcome [116
]. In the Auckland Volcanic Fields, scientists work together with indigenous representatives to create a peaceful future for all communities [118
]. Value systems can evolve and merge, and one does not need to suppress the other. Along with the strong measures to preserve cultural identities, Auckland aspires to pursue internationally agreed goals on geodiversity, biodiversity and sustainability [119
In the scheme of concepts, New Zealand citied geodiversity/biodiversity authors the most. However, Figure 13
suggests the same angle to concepts of sustainability and geotourism. This means environments with complexity, such as Auckland, cannot simply include geoscientific significance in the urban planning agenda, and concepts of existing regulatory frameworks (tourism, biodiversity, sustainability) will have to take over.
The humanitarian governance of Auckland not only allows room for complying to a potential international convention on geoheritage conservation but it is also to shape the outlook of global patterns toward holding diversity of nature and culture in their highest regard.