, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 249–259 | Cite as

Framing the Palaeontological Heritage Within the Geological Heritage: An Integrative Vision

  • Maria Helena Henriques
  • Rui Pena dos Reis
Review Article


Fossils represent an important component of the Earth’s diversity and therefore possess heritage value. Like other components of the geodiversity of planet Earth, the palaeontological heritage should require geoconservationist measures under a protective point of view. A qualitative system for evaluating the palaeontological heritage is proposed, based on the content displayed by fossils (indicial, iconographic, documental, scenic, symbolic and conceptual), which is applicable to the whole fossil record whether in situ or elsewhere. By integrating specimen-based with site-based approaches, this open evaluation system can also overcome the difficulties involved in assessing geological objects other than fossils, which are currently housed in museums, such as rocks and minerals; they are also part of the geological heritage of the Earth but are usually not included in site-based geoconservation thinking. Nature conservation can only be promoted if geoconservation plays the same role as biological conservation in nature management and all natural processes are considered together. The close relationship between the palaeontological heritage—as a reflection of past biodiversity on Earth—and the biological heritage that supports its present biodiversity can help integrate geoconservation and biological conservation perspectives and actions, thus representing an important tool for fostering more holistic approaches to nature conservation.


Geological heritage Applied geoconservation Palaeontological heritage Fossil record Qualitative evaluation 



The authors are grateful to Dr. Colin Prosser for helpful comments and suggestions. They acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for the careful revision of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© The European Association for Conservation of the Geological Heritage 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geosciences Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of Coimbra (Polo II)Rua Sílvio LimaPortugal

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