pp 1–15 | Cite as

How to Integrate Invisible Geomorphosites in an Inventory: a Case Study in the Rhone River Valley (Switzerland)

  • Mélanie Clivaz
  • Emmanuel Reynard
Original Article


During the two last decades, numerous inventories of geosites have been carried out at various scales. They aim at documenting the state of the geological heritage, which is the basis for management strategies. In very humanised regions, where the original geomorphology has been highly modified by human infrastructures, agriculture, urban sprawling and various modifications of landforms, it is important to inventory not only the landforms visible today but also former landforms destroyed or hidden by human activities. To address the issue of inventorying invisible geomorphosites, two approaches were tested in the Rhone River valley (Switzerland). The first was an inventory of geomorphosites of the study area. Not only the visible landforms but also the landforms that had completely disappeared were evaluated with the assessment method of the University of Lausanne. A total of 28 geomorphosites were assessed including five missing sites (two sand dunes areas, a braided sector of the Rhone River and two former marshes). These invisible geomorphosites were assessed and their management was discussed. The second study was a multi-method analysis of former landscapes of the nineteenth century. Several data including historical maps, written archives, digital terrain model and iconographic sources were combined and allowed the reconstruction of palaeolandscapes and landforms. Both materials are allowed proposing a strategy for geotourism development.


Geoheritage Geomorphosites Invisibility Inventory Palaeolandscape 



Part of this research was carried out commonly with other researchers. We thank Dominique Baud, Jonathan Bussard, Laetitia Laigre and Benoît Maillard for common work and discussion. We acknowledge Dominique Baud and Jonathan Bussard for GIS processing of Fig. 5. We also acknowledge the collaborators of the State Archives of Valais for their help to the historical researches. We thank the two anonymous referees for useful comments and suggestions, as well as the Guest editors and Kevin Page for the edition of the paper.


  1. Azman A, Halim SA, Liu O, Saidin S, Komoo I (2011) Public education in heritage conservation for geopark community. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 7(C):504–511Google Scholar
  2. Baker ARH (2003) Geography and history: bridging the divide. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baud D (2009) Méthodologie pour l’analyse des dynamiques paysagères à partir d’archives cadastrales (XVIIIe et XIXe siècles). L’étude de cas d’un village savoyard: Sardières Norois 213:21–40Google Scholar
  4. Baud D, Reynard E (2015) Géohistoire d’une trajectoire paysagère dans la plaine du Rhône valaisan. Analyse du secteur entre Riddes et Martigny (1840-1965). Norois 237:15–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baud D, Reynard E, Bussard J (2015) Les transformations paysagères de la plaine du Rhône. Analyse diachronique et cartographie historique (1840–2010). In: Reynard E, Evéquoz-Dayen M, Borel G (eds.). Le Rhône, entre nature et société. Cahiers de Vallesia 29, Sion, pp 225–258Google Scholar
  6. Bini A, Buoncristani JF, Couterrand S, Ellwanger D, Felber M, Florineth D, Graf HR, Keller O, Kelly M, Schlüchter C, Schoeneich P (2009) Switzerland during the last glacial maximum, 1:500,000 map. Swisstopo, WabernGoogle Scholar
  7. Bitschene P, Schüller A (2011) Geo-education and geopark implementation in the Vulkaneifel European Geopark. In: Carena S, Friedrich A., Lammerer B (eds) Geological field trips in Central Western Europe: Fragile Earth International Conference, Munich, September 2011. Geological Society of America Field Guide 22, pp 29–34, doi: 10.1130/2011.0022(03)
  8. Braudel F (1949) La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II. Armand Colin, Paris, p 1160Google Scholar
  9. Bravard JP (1989) La métamorphose des rivières des Alpes françaises à la fin du Moyen-Age et à l’époque moderne. Bull Soc Géogr Liège 25:145–157Google Scholar
  10. Brilha J (2005) Património geológico e geoconservação: a conservação da natureza na sua vertente geológica. Palimage Editores, Viseu, p 190Google Scholar
  11. Brilha J (2016) Inventory and quantitative assessment of geosites and geodiversity sites: a review. Geoheritage 8(2):119–134. doi: 10.1007/s12371-014-0139-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruschi VM, Cendrero A (2005) Geosite evaluation: can we measure intangible values? Il Quaternario 18(1):293–306Google Scholar
  13. Cayla N, Hoblea F, Biot V, Delamette M, Guyomard A (2012) De l’invisibilité des géomorphosites à la révélation géopatrimoniale. Géocarrefour 87:171–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clivaz M (2015) Inventaire des géomorphosites de la plaine du Rhône entre Agarn et Martigny. University of Lausanne, Master’s Thesis, p. 111Google Scholar
  15. Coratza P, Giusti C (2005) Methodological proposal for assessment of the scientific quality of geomorphosites. Il Quaternario 18(1):307–313Google Scholar
  16. Crofts R, Gordon JE (2015) Geoconservation in protected areas. In: Worboys GL, Lockwood M, Kothari A, Feary S, Pulsford I (eds) Protected area governance and management. ANU Press, Canberra, pp 531–568Google Scholar
  17. De Torrenté C (1964) La correction du Rhône en amont du lac Léman. Département fédéral de l’Intérieur, Berne, p 135Google Scholar
  18. Dowling RK, Newsome D (eds) (2006) Geotourism: sustainability, impacts and management. Elsevier, Oxford, p 290Google Scholar
  19. Egli D, Mancktelow N (2013) The structural history of the Mont Blanc massif with regard to models for its recent exhumation. Swiss J Geosci 106:469–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Farquet P (1925) Les marais et les dunes de la plaine de Martigny. Bull Murithienne 42:113–159Google Scholar
  21. Franchomme M, Schmidtt G (2012) Les zones humides dans le Nord vues à travers le cadastre napoléonien: les Systèmes d’Information Géographique comme outils d’analyse. Revue du Nord 94:661–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gams H (1914) La Grande Gouille de la Sarvaz et les environs. Bull Murithienne 39:125–186Google Scholar
  23. Giusti C (2012) Les sites d’intérêt géomorphologique: un patrimoine invisible? Géocarrefour 87:151–156Google Scholar
  24. Grandgirard V (1997) Géomorphologie, protection de la nature et gestion du paysage. University of Friboug, PhD Thesis, p. 210Google Scholar
  25. Grataloup C (2005) Géographie historique et analyse spatiale: de l’ignorance à la fertilisation croisée. In: Boulanger P, Trochet JR (eds) Où en est la géographie historique? Entre économie et culture. L’Harmattan, Paris, pp 33–42Google Scholar
  26. Grataloup C (2015) Introduction à la géohistoire. Armand Colin, Paris, p 224Google Scholar
  27. Gray M (2004) Geodiversity. Valuing and conserving abiotic nature. Wiley, Chichester, p 434Google Scholar
  28. Hose TA (1996) Geotourism, or can tourists become casual rock hounds? In: Bennett MR et al (eds) Geology at your doorstep: the role of urban geology in earth heritage conservation. The Geological Society, London, pp 207–228Google Scholar
  29. Hose TA (2012) 3G’s for modern geotourism. Geoheritage 4:7–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hubbard M, Mancktelow N (1992) Lateral displacement during Neogene convergence in the western and central alps. Geology 20:943–946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jacob-Rousseau N (2009) Géohistoire/Géo-histoire. Quelles méthodes pour quel récit? Géocarrefour 84:211–216Google Scholar
  32. Laigre L (2009) Etude diachronique de la dynamique fluviale du Rhône suisse depuis la fin du Petit Age Glaciaire – Cartographie paléoenvironnementale sectorielle de la source au Lac Léman. University Paris 1, Master’s Thesis, p. 167Google Scholar
  33. Mariétan I (1968) Drame de la lutte contre l’eau dans le Valais. Bull Murithienne 85:51–71Google Scholar
  34. Montané A, Arnaud-Fassetta G, Reynard E (2010) Analyse statistique et modélisation de la variabilité longitudinale du gradient granulométrique du Rhône. Bull Murithienne 127:19–27Google Scholar
  35. Morlot A (1857) Les dunes de sable mouvant de Saxon en Valais. Bull Soc Vaud Sc Nat 5(41):306–307Google Scholar
  36. National Geographic (2014) Geo-education: Essential preparation for an interconnected world, (Accessed 25.08.2016)
  37. O’Halloran D, Green C, Harley M, Stanley M, Knill J (eds) (1994) Geological and landscape conservation. The Geological Society, London, p 530Google Scholar
  38. Ozima M (1987) Geohistory. Global evolution of the earth. Springer, Berlin, p 165Google Scholar
  39. Panizza M (2001) Geomorphosites: concepts, methods and example of geomorphological survey. Chinese Sci Bull 46(Suppl):4–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pasche L (2004) Travaux de correction des cours d’eau en Valais et dans la région de Conthey (1860-1900). Vallesia 59:225–246Google Scholar
  41. Pemberton M (2001) Conserving geodiversity, the importance of valuing our geological heritage. National Conference, Geological Society of Australia, p. 7, (Accessed 05.01.2017)
  42. Pereira P, Pereira D (2010) Methodological guidelines for geomorphosite assessment. Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement 2:215–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Perret A (2014) Géopatrimoines des trois Chablais: identification et valorisation des témoins glaciaires. PhD Thesis, University of Lausanne, (Aaccessed 25.08.2016)
  44. Rey C (2008) Marais du Valais central: appauvrissement de la flore palustre au cours des 150 dernières années. Bull Murithienne 125:11–27Google Scholar
  45. Reynard E (2005) Géomorphosites et paysages. Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement 3:181–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reynard E (2009a) Geomorphosites: definitions and characteristics. In: Reynard E, Coratza P, Regolini-Bissig G (eds) Geomorphosites. Pfeil, Munchen, pp 9–20Google Scholar
  47. Reynard E (2009b) Les sources cartographiques pour l’histoire du Rhône valaisan. In: Reynard E, Evéquoz-Dayen M, Dubuis P (eds) Le Rhône: dynamique, histoire et société. Cahiers de Vallesia 21, Sion, pp 63–71Google Scholar
  48. Reynard E (2012) Geoheritage protection and promotion in Switzerland. European Geologist 34:44–47Google Scholar
  49. Reynard E (2016) Geoheritage case study: canton Valais, Switzerland. In: Hose TA (ed) Geoheritage and geotourism. A European perspective. Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge, pp 279–290Google Scholar
  50. Reynard E, Baud D (2015) Etude géohistorique de l’assèchement de la plaine de Riddes-Martigny (1910-1940). Vallesia 70:255–291Google Scholar
  51. Reynard E, Coratza P (2013) Scientific research on geomorphosites. A review of the activities of the IAG working group on geomorphosites over the last twelve years. Geogr Fis Dinam Quat 36:159–168Google Scholar
  52. Reynard E, Fontana G, Kozlik L, Scapozza C (2007) A method for assessing scientific and additional values of geomorphosites. Geogr Helv 62(3):148–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reynard E, Arnaud-Fassetta G, Laigre L, Schoeneich P (2009a) Le Rhône alpin vu sous l’angle de la géomorphologie: état des lieux. In: Reynard E, Evéquoz-Dayen M, Dubuis P (eds) Le Rhône: dynamique, histoire et société. Cahiers de Vallesia 21, Sion, pp 75–102Google Scholar
  54. Reynard E, Coratza P, Regolini-Bissig G (eds) (2009b) Geomorphosites. Pfeil, Munchen, p 240Google Scholar
  55. Reynard E, Laigre L, Maillard B (2011) Repérer des géomorphosites disparus: le cas de la plaine du Rhône valaisanne. In: Reynard E, Laigre L, Kramar N (eds) Les géosciences au service de la société. Institut de Géographie, Lausanne, Géovisions 37, pp 55–74Google Scholar
  56. Reynard E, Kaiser C, Martin S, Regolini G (2015) An application for Geosciences communication by smartphones and tablets. In: Lollino G et al. (eds) Engineering geology for society and territory. Springer, Heidelberg, vol 8, pp 265–268, doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-09408-3_46
  57. Reynard E, Perret A, Bussard J, Grangier L, Martin S (2016) Integrated approach for the inventory and management of geomorphological heritage at the regional scale. Geoheritage 8(1):43–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schneider V (2009) Valorisation du patrimoine glaciaire de la cluse du Rhône et du Chablais. University of Lausanne, Master’s Thesis, p. 217Google Scholar
  59. Sellier D (2013) Patrimoine géomorphologique et toponymie: perception et désignation des montagnes quartzitiques de la façade atlantique nord-européenne (Norvège, Écosse, Irlande). Norois 229:53–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Serrano E, Gonzáles Trueba JJ (2005) Assessment of geomorphosites in natural protected areas: the Picos de Europa National Park (Spain). Géomorphologie: Relief, processus, environnement 3:197–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sharples C (2002) Concepts and principles of geoconservation. Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service website, (Accessed 05.01.2017)
  62. Stäuble S (2009) Evolution de la plaine du Rhône suisse du début du XIXe siècle à nos jours: étude cartographique dans le Valais central. In: Reynard E, Evéquoz-Dayen M, Dubuis P (eds) Le Rhône: dynamique, histoire et société. Cahiers de Vallesia 21, Sion, pp 167–175Google Scholar
  63. Stäuble S, Reynard E (2005) Evolution du paysage dans la plaine du Rhône dans la région de Conthey depuis 1850: les apports de l’analyse des cartes historiques. Vallesia 60:433–456Google Scholar
  64. Stäuble S, Martin S, Reynard E (2008) Historical mapping for landscape reconstruction: examples from the Canton of Valais (Switzerland). In: Mountain Mapping and Visualisation, Proceedings of the 6th ICA Mountain Cartography Workshop, 11–15 February 2008, Lenk, Switzerland, pp 211–217Google Scholar
  65. Strasser A, Heitzmann P, Jordan P, Stapfer A, Stürm B, Vogel A, Weidmann M (1995) Géotopes et la protection des objets géologiques en Suisse – un rapport stratégique. Groupe de travail suisse pour la protection des géotopes, Fribourg, p. 27Google Scholar
  66. Stutenbecker L, Costa A, Schlunegger F (2016) Lithological control on the landscape form of the upper Rhône Basin, central Swiss alps. Earth Surf Dynam 4:253–272. doi: 10.5194/esurf-4-253-2016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Swiercz A, Smorzewska E (2015) Selected examples of interactive teaching methods in the Centre of Geoeducation in the city of Kielce (Poland). Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 174: 680–686Google Scholar
  68. Thurre H (2013) Les domaines de la Sarvaz: une agriculture valaisanne en mutation au XXe siècle. Editions Faim de siècle, Fribourg, p. 205Google Scholar
  69. Tooth S (2009) Invisible geomorphology? Earth Surf Proc Land 34:752–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Valla PG, Shuster DL, van der Beek P (2011) Significant increase in relief of the European alps during mid-Pleistocene glaciations. Nature Geosciences 4:688–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Weber C, Peter A, Zanini F (2007) Spatio-temporal analysis of fish and their habitat: a case study on a highly degraded Swiss river system prior to extensive rehabilitation. Aquatic Sci 69:162–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zanini F, Zanini E, Weber C (2009) Dynamique des paysages et qualité écologique de la plaine du Rhône en amont du Léman, de 1850 à 2003. In: Reynard E, Evéquoz-Dayen M, Dubuis P (eds) Le Rhône: dynamique, histoire et société. Cahiers de Vallesia 21, Sion, pp 103–113Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The European Association for Conservation of the Geological Heritage 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geography and Sustainability, GéopolisUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations