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Geodiversity and Sense of Place: Local Identity Geological Elements in Portuguese Municipal Heraldry

Abstract

The concept of geodiversity is extensively used in geoconservation and geoheritage contexts. Its cultural value, i.e. the value attributed by society to aspects of the abiotic natural environment because of its historical, emotional or community importance, is widely recognised. One important manifestation of the cultural value of geodiversity is the strong bond experienced by humans when interacting with their natural physical environment. These ties to native geodiversity contribute to their sense of place. But how to adequately measure the importance of local abiotic nature in the making of the place identity of a given human community? In this work, municipal heraldry, a widespread and unbiased expression of local identity, is used to empirically show the contribution of geodiversity for the creation of a sense of place in Portuguese local communities. After all, what better display of identity than heraldry? Therefore, in this paper, based on Portuguese contemporary civic symbols, an attempt is made to assess the relative importance of geodiversity in originating place identity based on its representations in municipal emblems. As it turns out, geodiversity depictions are present in 56.2% of the Portuguese municipal coats of arms, corresponding to 18.5% of all the charges represented in municipal insignia. Only the representation of biological elements is more common than that of natural abiotic features, present in 74.4% of the coats of arms and corresponding to 29.6% of all representations. This objectively testifies the importance of geodiversity in the development of place attachment in Portuguese local communities. One could venture to say that even more so than such identity elements as architectural landmarks, local economic activities, historical events, etc., also widely represented in municipal symbols, but in a lesser degree. For humans, the question of “who we are” is inextricably linked to “where we are”, and based on this work, it may be shown that in Portugal geodiversity is a significant part of “who we are”.

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Acknowledgements

Many thanks are due to Sérgio Horta (Wikipedia Commons) for the Portuguese municipal coats of arms. The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewer, as well as the editor of Geoheritage, for their helpful and constructive comments and suggestions that greatly contributed to improving the final version of this work.

Funding

This publication is supported by project FCT UID/GEO/50019/2013—Instituto Dom Luiz of geosciences.

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Correspondence to Carlos Marques da Silva.

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da Silva, C.M. Geodiversity and Sense of Place: Local Identity Geological Elements in Portuguese Municipal Heraldry. Geoheritage 11, 949–960 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-018-00344-z

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Keywords

  • Geodiversity
  • Rivers
  • Ocean
  • Place attachment
  • Civic emblems
  • Municipalities
  • Portugal