The Loss of a Unique Palaeobotanical Site in Terceira Island Within the Azores UNESCO Global Geopark (Portugal)

Abstract

Terceira Island (Azores archipelago, central Atlantic Ocean) presents a unique but poorly studied Quaternary palaeobotanical record. Among the sites referenced in the literature, Fanal Bay, within Angra do Heroísmo city, is known at least since the 1940s. Field prospection in the summer of 2016 revealed two layers of leaf fossils with an unexpected fossil abundance. The preliminary results showed that these represented autochthonous or para-autochthonous (T0) fossil assemblages, preserved by the emplacement of ash or lapilli layers by volcanic events, in a leaf litter of a laurel palaeoforest. Unfortunately, in 2018, the site was destroyed due to development works to consolidate and requalify the Fanal Bay cliff from further sea erosion. This prevented a detailed study and the ex situ preservation of an important palaeontological site, within the Azores UNESCO Global Geopark. With this work, we hope to call the attention to the need of implementing geoconservation strategies in order to prevent the destruction of important geoheritage within the Azores Islands and to transpose this warning to other geoconservationists in oceanic islands worldwide.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Fernando Pereira for allowing CAG-M to the fossil collections of the Volcano-speleological Museum at Angra do Heroísmo.

Funding

This study was financially supported by the ARDITI – Regional Agency for the Development of Research, Technology and Innovation, project M1420- 09-5369-FSE-000001- PhD grant.

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Correspondence to Carlos A. Góis-Marques.

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Góis-Marques, C.A., Elias, R.B., Steinbauer, M. et al. The Loss of a Unique Palaeobotanical Site in Terceira Island Within the Azores UNESCO Global Geopark (Portugal). Geoheritage 11, 1817–1825 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-019-00401-1

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Keywords

  • Macaronesia
  • Azores Islands
  • Palaeobotany
  • Geoconservation
  • Anthropic impact