Geoparks are territories, with clearly defined boundaries, that house a geological heritage of international relevance used as the basis for their sustainable socio-economic development.
They are recognized as UNESCO Global Geoparks in the International Program for Geosciences and Geoparks. Geological heritage refers to places of geological interest from a scientific, educational, aesthetic and / or rarity point of view, and may include land, sea or underground areas. They are windows to the Earth’s past that show us the processes and events that occurred millions or thousands of years ago and those that occur today; the animals and plants that populated our planet; the relationship between geological elements and biodiversity and the use and exploitation of geological resources, rocks and minerals, throughout history.
Heritage-based sustainable development is decided in UNESCO Global Geoparks applying a bottom-up approach facilitating the participation of local actors in decision-making. Thanks to this, educational activities on heritage and sustainability are possible; local economic activities such as geotourism, guided tourism linked to the geology of the territory and local uses, customs and products; as well as conservation activities identifying society with its heritage and involving it in its protection and dissemination.
A Geopark is not by definition a protection figure, although in some cases it may coincide or encompass protected natural areas. However, geological heritage sites must be protected by applicable local, regional or national legislation. Geoparks assume the obligation to defend the geological elements that favor their uniqueness, opposing their destruction and commercialization.