Shetland is making a bid to become part of a network of European Geoparks, Lerwick Community Council heard this week.
Jonathan Swale and Robina Barton from the Amenity Trust gave a presentation at the meeting on Monday which outlined Shetland’s geology and what makes it so unique.
Members heard that Shetland possesses five of the six varieties of rock which make up the Scottish Highlands and as such has the most diverse range of geology for the area of land in the world.
It also has some of the oldest rocks in Britain, dating to around three billion years ago, and types of rock that are not found anywhere else in Scotland, such as the type of volcanic rock which makes up Papa Stour and at Eshaness, which is the best example of a section through the side of a volcano in Britain.
How geology impacts on other aspects of life such as society, culture and nature was also explained. The type of soil, as a result of the geology of the area, is the reason behind Edmonston’s chickweed growing solely in Unst and remaining the same as it has since the last Ice Age.
The venture is being co-ordinated by Ms Barton, who said they hoped Shetland could become as well known for its geology as it is for its biodiversity and archaeology.
Being part of the Geopark brand, she said, would allow conservation, protection and promotion of the area. It could be of benefit to local businesses and may, for example, attract researchers to the area.
The trust has already begun work to promote Shetland’s geology. New interpretive panels and geological walls have been set up at Fetlar and Mavis Grind and a volcanic trail has been created at Eshaness.
The trust is also hoping to raise awareness through education by creating field guides and trail resources, which would fit in well with the schools Curriculum for Excellence.
Geopark assessors will be visiting Shetland in May and the decision as to whether Shetland will be included will be announced at a conference in Portugal in September.