Already a European Geopark, Shetland has now been elevated to Global Geopark status.
Shetland Amenity Trust chairman Brian Gregson was invited as a speaker to the fourth international Unesco conference on Geoparks (IGC) in Langkawi Geopark, Malaysia, where the isles were formally accepted as a global member.
Mr Gregson said: “The entire conference has been very useful. I have learned a lot about how other Geoparks work and made a lot of contacts. My presentation was very well received and it was great to have the opportunity to present Geopark Shetland on a global platform.
“Lots of delegates showed an interest in working with, and visiting, Geopark Shetland and I’m sure I will be hearing from many of them in the future. Accepting Global Geopark status on behalf of Geopark Shetland was an honour and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the success of Geopark Shetland.”
Mr Gregson said Shetland was packed with an incredibly varied geology spanning almost three billion years. It had the most amazing diversity of landscape in an area its size anywhere, all due to its astonishing variety of rocks.
These rocks told an amazing tale, not just about Shetland, but how the world itself has formed and changed, he said. Here you could discover oceans opening and closing, mountains forming and eroding, tropical seas, volcanoes, deserts, ice ages and ancient rivers. This geology had also created a home for a world famous biodiversity and influenced the fascinating cultural heritage of the isles.
Mr Gregson said gaining Global Geopark status would further raise the profile of Shetland’s incredible geology on an international level and create many new opportunities for the isles.
The conference provides a venue for members of the Global Geoparks Network, scientists and practitioners interested in geoheritage conservation to get together to discuss a range of topics and share their experiences.
Topics covered included Geoparks in relation to community involvement, environment, quality management, tourism, organisation structure, advancement of geosciences, communicating geoheritage and sustainable development. Other subjects included the networking of global and regional Geoparks, and how to engage younger audiences.
This year the conference attracted more than 400 delegates from Geoparks all over the world. During the six day conference delegates took part in a programme of field trips, workshops, presentations and business meetings.