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february 2004

Québec's geological heritage: geosites

Pierre Verpaelst
Direction de géologie Québec

What is a geosite?

A geosite is a site or an “area”, a few square metres to several square kilometres in size, with geological and scientific significance, whose geological characteristics (mineral, structural, geomorphological, physiographic) meet one or several criteria for classifying it as outstanding (valuable, rare, vulnerable, endangered).

When a special zone includes more than one particularly rare or beautiful and geologically significant feature, it is referred to as a “geopark”. The features must be representative of the region's geological history as well as of the events and processes that shaped it.

Under Québec's geological heritage strategy, a site must have exceptional value nationally, but not necessarily internationally.

There are many criteria for classifying sites as outstanding. Only a single criterion may be required for a geological site to be declared worthy of being considered part of our heritage. A combination of criteria is usually considered. Here is list of selection criteria for geosites:

  • scientific value,
  • geotourism appeal,
  • educational value,
  • historic value,
  • cultural, spiritual, and social value,
  • economic value,
  • international significance,
  • link to biodiversity,
  • sanctuary for rare or endangered species,
  • aesthetic value,
  • being representative (universal value),
  • stratigraphic milestone,
  • paleobiodiversity,
  • rare or unique (irreplaceable),
  • valuable,
  • vulnerable,
  • endangered,
  • quality or state of preservation,
  • size,
  • accessibility.

Eusthenopteron, Miguasha, Gaspe Peninsula

The goals of the geosite strategy must always be kept in mind.

  • improving knowledge about the evolution of environments, life, and therefore our own evolution;
  • being accessible to everyone, so that no one can take possession of geosites for their own use;
  • contributing to local, national, or all of humanity’s economic development;
  • having aesthetic value.

Ten types of sites have so far been defined as being possible Québec geological heritage geosites or geoparks:

  • caves and grottos,
  • fossil-bearing sites (ex. : Miguasha),
  • mineralogical sites (ex.: Mont Saint-Hilaire),
  • lithological sites (ex.: the Mingan Archipelago),
  • stratotypes,
  • historic mining sites (ex. : Bourlamaque),
  • outstanding geological landscapes (ex.: Percé),
  • geosystems (ex.: the Torngat Orogen),
  • geological environments supporting ecosystems (Mont-Albert),
  • meteorite impacts (ex.: Pingaluit (New-Quebec Crater)).

Collections can be added to this list.

For more details, please see the table of definitions.

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