Geodiversity consists of all that is non-living in the environment. Just like biodiversity is able to offer some services to man, and for this reason it represents an important environmental and cultural heritage to be valued and protected.
Let's imagine that we are immersed in nature, intent on walking. We look around and see mountains, trees, rocks covered in lichens. If we pay attention we hear the sound of the water flowing along the river, while the birds singing keeps us company. Everything we hear, observe and surround us can be divided into two broad categories: living elements and non-living elements . Here, in short, the set of the former constitutes biodiversity and the set of the latter the so-called geodiversity . Biodiversity is celebrated globally on May 22 , World Geodiversity Day, however, has been identified by UNESCOand falls on October 6th.
Let's see what it is in detail and why we need to protect it.
What is geodiversity
The variety of all living organisms, including the ecological complexes to which they belong, is known by the term biodiversity and its importance for terrestrial ecosystems and for human society is known to all. Less familiar, but equally important, is geodiversity , which we can refer to as the non-living equivalent of biodiversity. This term refers to the variety of geological, geomorphological, hydrological, pedological elements and their processes and interactions in a given area. So we can say that geodiversity is the variety of all non-living elements including their processes and their interactions, and together with biodiversity composes all elements of nature.
Geodiversity, unlike biodiversity, is less known and less studied, but in reality it is an element of great importance and value. Suffice it to say, in fact, that geodiversity plays a crucial role in terrestrial ecosystems and is capable of influencing biodiversity itself. In fact, the geological characteristics of a terrain can determine the presence or absence of certain animal or plant species, or influence the quality of the water. The different geomorphological characteristics, on the other hand, can contribute to creating different types of habitat for the various living species, and can also be decisive in guaranteeing the stability of the land. Geodiversity is therefore very important because it forms the basis of natural ecosystems and guarantees their balance.
Benefits offered by geodiversity: geosystemic services
We know that biodiversity is very important for humans because it is able to provide ecosystem services . Ecosystem services are the benefits that the natural environment provides to human society. An example of ecosystem service is pollination by bees and insects: this allows many plants to produce fruit, seeds or new plants, thus offering man a good degree of food security.
If we have said that geodiversity is the non-living equivalent of biodiversity, the services that geodiversity offers will also be the non-living equivalent of those offered by biodiversity, and are called geosystemic services . More in detail, more than 20 geosystemic services offered to man have been identified ranging from supply services (such as a mine or a quarry that supplies man with essential materials for his construction or for technological advancement), to regulating services (e.g. glaciers, which play a crucial role in water regulation, especially by regulating the flow of water in summer), up to support services(the presence of certain geomorphological forms can prevent soil erosion)
Link between geodiversity and local communities
Geodiversity also provides culture and knowledge services . In fact, it also has an important cultural and historical value, as well as a natural one, as it is closely linked to the local culture : many communities have developed in close connection with the geological and geomorphological characteristics of the territory in which they are located. Rocks, minerals, soils and landforms influence the way human communities interact with the territory and are influenced by it, characterizing typical activities and products.
For example, the Walser communities (population of Germanic origin settled at the foot of Monte Rosa) are linked to the geodiversity of the Alpine mountains. In particular, their settlements are built following the morphological characteristics of the land and are characterized by a particular architecture, based on the use of natural materials, such as stone and wood, available locally. Even the traditional economic activities of the Walser are linked to geodiversity: for example handicrafts; many of the jewels and valuables of the Walser culture are produced with a typical stone of the place, the soapstone.
Geodiversity therefore represents a natural, cultural and historical heritage of great importance. It is essential both to preserve it to contribute to the conservation of the historical and cultural memory of local communities, and to consider it, together with biodiversity, in land use planning and nature conservation, because their interaction and interconnection affects the health and resilience of terrestrial ecosystems.