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The Geological Conservation Review

The Geological Conservation Review (GCR) project was initiated in 1977 by the former Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) with the aim of identifying Britain's best Earth Science sites – those sites that are nationally important for the study of geology and geomorphology.

The main phase of the review, which involved an ambitous programme of site assessment and documentation, and a large network of outside advisers, academics and contributors, was completed in 1990, by which time nearly 3000 GCR sites had been identified. Parallel to the GCR, there are around 300 Earth Science Conservation Review (ESCR) sites in Northern Ireland.

The site selection in the Geological Conservation Review and Earth Science Conservation Review (ESCR) in Northern Ireland was based on: (a)  international geological importance; (b)  scientific importance with exceptional features; and (c)  national importance representative of a geological or geomorphological feature, event or process which is fundamental to the understanding of the UK's geological history. The sites have fossils, minerals, rocks, sediments, soils and landscape features that make special contributions to our understanding and appreciation of the geodiversity of the United Kingdom.

Selected sites are proposed as potential SSSIs, but only receive legislative protection when a site is approved and confirmed as an SSSI by the relevant conservation agency. All GCR sites in England have been confirmed as SSSIs, and most of those in Wales and Scotland have been confirmed, or are in the process of being confirmed.

The GCR forms the 'backbone' information resource upon which other conservation activities can be based. Since 1989, the significance of each GCR site has been progressively published in a series of books – the Geological Conservation Review Series – putting on record detailed scientific descriptions that provide the justification for conservation of the sites.

However, the GCR project is not intended to be a 'Domesday' style snapshot a static record of Britain's best sites as selected up to 1990. Instead, the GCR site series is intended to keep pace with new discoveries and developments in geological research. Limited review of GCR site 'register' has been ongoing during the publication phase of the GCR. In the future, further re-evaluation and confirmation of the GCR sites' worthiness for conservation is envisaged, along with assessment of additional sites, so that the GCR assignation can continue to stand as a benchmark for quality in British Earth heritage conservation.

For more information on site selection and publication and content of the GCR volumes, go to the GCR Series web pages. The intention is to complete the GCR series by 2010.

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