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To advance sustainable stewardship, we must document not only biodiversity but also geodiversity. This is the main message of an opinion article now published in the leading scientific magazine PNAS, written by an international group of geoscientific experts, including researchers of the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics.

Mijnbouw is een voorbeeld van menselijke impact op geodiversiteit. Actieve mijnen veroorzaken een afname van de lokale biodiversiteit, maar in sommige gevallen kunnen ze een belangrijke habitat bieden voor gespecialiseerde en zeldzame soorten nadat de mijn is verlaten
Mining is one example of human impact on geodiversity. Active mines cause a decrease in local biodiversity but in some cases they can provide an important habitat for specialised and rare species after the mine has been abandoned. Image credit: Shutterstock/1968

Geodiversity is a novel concept that describes the combined spatial variability of soils, geology and waterways within all landscapes, ranging from lowlands to high mountains. The opinion paper raises the issue that geodiversity is essential for human wellbeing, but that it is insufficiently managed and considered in a global policy context. As a result of poor global governance and missing international regulations, soils are degraded and natural resources such as minerals, rare earths and fresh water are becoming depleted.

Monitoring geodiversity

Harry Seijmonsbergen is one of the involved researchers and works at the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED): ‘In this paper, we argue that geodiversity needs to be considered as an essential good for humanity, and that we need to develop a system to monitor, regulate and manage natural resources including soils and fresh water needs. Various services of geodiversity can be directly linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We lay out an action plan to identify key components of geodiversity that could aid monitoring, stewardship and support policy making.’

While it is widely recognized that climate and biodiversity require global protection and monitoring, it is surprising that no such recognition exists for protecting minerals and fresh water sources. Seijmonsbergen: ‘We recommend collaborative development of comprehensive and interoperable databases of geodiversity globally, following common protocols, a standardised terminology (e.g. controlled vocabularies) and a consistent metadata reporting. This work will set a new agenda to establish a global (ideally UN regulated) commission to implement the conservation and sustainable management of geodiversity.’

Publication details

Franziska Schrodt, Joseph J. Bailey, W. Daniel Kissling, Kenneth F. Rijsdijk, Arie C. Seijmonsbergen, Derk van Ree, Jan Hjort, Russell S. Lawley, Christopher N. Williams, Mark Anderson, Paul Beier, Pieter van Beukering, Doreen S. Boyd, José Brilha, Luis Carcavilla, Kyla M. Dahlin, Joel C. Gill, John E. Gordon, Murray Gray, Mike Grundy, Malcolm L. Hunter, Joshua J. Lawler, Manu Monge-Ganuzas, Katherine R. Royse, Iain Stewart, Sydne Record, Woody Turner, Phoebe L. Zarnetske, Richard Field: 'To advance sustainable stewardship, we must document not only biodiversity but geodiversity' in PNAS 116 (33) (14 August 2019):16155-16158. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1911799116

Contact person

dr. A.C. (Harry) Seijmonsbergen

Assistant Professor – Geodiversity Expert

BIOMAC lab

The involved UvA researchers are working at the Biogeography & Macroecology (BIOMAC) lab, which is part of the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) and has leaders in the quantification of geodiversity. We have field expertise in geodiversity as well as in designing workflows to develop geodiversity variables globally. This can support global policy making as well as scientific studies on how the geodiversity influences biodiversity across our planet. The central aim of the BIOMAC lab is to quantify how biodiversity and geodiversity vary across space and time, how they interact, and how responses of species and ecosystems to changing environmental conditions can be predicted.