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Protecting Geological Heritage

A podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The UK is literally full of geology - so much so that many names of geological periods come from names of regions of the country, the most well-known being the Devonian (after Devon) and the Cambrian (the old name for Wales).

In a bid to protect this geological heritage, or geodiversity, geologists have helped set up seven geoparks in the UK, all with the same aims: to preserve geodiversity and promote sustainable development.

In this podcast, Richard Hollingham visits the stunning North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) European Geopark where he meets ex-British Geological Survey geologist, Dr Elizabeth Pickett among waterfalls and golden-leaved trees.

Elizabeth, geodiversity officer with the North Pennines AONB Partnership, explains what a geopark is and why this particular region has been designated one: the area has a special geological feature called the Whin Sill. It was once molten rock, but now forms dramatic landscape features from the Farne Islands in Northumberland down to Teesdale in County Durham.

On his tour of the country, Richard also goes to the March Arch Caves European Geopark in Northern Ireland to talk to another geodiversity officer, Dr Kirsten Lemon. In a cavern the size of a school classroom, Kirsten tells Richard what is special about this region.

Another report looks at how scientists have settled a long-standing argument over whether or not Snowy plovers and Kentish plovers are in fact the same species. And, from why bioenergy might not be the best alternative to fossil fuels, to a story about beetles that will resonate with anyone who is a parent.

Finally, Sue Nelson visits Karen Varnham from the University of Bristol in the Outer Hebrides to find out why hedgehogs are causing such a stir.

This podcast is dated 2 November 2009.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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