UNESCO Designates Two Geoparks in Iceland

As of the recent UNESCO General Conference, held in Paris from November 3-18, Iceland can now boast having two regions that are recognized as Global Geoparks. This is a new label that was adopted by the member states at the conference and is designated to recognize “the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.” The notion of Geoparks was first introduced in 1999, with the original proposal based on values of conservation, sustainable development, and community involvement.

There are currently in total 120 Geoparks in 33 countries around the world. The two sites in Iceland are the Katla Geopark and the Reykjanes Peninsula. Katla was the first site to be recognized by UNESCO and gets its name from the well-known volcano, which is located under the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. The area of this park, found in south Iceland, measures 9542 square kilometers.

The site to be more recently incorporated as a Geopark, the Reykjanes Peninsula, is located in southwest Iceland. It is part of the volcanic Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which separates the Eurasian and North American plates, making the area quite seismically active. Within this park is a region called Krýsuvík, which features craters from volcanic explosions. The entire Geopark is a hotbed of geothermal activity, lava flows, craters, and geological evidence of tectonic movement.