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Geoheritage in the hybrid age: geographic information technology (GIT) tools used to support geoconservation and geotourism initiatives

posted on 2023-05-26, 13:52 authored by Mark WilliamsMark Williams
Geodiversity underpins many ecosystem services including supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services. It is intrinsically linked to biodiversity; hence it is important that the value of geoheritage is understood and the appropriate management plans are put in place. One of the major challenges of geoconservation is to overcome the notion that assessment criteria of geoheritage are robust, and that conserved geology and landforms need very little management. Currently there is a lack of a universally accepted assessment and classification system, and most assessment methods are qualitative or quasi quantitative relying on the subjective opinion of an expert. In addition, the wider scientific community and the public have a poor understanding of geoheritage due to the lack of promotion and awareness.

With the emergence of the Hybrid Age, technology is increasingly responsive in an intelligent way and new digital technologies including Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing may provide a better way to manage geoheritage resources whilst also improving public perception of the value of geological landscapes. In this thesis, digital tools collectively named ‘Geographic Information Technology’ (GIT) have been developed by the author, to classify and assess geodiversity with the aim of providing a systematic, quantitative toolset to be used in geoconservation. The case study of Mount Wellington and the encompassing Wellington Park (18,250 ha) was chosen to explore these technologies because it is a well expressed and an accessible representation of a significant doleritic landscape typical of the Tasmanian landscape.

This thesis has four objectives, which were investigated using a pragmatic research philosophy and a mixed methods approach. Objective one was to determine the role of GIT in geoheritage and geotourism assessments and was investigated by reviewing the literature in relation to the use of GIT as decision support and decision-making tools, and communication outputs. Objective two was to explore challenges associated with the fields of geoconservation and geotourism and was investigated by conducting interviews of geoheritage practitioners and researchers from across the world. Objective three was to explore the use and effectiveness of GIT in geoconservation and geotourism at multiple geographic scales by way of a select number of GIT applications at local, national and global geographic scales. Objective 4 four was to evaluate the outputs of GIT when used in geoconservation and geotourism at multiple reference scales and was investigated by comparing the GIT approaches to traditional approach in terms of workforce, time, equipment, training and financial efficiencies.

This thesis had a number of findings. Firstly, GIT predominantly aids in decision support, including accessing difficult terrain for visualisation and measurement, boundary delineation, data collection and geosite detection. Overwhelming though, GIT has been used to provide communications outputs such as maps, models and interactive apps for protected area and governance managers, and the public. Secondly, the challenges associated with the fields of geoconservation and geotourism were primarily inconsistent interpretations of geodiversity, lack of funding, inconsistent inventory and criteria, and lack of recognition of geology and landforms in general. Thirdly, GIT can be used to support decision making in geoheritage and geotourism, as a means of effective inventorying, and engaging communication at a range of geographic scales. Finally, when GIT is used in geoheritage and geotourism at multiple geographic scales, it improves the efficiency and accuracy of field data collection, inventory assessment and geotrail planning.

The major output of this research thesis is a suite of tools developed that can be used for geoheritage management across multiple spatial scales and land tenure contexts. The mobile data collector allows for a range of data to be easily collected in the field using smartphone technology, the web-GIS inventory will aid land management agencies such as Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) in understanding the comparative geoheritage value of protected areas, and the geotrail planning tool, will allow high level planning of tourism initiatives in the face of increasing tourism pressures. This thesis is the first of its kind to identify challenges in geoheritage and geotourism, and to respond by designing, customising, implementing and critically evaluating GIT ‘solutions’ to some of these challenges. It is hoped that this thesis and its products can eventually be used to stimulate cross stakeholder and cross continental discussion about methodological and interpretive challenges in geoheritage and geotourism, by providing easy to use, cross-tenure and boundary platforms that can be used by all interested researchers and practitioners.





School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


University of Tasmania

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