Geoheritage values of Beenyup Swamp, in the Yellagonga Regional Park, Western Australia

Unno, Joy1

1V & C Semeniuk Research Group

Beenyup Swamp in the southern part of Yellagonga Regional Park on the Swan Coastal Plain in Western Australia is a Holocene wetland with geoheritage values.  It is part of the chain of linear wetlands belonging to the Yanchep Wetland Suite that is located between limestone ridges of the Spearwood Dunes near the boundary of the quartz-sand-dominated Bassendean Dunes.  Instead of being dominated by calcilutite as are other wetlands in this Suite, Beenyup Swamp is a basin stratigraphically dominated by peat. As such, in contrast to other basins in the Yanchep Wetland Suite that are mostly calcilutite-filled, Beenyup Swamp has a stratigraphy of thick homogeneous peat, with stratigraphic evidence of fire scarring including buried lumps of charcoal, and ubiquitous diagenetic products of acidic groundwater.  The sequence of peat in this region of the Yanchep Wetland Suite dates back to 8000 years BP and contains a diagenetic record of plant organic matter grading from fibrous peat to organic gel.  The stratigraphy, the Holocene fire history, the acidic water diagenesis providing a model of peat accumulation and peat diagenesis at Beenyup Swamp is a geological ensemble of geoheritage significance.


Joyleen Unno (MSc) is a wetland scientist with over 20 years of experience studying coastal and inland wetlands (mangroves, inter-tidal flats and estuaries, and inland basins) in Australia in conjunction with the V & C Semeniuk Research Group in Perth, Western Australia; In recent years, Joyleen has become involved in the geoheritage aspect of wetlands, whereby wetlands may be conserved for their significant on-going geological processes and their stratigraphic value to scientific knowledge. Joyleen also is a founding Committee Member of the Wetlands Research Association Inc.

Geoconservation of ancient Pilbara stromatolite fossils as a multifunctional landscape

Fletcher, Clare1, Van Kranendonk, Martin J.2, Metternicht, G.3, Walter, M. R4.

1University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Sydney, Australia, 3University of New South Wales School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, Sydney, Australia, 4Emeritus Professor, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

The ancient (3.48 billion year old) stromatolite fossils of Western Australia’s Pilbara region constitute the oldest convincing evidence of life on Earth found to date. These fossils offer a unique insight into the origin of life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe. There are six key sites for ancient life in the Pilbara, mostly concentrated around the North Pole Dome geological region. Since the discovery of such ancient and well-preserved stromatolite fossils in 1980, they have become a sought-after item for indiscriminate collectors to the point where the original site (Dunlop) no longer exists. 

Due to this indiscriminate collection, various methods of conservation have been recommended over the years. In 1987 a Geological Survey of WA report recommended that the North Pole Dome fossils were placed on the Register of National Estate (henceforth RNE) (now the National and Commonwealth Heritage Lists). The site was also placed on an indicative list for UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1996. Whilst the sites of Buick and Awramik were registered on the RNE, the Register was closed in 2007, and so the legal conservation status of these sites was lost, and they were once again left unconserved.

Currently the six sites are State Geoheritage Reserves vested in the Minister for Mines and Petroleum. While this affords some protections such as requiring approval before visiting these sites, it has not prevented collection of material from the sites. Mining licenses can also be granted for the collection of materials from these sites. The conservation of these sites is complicated by the surrounding lands being either Crown Land or pastoral lease (depending on the site). Other stakeholders include the Nyamal people, the community of Marble Bar, NASA, the European Space Agency, the Japanese Space Agency, and others.

The vision for these sites is both geoconservation and on-the-ground management that prevents further theft of the fossils and facilitates learning and tourism in the area. We have petitioned the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions to add the North Pole Dome sites to Meentheena for consideration under the WA Government’s Plan For Our Parks initiative which works concurrently with an Indigenous Ranger program. Our vision also includes a combined scientific research and ranger station, that can be used for site visits by space agencies, universities, schools, and potentially become a visitor information and discovery centre combining science on the origin of life and Indigenous history and tellings.

The type of conservation effort to be pursued is yet to be determined. While both National Heritage listing and World Heritage listing are appropriate for the site because of its universal importance, the timeframe of achieving either of these as well as the additional legal protections afforded need to be considered before committing to either effort. Public-private partnerships are also to be considered alongside conservation efforts. While different conservation avenues are being explored public-private partnerships will allow for the vision for geoconservation of the North Pole Dome stromatolite fossils to be realised. 


Clare Fletcher is an MPhil student at UNSW researching the best method of conserving the North Pole Dome stromatolite fossils.

Martin Van Kranendonk and Graciela Metternicht are both supervisors on this project. Malcolm Walter was one of the people who originally described the stromatolite fossils.

Geoheritage significance of the Holocene Yanrey Delta, Pilbara Coast, Western Australia

Semeniuk V1,2,4 & Brocx M3,5

1V & C Semeniuk Research Group, Warwick, Australia, 2School of Arts & Sciences, Notre Dame University, Fremantle, Australia, 3Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

From a geoheritage perspective, the Holocene Yanrey Delta of the southern Pilbara Coast, Western Australia is a unique arid-zone delta of international significance.  It provides a deltaic model unlike any established deltaic forms documented elsewhere globally. The delta in the discharge zone of the Yanrey River is located on the eastern shore of a semi-protected large embayment (Exmouth Gulf) in an arid climate. With limited rainfall in the hinterland, the Yanrey River floods episodically and, over the Holocene, has built a triangular deltaic plain.  In its east to west orientation (normal to the coast) the river traverses a linear red-sand dune field of northerly-oriented dune.  As such, instead of building a classic wave-, tide-, or fluvially-dominated delta form, the Yanrey Delta has geomorphically and sedimentologically interacted with the dune field developing a complex of arid-zone dunes interspersed with deltaic deposits, the latter composed of sand and mud. In its migration and switching of channels from north to south over the Holocene, the delta in combination with regional winds has transformed the originally coarsely-spaced northerly-oriented linear dunes to more finely-spaced northerly-oriented linear dunes.  While there is a sand-and-mud component to the deltaic deposits on the delta plain, the inter-dune swales also are being filled with floodplain red mud to form scattered (isolated) mud lenses.  As such the deltaic sequences is a mixture of deltaic sediments sensu stricto, deltaic sediments admixed with reworked red sand dune sediments, and patches of reworked red sand dune sediments.  At its seaward edge, the Yanrey Delta is tidal, and the deltaic sediments are tidal flat in character but, in addition, they also interfinger with and overlie pre-existing earlier tidal flat deposits.  The Yanrey Delta adds an extra delta form to the existing suite of delta types.


Margaret Brocx is a multi-disciplinary Earth scientist and natural-history scientist with experience ranging from general and geomicrobiology, to coastal zone processes and products, to wetlands and estuaries, to large-scale geology, to geoheritage and geoconservation. She is both the WA State Convener and National Convener for Heritage for the Geological Society of Australia. In Australia, her research interests include pursuing National inventory-based geoconservation, via Science and Education. Margaret has a long and productive history in geoconservation, environmental management and community liaison and, in this context, she has successfully secured a number of important geosites and regions for geoconservation and for National listing. Internationally, Margaret is the Oceania Representative for the IUCN WCPA Geoheritage Specialist Group, the Oceania Representative for the International Association for the Promotion of Geoethics, and is on the Editorial Board of the International Journal Geoheritage. In terms of publications, Margaret has published over 30 geoheritage papers in peer-reviewed international and national journals. Academically, Margaret obtained her Honours and PhD, in the Discipline of geoheritage, from Murdoch University, where she holds the position of Adjunct Associate Professor. Margaret is a founding member in 1999 of the Wetlands Research Association. Inc., and 2019 Geoheritage Australasia

Geoheritage significance of the deltas of the Pilbara Coast, north-western Australia

Semeniuk Trudi A1,4, Semeniuk Vic2,3

1Western Sydney University, The College, Quakers Hill, Australia, 2V & C Semeniuk Research Group, , , 3Notre Dame University, Fremantle, Australia

The Pilbara Coast, one of the most arid coasts in the world, has a consistent ENE orientation. It has a diverse hinterland geology and a sharp rainfall gradient on the landward side, and progressing south to north a distinct progressively microtidal to macrotidal, wave-dominated oceanographic setting. On the seaward front, processes are wave-dominated, and interior to the deltas, processes are tide dominated.  Along this unique coastal stretch, a large number of rivers discharge to the sea. This gives rise to an array of deltas, having variable size, shape, and active processes, and variable occurrence of barriers, lagoons, and landforms on the deltaic plain.  They represent a plethora of delta types that that can be characterised as active deltas, and inactive deltas. The largest drainage systems, such as the Ashburton River and De Grey River, build large classic active deltas, reflecting their large catchments and large supplies of terrigenous sand and mud that interfaces with a wave-dominated environment. Shorter rivers, such as the Robe River, have largely inactive deltas, which are heavily reworked by marine processes. Inactive deltas with shoreline retreat leave a line of shore-parallel ridges in their wake and, with beach-rock cementation, result in a series of cemented ridges that form nearshore shore-parallel rocky ridges.  The Fortescue delta and the Yannarie delta represent a special cases in the region, the former being a reworked edge of an alluvial fan system, and the latter where fluvial discharges interact with a dune field, forming unique deltaic elements. The arid tropical setting of these deltas gives rise to several distinct sediment facies, including low tidal sand flat sheets, dune sand or beach-ridge ribbons, mangrove-structured sand sheets and muddy sand sheets, muddy ribbons and high tidal mud sheets. The range of traditional and non-traditional, active and inactive delta types along this arid coast makes it globally unique ensemble of deltas and a globally significant set of deltas from a geoheritage perspective.


Trudi Semeniuk is a multidisciplinary scientist in the fields of general geology, metamorphic geology, geoheritage, wetland-, mangrove-, foraminiferal-, and tidal-flat sedimentology and ecology.  Her work experience is manifold ranging from fieldwork for VCSRG (a Research & Development Corporation), and a Research Officer for ANU, CSIRO, and Kings Park Botanical Gardens. More recently Trudi has focused on reviewing sites of geoheritage significance listed on, the now archived, Register of the National Estate (NSW) and work as a scientific editor.  Trudi was awarded a PhD from the Institute of Mineralogy and Petrography, ETH Zurich in 2003 in a study of Alpine mylonites, and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2004-2006 in aerosol chemistry at Arizona State University.  Trudi is active in Geoheritage, and is the co-convenor for the NSW Division for Geoheritage in the Geological Society of Australia.

Three decades of geoconservation in retrospection

Díaz-Martínez, Enrique1,2,3, Brocx, Margaret3,4,5

1 Geological Survey of Spain (IGME), Madrid, Spain, 2 Geological Society of Spain (SGE), 3 European Association for the Conservation of Geological Heritage (ProGEO), 4 Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, 5 Geological Society of Australia (GSA)

During the last 30 years, geoconservation has seen an accelerated evolution and advancements, but there are also a few steps backwards. We herein provide a summary from the perspective of three points of view: Spain, The United Kingdom, and globally. Both the United Kingdom and Spain had an active geological survey by the mid-19th century and began work on geoconservation in the 1970s, but an acceleration of achievements began in the 1990s with The European Association for the Conservation of Geological Heritage (ProGEO) as a catalyser for inventories, legislation, conferences, publications, and later on (2009) a peer reviewed journal (Geoheritage). ProGEO promoted the Global Geosites Programme (GGP) with support from IUGS and UNESCO, starting a list of geological sites of international relevance.  After the establishment of World Heritage criterion viii for geological heritage (1972), the first international conference on geoheritage was held in Digne, France (with the Declaration of the Memory of the Earth in 1991), followed by the Global Geoparks Programme (2004), the definition of the scope and scale of geoheritage including indigenous heritage (2007), and the first inclusion of geoheritage within IUCN resolutions (2008, 2012 and 2016).  This was followed by the establishment of a Geoheritage Specialist Group within IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, the inclusion for the first time of geoconservation in a World Parks Congress (2014), and of a specific chapter on geoconservation in the 2015revised edition of IUCN’s book on Protected Area Governance and Management

Currently, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal are the only countries in the world having fulfilled the GGP, and after China, Spain has the second highest number of UNESCO Global Geoparks (15 in 2020). The withdrawal of official support for the GGP by IUGS and UNESCO in 2003, left the programme orphaned. In its quest for an international standard that would force the Spanish government to inventory and protect its geoheritage, the Geological Society of Spain (SGE) became a member of IUCN in 2008, and that same year managed to pass resolution WCC-2008-RES-040 obliging to include geoconservation in the IUCN agenda and for all its members. ProGEO joined IUCN in 2011 and, for the first time in the history of IUCN, the 5th WCC (2012) saw many geoconservation-related activities, including resolution WCC-2012-RES-048 recommending the use of inclusive terms to refer to nature, natural heritage and natural diversity (it’s not all biodiversity!), as well as IUCN’s support to the GGP.

This presentation will further explore nodal points in the history of geoconservation on the global platform, lessons learnt, and Spain as a case study of a country that has worked towards establishing a national inventory of sites of geoheritage significance for the purpose of geoconservation.


PhD Geology from University of Idaho (USA, 1994) and MSc Management of Protected Areas from University of Madrid (Spain, 2006). Researcher with Spanish National Research Council (1998 to 2003) and with Geological Survey of Spain (IGME) since 2004, working on geoconservation projects including inventories, legislation, management and public outreach.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.