Preservation of natural and cultural heritage





Cultural diplomacy. Traditions and perspectives in the Levant


The preservation and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of the Levantine region


The new created Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and Civilization of the Levant will continue to organize such meetings and not only this, but also joint practical actions in the field


The first afternoon session was co-chaired by Dr. MihaelaMelinte–Dobrinescu,Scientific director of the Institute for Research and Development in Marine Geology and Geoecology and Dr. LjerkaMarjanacfrom the Academy of Arts and Science in Zagreb,Croatia.

Five power-point shows were presented in the first session, all devoted to the status of geoconservation in different areas of Levant, as follow: Dr. RadoslavNakov,director Bulgarian Geological Institute: “The geopark program in Bulgaria. A historical review, its potential, present situation and problems encountered”, Dr. ŞtefanVasile,lecturer University of Bucharest: “The geoheritage preservation in Romania”, Dr. Aleksandra Maran, custodian Museum of Natural History in Belgrade: “Geoconservation in Serbia. Past, present and future”, Prof. Dan Grigorescu, Universityof Bucharest: “UNESCO Geoparks -protected areas integrating the natural and cultural values in sustaining the development of the regions”, Prof. Hülya Inaner, University DokuzEylül, Izmir: “The protection and conservancy of the natural and cultural heritage in Turkey”.

All the presentations in the first session emphasized the importance of the geological sites in the development of the regions, mainly through tourism, education and scientific researches. Some communications showed the measures and actions which were undertaken for achieving these goals. Several presentations revealed the problems with which the protection and valorization of the geological sites are confronted.

The presentations in the second session, co-chaired by Dr. Aleksandra Maranfrom Belgrade and Prof. Dan Grigorescu, were more balanced between aspects of the natural and cultural heritage. After Dr. LjerkaMarjanacwho spoke on The challenges of protecting Croatia’s geological heritage it followed  two  presentations devoted to cultural heritage,both provocatively entitled: “Who needs the heritage?”by Dr. RalucaGrecu, from the University of Bucharest and,respectively,“The heritage of the “others”: conflicts surrounding culturally built heritage”, by Architect CătălinaBulboreafrom the Romanian Architects Union. The two presentations, although very brief,pointed out important aspects on the responsibility in preserving and managing the cultural heritage.

The last presentation of the session and,generally of the whole panel was made by Dr. MihaelaMelinte–Dobrinescu from GEOECOMAR Romania on Geology,landscape and conservation in the Romanian Geoparks. The presentation was focused on the author's own experiences on the Hateg Country Dinosaurs Geopark- member of the UNESCO global network of geoparks ant the aspiring geopark "The Buzau land".

The power-point presentations in the both panel sessions were followed by questions and discussions.  Among the debated aspects were:

  • The needs for a reevaluation of the geological protected sites in the participating countries, all of them confronted with serious difficulties in the management and valorization of the outstanding sites, sometime in danger of being destroyed,either naturally or anthropically.
  • A problem of general interest, raised by all the country representatives, was the creation of new geoparks, taking the model of the UNESCO geoparks, which proved to represent a real strategy in developing the regions based on their natural and cultural heritage. In this way, the sharing experiences of the existing UNESCO geoparksin the area of Levant to the aspiring ones, might be very useful. It was shown that the integrative approaches developed in geoparks between the natural and cultural components of the heritage in a region, increase the chances for economic growth, mainly through tourism. It was also sustained the role in education played by the integrative approaches among nature and culture which are practiced in the UNESCO geoparks.
  • The need for a new legislation on the natural and cultural heritage, both more closely considered as part of the same integrative entity, and more focused on concrete issues of the Environmental Protection, was also mentioned by few intervenants. The national legislation in this regard should be sustained by efficient administrative structures. In Romania, for example, the existing structures, starting from the Counties Agencies for the Protection of the Environment and the Counties Environmental Guards up to the National Agency for the Protection of the Natural areas did not demonstrate so far the capacity of fulfilling the  numerous and complex problems of the  protected areas, as well as those  of the local communities in connection with the environment.
  • An interesting suggestion was made by Prof. VasileCristea from the University Babeș-Bolyai in Cluj,regarding the inclusion of MSc and PhD courses in the ISACCL, taught by specialized professors in the Levant countries.

Some conclusions: 

The presentations and debates, although short due to the limited time allotted to speakers, clearly showed the importance of such international meetings, in which specialists from different countries present specific problems and experiences with which they are confronted, as well as the solutions found. Undoubtedly, by sharing experiences,either successful cases or encountered difficulties, the countries common targets for safeguarding and valorization of the important places of the Nature and Culture will be more easily achieved.

Hopefully, the new created Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and Civilization of the Levant will continue to organize such meetings and not only this, but also joint practical actions in the field.

An urgent need for Romania, but,certainly also from other countries from the region of Levant is the reevaluation of the status of conservation and administration of the outstanding geosites. The university students, largely represented during the two sessions of the panel, represent a potential mass in achieving the expected results. The students are generally open to work in field and to innovation, unfortunately their great potential was not  sufficiently involved  so far. Of course, not only students are needed, but also professors and researchers to guide them.

Prof. Dan Grigorescu,


Conservarea patrimoniului natural și cultural al Levantului



Dr. Mihaela Melinte-Dobrinescu
National Institute of Marine Geology and Geo-ecology (GeoEcoMar), Bucharest

“Geology, landscape and conservation in the Romanian geoparks”

“There is a growing cultural awareness concerning the variety of landscapes and resources, including the geological ones and conservations of various sites. There is a global need for managing and understanding changes related to natural and anthropic causes of the geological sites and landscapes in a sensitive and sustainable way.

The geoparks imply everywhere protection of geological sites and landscapes, including the cultural heritage of those regions, leading to a sustainable tourism, recently developed as the concept of geotourism. Consequently, the establishment world wide of the geoparks has led to local and regional economical growths. The geoheritage movement is strong in Europe, where the organization ProGEO - The European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage is leader in geological conservation. In the Geoparks a special attention is given not only for preserving special geological features within their borders, but also for capitalizing those features to attract visitors.

In Romania, so far there is one UNESCO Geopark – The Hațeg Country Dinosaur Geopark, situated at the end of the Southern Carpathians, and the aspiring UNESCO Geopark, The Buzău Land Geopark, located in the Romanian Carpathian bend region. Both geoparks comprise significant geological and paleontological sites, but also include a rich cultural heritage. The Hațeg Country Dinosaur Geopark is worldwide famous for the endemic fossil fauna of dinosaurs and other continental fossils (Grigorescu et al., 1985; Grigorescu, 2010), but also for its marine geosites that allow correlation with other regions, i.e., the Alpine one (Melinte-Dobrinescu, 2009). The Buzău Land Geopark is famous for its sites unique in Europe (Melinte-Dobrinescu et al., 2017), such as the Mud Volcanoes from Berca, the Amber Mines from Colți, the Salt Mountain from Lopătari, but also for its spectacular landscapes and its impressive cultural heritage, i.e., Paleolithic cave painting and medieval rupestrian hermitage from Bozioru and Aluniş. Notably, both Romanian geoparks yearly receive thousands of tourists from Romania and abroad, even many of the theirgeosites are not yet protected.”


Dr. Ştefan Vasile
University of Bucharest

“Geoheritage preservation in Romania”

“The great diversity of geological formations found in Romania makes it a good place to encounter many important geosites. Some of the geological sites found across the country are important because of their spectacular morphology (e.g. erosional features, mud volcanoes, caves, basalt columns, karst), or because their scientific interest (exceptional fossil or mineral occurrences). However, because Romanian legislation does not include specific measures of geoconservation, many such geosites are not recognized at their full potential, and are only properly protected if they happen to be included in a natural park. The isolated geological sites (i.e. not part of a larger natural park) that were declared natural reserves (usually corresponding to the IUCN Category III protection area) during the communist regime have mostly been forgotten and only exist as such on paper. They are administered by the County Agencies for Environmental Protection, but their administration usually means they are merely part of a list, with no actual protection measures in the field.

However, recent initiatives were successful in promoting the need for geoconservation, and several geosites were recognized as such and achieved law protection. Two main directions are noteworthy in this respect: conservation of large areas, under the geopark concept, or conservation of small-sized specific sites. Areal geoconservation involves the creation of geoparks, a lengthy process, involving large inhabited areas, and involving the conservation of geological, natural, and cultural heritage. One such example is the Hațeg Country Dinosaurs Geopark, recognized as the 18th member of the European Geopark Network, serving as a prototype, a model for new such initiatives in Romania. The smaller, isolated, geosites that are not included in a natural park can be separated into two main categories. Some have high visual impact and are easily recognized by the local community. They usually attract tourists, but the geological information is usually missing from the site. Other sites are of scientific importance and not at all spectacular, making them virtually unknown to the local community. Many local authorities simply do not know that important geosites are present in their locality, and become interested in protecting such sites once they become aware of their existence. Some of the most important measures to be taken with respect to the conservation of small geosites are to inventory such sites and to document their importance to the relevant local authorities, to mark them properly in the field and raise awareness on their importance both locally, by educational programs, but also regionally, through geotourism.”


Dr. Aleksandra Maran
The Natural History Museum in Belgrade, Serbia

“Geoconservation in Serbia. Past, present and future”

“The basic geodiversity-related terminology is presented together with an overview of the past, present and future initiatives on geoconservation in Serbia. Geoconservation involves a set of actions focus on protecting, conserving, presenting and promoting the geodiversity and geoheritage values through the application of acquired knowledge and practices in the field of scientific and professional research, education, legislation, spatial and urban planning and tourism. The territory of Serbia is a rich patrimony of various geodiversity and geoheritage objects, which represent an integral part of the five major geotectonic units: 1) the Carpathian-Balkanides of eastern Serbia, 2) the Serbian-Macedonian Massif, 3) the Vardar Zone, 4) the Dinarides of western Serbia and 5) the Pannonian Basin. Prior to 1995, 75 objects were protected, while additional 19 more geoheritage sites are in the process of protection. Evaluating the current state of art in geoconservation, several further steps are proposed to intensify work on geoheritage protection in Serbia: a) continue the inventory of immoveable and moveable geoheritage; b) increase public awareness of the importance of geoheritage; c) ensure the support of planners, and strategic stakeholders for geoconservation; d) allocate the funds and provide the support for geoconservation-related projects; e) enhance capacity-building in geoconservation, including new geological specialists: geoconservationalists; f) develop a scientific base to evaluate the potential of other areas to become members of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.”


Dan Grigorescu
Professor Emeritus University of Bucharest
Scientific Director of ISACCL

“UNESCO Geoparks - protected areas which integrate the natural and cultural heritage in sustaining the regional development”

“The last twenty years since UNESCO launched the new concept of Geoparkas a new type of protected area,focused  on  geological heritage and  integrated approaches  among natural  and cultural heritage,  biodiversity and geodiversity, Geoparks proved to represent   an efficient mode for regional development based on natural and cultural values. The UNESCO Geoparks enhance the development of the region through the valorization of the outstanding natural and cultural sites, of the folkloric and artisanal traditions. Education and tourism are the main ways in insuring economic growth and cultural identity of a region in a Geopark.  The number of Geoparks increased tremendously after 2000 when the first four European geoparks were established, there are now (November 2017) 68 European geoparksand about 50 on other continents, out of which 30 in China. The launching in 1997 of the Geopark concept and methodology represented   the first consistent practical measure at an international level to sustain the geological protection. It followed  an European movement in the '80s  in  western countries , namely  the ProGEO action, aiming  to rise the public  awareness   on the  values  and threats of the  geological heritage.

Basically there are two strategies applied: 1.The “top-down approach” in which a group of people and institutions with good knowledge on the values of a region starts the actions, trying to involve new partners: new institutions, local authorities and their communities. 2. The “bottom-up approach” in which communities and their authorities initiate the actions. The group is well aware of the values of their own region,also about the opportunities opened by a geoparkin promoting these values, including the local products.

In the creation of the  first UNESCO Geopark in Romania, and up to now the only one, the “Hateg Country dinosaurs Geopark”,  a top-down strategy  was applied ; the initiators were professors  from the University of Bucharest , with long experience in researching the geology of  this  region ,who  involved   students  in  doing researches on the  nature  and social aspects  of  the region . The local authorities,  in the name of their  communities,  are  the main part and beneficiary  of the project ; a long term  agreement of  collaboration  was established  by the University of Bucharest ,the project coordinator  with the  Hateg Country  inter communal Association. The example of the Hateg Country Geopark is now followed by other regions from Romania (Buzau, Persani) who showed the interest in creating geoparks. The interest for creating new geoparks is great, not only in Romania, but also in the Levant region, namely in the Balkan countries and Turkey,members of the European Association for geoconservation -ProGEO. 13  UNESCO geoparks  were  already  created in the region: the first one  in the island  of Lesbos in Greece ,who  was among the first 4  geoparks which in 2000  created the  European Geoparks Network. 12geoparks were added afterwards: 4 in Greece, 2 in Hungary and in Slovenia (in both including transbordergeoparks with Slovakia and Austria, respectively, and one in Romania, Croatia, Turkey and Cyprus.

In building new geoparks the experiences achieved by the established UNESCO geoparks in the region are very important. There are numerous aspects in which the shared experience of the existing geoparks to the aspiring ones is useful, as much as there are a series of natural, cultural,historical and social common aspects among these countries.  Among the most useful experiences to be shared from the existing to the aspiring geoparks, there are: organization of educational activities and touristic trails combining natural and cultural sites, revitalization and valorization  of the folkloric and handicraft  local traditions ,ways to stimulate the local communities in promoting their  products  under  the  Geopark marks also how to establish a firm partnership within the project partners ,including the  stakeholders based on common interests.”


Department of Taxonomy and Ecology, Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca
Romanian Academy, Commission of Nature Monument

“Why would we, Romanian naturalists, be interested in the Levant?”

 “This is the first question that was asked by many colleagues, which I answered, to start with, by using the four ecological laws that were plastically formulated by Barry Commoner (the father of the modern environmental movement, whose 100th birth anniversary was celebrated this year): i) Everything is connected to everything else, ii) Everything must go somewhere, iii) Nature knows best, iv) There is no such thing as a free lunch. Then, I reminded that we all benefit from products provided by plants (e.g. wheat, barley, olive trees, date palms, various spices) and animals (e.g. sheep, cattle) domesticated by Levantine populations several millennia ago, all of which represent a real biocultural heritage!

Finally, the current ecological crisis will be better understood if we also learn from the ecological crisis of the Levant from more than two millennia ago.

How can we, Romanians, contribute to the knowledge of the Levantine culture and civilization? Today, cultural ecology (or ecological anthropology), in which sustainability is regarded through its 5 dimensions: ecological, economic, social, spatial and cultural, is gaining increasing ground. This multidisciplinary approach will allow us to get a much better understanding of the first law formulated by Commoner. Knowing the Levant, as a spiritual center of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as a meeting place for four great cultures (Persian, Arabic, Judaic and Turkish), can offer us solutions in the management of our natural heritage.

Romania possesses the most valuable, the most diversified and the least altered natural heritage in the EC: i) 5 of the 11 European biogeographical regions, ii) the most genuine old-growth forests, iii) the most important Ramsar Site – Danube Delta, iv) the most significant bear, wolf, pelican, lynx populations, v) 199 types of habitats of the “Natura 2000” protected area network, 273 sites of community interest, etc. However, their management requires significant improvement!

Finally, let us not forget that the World Charter for Nature (28 October 1982) states the fact that mankind is a part of nature, that life depends on the uninterrupted functioning of natural systems, and that “nature is the common heritage of mankind” and we all share the responsibility for its preservation.

How can we, naturalists, contribute to the achievement of sustainable global peace? The concept of peace is defined as “a state in which there is no armed conflict or war”, without any reference to peace between Man and Nature. Perhaps this is why Pope John Paul II spoke in his Encyclical RedemptorHominis about “social sin” as any action that can harm man or nature, a sin placed alongside biblical sin. In this area of ecological education, we can and must play an active role.

Knowing all this, we will learn how to be better, more generous, wiser, more useful to our kind, more tolerant and, especially, more committed to the next generations, from which we inherited the Earth.

This is why we urge planetary citizens to fight for total global peace, as the only solution for our one and only Earth!”

Conservarea patrimoniului natural și cultural al Levantului

Conservarea patrimoniului natural și cultural al Levantului