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The Palaeontological Heritage of Santa Maria Island (Azores: NE Atlantic): a Re-evaluation of Geosites in GeoPark Azores and Their Use in Geotourism

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The application of geoconservation concepts and methodologies to the Azores archipelago led to the implementation of the Geopark Azores, recognized as such by the European and Global Geoparks Network. The current work re-evaluates and stresses the scientific and touristic value of the palaeontological sites of Santa Maria Island. Two new geosites (the Ponta do Castelo tempestite deposit and the Pedra-que-pica coquina) are proposed for classification as ‘Regional Natural Monuments’ by the Regional Government of the Azores, due to their international relevance. The tempestite deposit of Ponta do Castelo was overlain by a contemporary coastal lava delta, which enables the inference of the precise water depth of the geosite at the time of deposition, a very rare condition worldwide; and Pedra-que-pica is the most extensive multispecific fossiliferous coquina ever reported in the literature from the shelf of any of the ∼20,000 known volcanic oceanic islands in the world. Relevant geosites reported for this island are increased from 15 to 26. Additional palaeontological heritage contributions to the sustainable tourism of Santa Maria are suggested, with a focus on two recent projects: the ‘Fossil Trail’ and the future ‘PalaeoPark Santa Maria’.

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This item is under embargo until December 31, 2999.

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