GSI launches innovative map to the Burren


Launching a new educational map of the majestic landscapes of the Burren, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) has heralded the fascinating geological history of the area as well as the useful role the new map will play in its interpretation.

Speaking at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, Minister of State Tony Killeen TD - who officially launched the new map - encouraged local people to join in the debate around a potential application by the Burren region to acquire European Geopark status.

The new map has been researched and designed by the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) - the state’s earth science agency. GSI’s unparalleled knowledge of the Burren landscapes is evident in what is an authoritative - but accessible - work.

According to Dr. Peadar McArdle, GSI Director - “This map celebrates a very special landscape and it is entirely appropriate that it is the first in a new national series of geotourism maps GSI is planning for areas of outstanding landscape and geological heritage. In the series, GSI hopes to convey the key message that geology underpins the physical basis of our society - where we live, work and play.”

The physical evolution of the rocky limestone landscape of the Burren has occurred over millions of years, across geological periods when Ireland was situated in the tropics and lay under a shallow tropical sea. However, it was during the last ice age that the area particularly began to evolve its current appearance. At that time, the removal of glacial soils and deposits began to expose the underlying limestone pavement to karstic solution processes and erosion began to take place.

Humans have had their say also. The felling of trees, which protected the remaining thin soils, further accelerated the erosion and solution of the limestone pavement. Today, changing agricultural practices are also affecting the karst landscape with the spread of hazel and blackthorn scrub due to a decrease in cattle grazing in recent years.

Ms. Bernadette Kinsella, Director of Services, Clare County Council, described the new map as a valuable addition to vast array of information now available to local residents and visitors to the Burren. Also welcoming the new map, Carol Gleeson, Project Manager with the Burren Connect Project, stated - “This is another tool for students and visitors to use to learn more about the fascinating area that is the Burren. The geological map will be available for consultation and to purchase at the nine Information Hubs located around the Burren.”

Minister Killeen noted that the Burren region is the latest in Ireland to investigate the potential of European Geopark status. “This UNESCO designation uses geology as a basis upon which to explore the diverse fauna, flora, history and archaeology of a particular region in an integrated way” - he said.

He announced that a public meeting would be held in the Ennistimon Falls Hotel on the evening of the 24th of July to discuss the proposed designation and concluded that the “new GSI Burren map can be an important element in the proposal for this special part of County Clare to be designated as a UNESCO Geopark.”