Decoding an evolving Earth
The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) is the largest and oldest constituent scientific body in the IUGS. Its primary objective is to precisely define global units (systems, series, and stages) of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart that, in turn, are the basis for the units (periods, epochs, and age) of the International Geologic Time Scale; thus setting global standards for the fundamental scale for expressing the history of the Earth. Over the past decades, the ICS has amongst other things produced the International Chronostratigraphic Chart, Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP), The International Chronostratigraphic Chart, Global chronostratigraphical correlation table for the last 2.7 million years, Ordovician Chronostratigraphic Chart, Ordovician Carbon Isotope Curve, Permian Time Scale. The Commission for the Management and Application of Geoscience Information (CGI) also plays a vital role in the interoperability and exchange of geoscience information, through active community leadership, collaboration, education, and the development and promotion of geoscience information standards and best practice. In 2022, the IUGS will be celebrating some of the most impressive achievements of the past 6 decades and we believe the ICS have some exciting news to share with the community including the announcement of several new GSSPs books in production, and dedication ceremonies in Japan for Chibanian (May 2022) and in 2022, Albian and Hauterivian of the Cretaceous in France. News on the Anthropocene event will be coming shortly.
Big science: harmonising 'deep time'digital geological data
The primary goal of the Deep-Time Digital Earth (DDE) programme is to harmonise ‘deep-time’ digital geological data. Deep-time data are data relating to the changing processes that the Earth has experienced through the millions of years of geological time. They include data on the evolution of life and climate, tectonic plate movement and the evolution of the planet’s geography. Through DDE, data will be made available in easily used ‘hubs’ providing insights into the distribution and value of Earth resources and materials, as well as Earth hazards.
The International Lithosphere Program (ILP) seeks to elucidate the nature, dynamics, origin and evolution of the lithosphere through international, multidisciplinary geoscience research projects and coordinating committees.
Geoscience solutions for the global community
Many of the IUGS commissions, affiliates and members are actively seeking geoscience solutions to our greatest environmental and societal challenges.
The Resourcing Future Generations (RFG) committee has been busy scoping new initiatives to address the long-term goal for ensuring a supply of mineral, energy and water resources for the global society for the next century. We will be showcasing some of their new work through 2022 and will be catching up with some of the participants from the UNESCO Lecture Series: Earth Materials for a Sustainable and Thriving Society to see how their work has impacted society.
The International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) serves as a knowledge hub of UNESCO to facilitate international scientific cooperation and education in the geosciences. Their mission includes promoting sustainable use of natural resources, advancing new initiatives related to geodiversity and geoheritage and geohazards risk mitigation. IGCP has ongoing projects spanning the topics of: Earth resources, geohazards, hydrogeology, geodynamics.
Geoheritage: heritage sites, collections, geosites, geoparks
The recognition and management of Geological Heritage and Geoheritage education is a responsibility of geoscientists internationally. The IUGS commission on Geoheritage (IUGS-ICG) comprises 3 key areas that give recognition to IUGS Global Geosites, GeoCollections and Heritage Stones of high international significance that have played an important role in the evolution of geological sciences.
The IUGS supports the development of UNESCO Global Geoparks program around the world to strengthen the link between the memory of the Earth and the sustainable development of local communities.
The IUGS-ICG is leading the IGCP 731 project together with the Global Geoparks Network to reactivate IUGS Global Geosite program worldwide.
In 2022, the IUGS will announce the first 100 IUGS Global Geosites.
Geoscience communication and outreach
Many would argue that geoscientists in general are not doing a good enough job at engaging new audiences in the discipline. Much progress has been made recently and this is an activity that the IUGS will be focussing on in 2022.
The IUGS is starting 2022 with discussion panels leady by world-leading science communicators and plan to get everyone’s creative geoscience juices flowing in the Earth Futures Festival which is intended to inspire different demographics of budding geologists to communicate their passion for Earth Science matters and to catapult the geosciences into the public’s attention.
Geodiversity and Biodiversity
Underpinning the rich ecosystems that exist on the planet today is a diverse world of ancient rocks and aquifers. The realm of geology. All life depends on the breakdown of these rocks to form soils, feed plants, channel water and provide habitat for Earth’s denizens. We are all becoming aware of the dramatic biodiversity loss across the world, induced in no small part by resource exploitation, habitat destruction and climate change.
2022 will see the first International Geodiversity Day on October 6th. The IUGS will celebrate this and make every effort to engage the broader public in the exciting rocks of the world which capture the evolution of the planet Earth.
The Geobiodiversity Database (GBDB) of the IUGS International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) can bring all inspiration: first established in 2012, it is based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGP).
Whose resources? Protection and Geoethics
Moreover the IUGS supports activities of its affiliated International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG). The IAPG is a multidisciplinary, scientific platform for widening the discussion and creating awareness about problems of Geoethics and Ethics applied to the Geosciences. The IAPG has more than 3000 members in 128 countries. In 2023, the IUGS has established the IUGS Commission on Geoethics. This Commission is the supporting branch of the IAPG to the IUGS and the IUGS body that officially deals with geoethics and social geosciences for the Union.
Having strong geoethical frameworks in place will help with all aspects of the geosciences. With increasing demand on the world’s Earth Resources, geoethics will come in to play more and more. Examples of where geoethics are required include; responsible development of georesources, geoethics in georisks and disaster risk reduction, geoethics in economic geology, forensic geology and medical geology; ethical and societal relevance of geoheritage and geodiversity; sociological aspects in geosciences and geosciences-society-policy interface; geosciences for sustainable and responsible development; geoethical implications in global and local changes of socio-ecological systems.
The IUGS Initiative on Forensic Geology (IFG) was established at UNESCO headquarters in Paris (France) on 22 February 2011. The aim of the IUGS-IFG is, ‘to develop forensic geology internationally and promote its applications’. Forensic geology, also known more broadly as ‘forensic geoscience’ or ‘geoforensics’ is the application of geology to policing and law enforcement, which may potentially be applicable to a court of law’. More simply, forensic geology is the application of geology to aid the investigation of crime. Forensic geology also includes serious crimes (e.g. homicide, rape and other sexual assaults), serious and organised crime (e.g. related to gangs and cartels), counter terrorism, water searches, search for people who have been reported as ‘missing’ or lost, humanitarian incidents, environmental crimes, wildlife crime, precious minerals and minerals theft minerals substitution, assay sample adulteration, fraudulent and financial crimes, conflict minerals, fakery (e.g. gemstones, minerals, precious metals, valuable or rare fossils, art and artefacts), geotechnical engineering, engineering geology and geohazards.