Minister Killeen launches Burren Map
Launching a new educational map of the majestic landscapes of the Burren, Minister of State Tony Killeen T.D. last night heralded the fascinating geological history of the area as well as the useful role the new map will play in interpreting it. Speaking at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre he also encouraged local people to join in the debate around a potential application by the Burren region to acquire European geopark status.

Landscape and Rocks of the Burren The bright 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 shines through in what is a very authoritative but accessible work. According to Minister Killeen “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 limestones to karstic solution processes and erosion began to take place. And humans have had their say also. As they cut down the trees which protected the remaining thin soils this further accelerated the erosion and solution of the limestones. 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.

Carol Gleeson, Project Manager with the Burren Connect Project welcomed the new map “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 will be held in the Ennistimon Falls Hotel on the evening of the 24th of July to discuss the proposed designation. He 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.”

The map is available for purchase at a price of €5 from www.gsi.ie/gsishop/

Friday 13 June 2008