Aonach Dubh shows a clear formed from more silca-rich volcanic rocks. © Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the SNH Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

Geological Conservation Review sites

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee carries out the Geological Conservation Review to select Britain’s very best geological and geomorphological features.

Geological Conservation Review sites contain features of national and international importance that are considered to qualify for designation in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Features selected by the Geological Conservation Review (GCR) include:

  • rocks, minerals and fossils
  • landform features formed during the Ice Age
  • modern rivers and coasts

SSSIs containing such features may be designated solely for their geological interest (geo-SSSI) or may also have a biological interest (mixed SSSI).

Scottish Natural Heritage is responsible for the conservation and enhancement of Scotland’s SSSI network. As part of this, we advise on the conservation and enhancement of GCR sites.

Search for Geological Conservation Review site boundaries on our Natural Spaces website.

Find out more about the GCR and other aspects of UK geoconservation on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website.

Protection of Scotland’s GCR sites

There are nearly 900 GCR sites in Scotland. Most have statutory protection through designation as geological features in SSSIs.

More than 200 GCR sites are known as ‘unnotified GCR sites’, since they have no protective SSSI designation status. Significant areas of almost 30 further GCR sites also have no protective SSSI designation status.

National Park authorities and some local authorities treat unnotified GCR sites as ‘candidate SSSIs’ and afford them the same protection.

Some unnotified GCR sites are also Local Nature Conservation Sites. As such, they’re at least given the same protection as locally important sites – though they’re actually nationally or internationally important.

All other unnotified GCR sites have no statutory protection.

Condition monitoring of GCR sites

The condition of notified Earth science features (protected GCR sites) in SSSIs is monitored under our Site Condition Monitoring programme.

View the latest Site Condition Monitoring data on the Scotland‘s Environment website.

Soils in GCR sites and SSSIs

GCR sites and SSSI designations cover geology and geomorphology, but don’t specifically cover soils.

But the nature and quality of soils within GCR sites and SSSIs are often integral to the features – geological and biological – for which the sites were selected. For example, peat soil in pollen sites or in sites designated for bog habitats.

Soil conservation is thus fundamental to SSSI conservation.