OR/14/063 Introduction

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Whitbread, K, Ellen, R, Callaghan, E, Gordon, J E, and Arkley, S. 2014. East Lothian geodiversity audit. British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/14/063.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) was commissioned by East Lothian Council (ELC) to carry out a review of sites of geological and geomorphological significance within the local authority area. The study has taken the form of a geodiversity audit to assist in future planning, development and conservation issues. The work was co-funded by BGS Scotland.

This work was undertaken in the spring and summer of 2014 with a desk-top review of BGS records and published literature followed by field visits to gather new geodiversity information. This report describes, illustrates and evaluates 30 geological sites in East Lothian that are considered to best represent the geological diversity of the area.

Recommended boundary lines defining the site areas have also been supplied to ELC in GIS format (ESRI Shapefile) to supplement the information provided in this report. The Shapefile version of the boundary lines should be regarded as the definitive version for reference purposes.


East Lothian Council recognises the importance of conserving the region’s geodiversity and preserving landscape features, in particular those geological features that may be considered as Local Geodiversity Sites (formerly termed Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites or RIGS).

Nationally designated sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or Geological Conservation Review sites (GCRs) protect only a limited part of the area’s geodiversity. ELC have commissioned the BGS to evaluate a range of geological and landscape features in East Lothian in addition to those that currently have SSSI status. The audit builds on previous work by volunteers of the Lothian and Borders Geoconservation group in identifying and describing many of the areas important geological features.

The audit of East Lothian Geodiversity is intended to form the basis for designation and protection of Local Geodiversity Sites, with a comparable status to Local Biodiversity Sites within the planning framework. The audit will also provide ELC with information that may be used to enhance the quality of their geological sites and to develop public engagement and education initiatives.

Aims and objectives[edit]

The principal aim of the study is to identify and formally assess the key geodiversity sites in East Lothian. These sites are selected to represent the diverse geology and geomorphology of the area.

The objectives of the study are:

  1. To review existing designated geological sites (SSSIs) and identify potential geodiversity sites with no current designation.
  2. To evaluate the geodiversity of each site based on criteria that consider the scientific, educational, cultural and community merits.
  3. To delineate site boundaries that encompass the key geological features of the site and sufficient area to allow them to be viewed.
  4. To review the condition of the sites and, where appropriate, to make suggestions for potential improvements in the management, access and education potential of the site.


The objectives have been addressed through three stages of work: an initial desktop review of published literature and BGS archive records to identify potential sites; field assessments of the geodiversity sites; and finally analysis and reporting of the geodiversity valuations.

Structure of the report[edit]

An overview of the geology of East Lothian is presented in the section East Lothian’s geoheritage, including the bedrock (solid) geology and the overlying Quaternary (superficial) deposits. The section Evaluating East Lothian’s geodiversity describes the methods used to identify potential geodiversity sites, the criteria used in their evaluation and the procedures used in the field assessments.

Site assessment - ELC 1: Gala Law, Lammermuir Hills through to Site assessment - ELC 30: Aberlady Bay provide detailed site assessments for each of the geodiversity sites, and forms the main part of the report. The information is presented as a set of pro-forma sheets containing:

  • General location and background information
  • A location map
  • A summary description
  • A review of the condition, access and safety of the site
  • An assessment of the sites GeoScientific Merit
  • The site evaluation (including the overall Geodiversity value statement)
  • A review of the cultural, heritage and economic associations
  • Site Photographs

The results of the audit are summarised and discussed in the End summary.

What is geodiversity?[edit]

Geodiversity has many definitions, but essentially describes the variety of rocks, minerals and fossils, landforms and landscapes, active geological processes and soils and subsoils (Quaternary deposits) of an area. These elements interlink and together determine not only the form our natural environment but also the character of local wildlife habitats and ecosystems.

Geodiversity also has strong links to the social, cultural and economic heritage of the people of East Lothian. The locations of settlements, abstraction of minerals and the use of local stone in buildings and infrastructure give a distinct character to the region and typify the strong links between our human heritage and our geodiversity.

Why conserve geological features[edit]

Despite wide preservation and protection of biodiversity sites, the geodiversity that underpins the stability of ecosystems and contributes to our economic, social and cultural heritage has only limited protection within the planning system. Current protection for geological sites in Scotland is restricted to the sites that are designated as SSSIs.

Geodiversity is an integral part of nature. It has intrinsic (geoheritage), scientific, educational, cultural, ecological and ecosystem service values. These values are vulnerable to a wide range of threats; quarries can be infilled, natural overgrowth by vegetation can obscure exposures, features within an urban environment may be built over, and landforms may be removed or remodelled during excavation or development. Our understanding of the geological processes and landscape history of Scotland, and the wider UK, depends on access to key sites from which the diverse nature of rocks can be directly observed. These sites preserve our geological heritage. They are fundamental not only for scientific research and education, but often have cultural and aesthetic values that provide connections between people and place. Many also support highly valued ecosystems, habitats and species, while others are assets for recreation and tourism. Hence, it is vital that geodiversity sites are protected so that our geoheritage can be maintained and appreciated by future generations.