Sustainability, Vol. 10, Pages 3596: Comparing Methods of Evaluation of Geosites: The Fossiliferous Outcrops of Santa Maria Island (Azores, NE Atlantic) as a Case Study for Sustainable Island Tourism (Sustainability)
The increasing interest in geotourism has prompted the need for quantitative assessments of geosites as a fundamental step in the application of geoconservation strategies, in order to assure sustainable planning, management and use of natural resources. The improvement of methodologies used to evaluate geosites dictates the revision of previous assessments on a regular basis. Santa Maria Island in the Azores Archipelago is renowned for its palaeontological heritage. Herein, we present the results of a re-evaluation of 17 fossiliferous geosites, based on an updated methodology in which four main independent criteria are considered: (1) scientific value; (2) educational value; (3) touristic value; and (4) degradation risk. These new results were compared with a previous evaluation of the same geosites, based on the Q-value. Our results show that an evaluation of the fossiliferous geosites based on independent criteria is more suitable, especially for political and economic stakeholders. The study of these geosites also permitted the development of high-quality promotional products for the Regional Government of the Azores, as in the case of the “House of the Fossils” museum, the “Fossils Route” and the newly formed “Santa Maria PalaeoPark,” making this island a good example of a successful joint venture between science, political decision-makers, geoconservation management strategies, sustainable tourism and education.