The palaeontological heritage of Ribeira de Cacela (Algarve, Portugal). Its preservation in the Portuguese context


The protection of palaeontological heritage is justified by its own specificity, which results from its limited visibility, spatial variability, irreproducibility and importance as a record of past biodiversity. Until the present in Portugal the laws concerning the preservation of natural areas are focused mainly on the protection of threatened living species and their habitats, neglecting any geological aspect, and even less the concept of palaeontological heritage. The present analysis refers to the fossil-site of Ribeira de Cacela, included in the Natural Park of Ria Formosa (Algarve, southern Portugal), which represents a site of great paleontological interest. No particular palaeontological inventory being still available, and no any effective protective measures having yet been applied, the result is a continuous dilapidation of the palaeontological heritage, caused by sediment removal and, especially, by the continuous exploitation of sites by uncontrolled fossil collectors. The obvious consequence is the loss of important scientific information. Considering the palaeontological importance of this area, as well as its scientific, educational and cultural interest, a formal proposal will be made to the lnstituto da Conservaçao da Natureza (the Portuguese Nature Conservation Institute), in order to nominate this outcrop as a Natural Monument and to promote its protection. Although the proposed legal protection is expected to be a long and difficult process, they will be rewarded by the resulting benefits.

Palabras clave

Palaeontological heritage, natural resources management, Ria Formosa Natural Park, Cacela, southern Portugal

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