Feature: Greek, Chinese geoparks go hand in hand on preservation

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-22 00:06:01|Editor: Liangyu
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by Maria Spiliopoulou

SIGRI, Greece, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Geography experts of Greek Lesvos island in the Aegean Sea have recently grabbed Chinese media attention thanks to their joint preservation work with Chinese peers on fossilized dinosaur footprints in a suburb of Chinese capital Beijing.

Nickolas Zouros is the representative one of them. He is also the president of the Global Geoparks Network, which aims to preserve Earth heritage for future generations and Director of the Natural History Museum of Lesvos Petrified Forest located at Sigri.

He's a veteran geologist in the field of research and preservation work in China.

"Our scientific research with China started long ago, almost 30 years ago when for the first time I visited Yanqing area for scientific research on the active tectonics," said Zouros.

The experienced Greek geologist knows very well about China's geoparks. "China is the country that hosts the biggest number of UNESCO recognized geoparks. There are 37, and through this network we established a very fruitful collaboration, exchanging know how, people, but also experiences on how to preserve the geological monuments, how to conserve them and give the opportunity also for the future generations to see these unique elements of the earth's history," Zouros said.

Sino-Greek collaboration in this field has deepened in recent years through twinning agreements between Lesvos geopark and Chinese geoparks and joint projects especially with Yanqing geopark concerning the conservation of the petrified trees in Lesvos, as well as fossilized dinosaur footprints in Yanqing.

"We believe that through scientific research and collaboration we also improve the relationship and better knowledge between our people which have long history and we believe for further strengthening of this relationship between China and Greece," the professor noted.

Zouros' colleague Ilias Valiakos, who's UNESCO Global Geopark evaluator and Vice Director of the Natural History Museum of Lesvos Petrified Forest, has also visited China for many times to work together with Chinese scientists, including at the Yanqing geopark. He has also received many Chinese professors and students at Lesvos.

"We have been working in conservation of wood and fossil for more than 25 years in the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest. These techniques are nothing more than the development, the adjustment of the techniques that the archaeology is using from more than a century," he explained.

With a strong background in conservation from archaeology, Greek geology and geography experts have developed techniques, which they would like to share with their colleagues across the globe, including China.

The entire Lesvos island in the northeastern Aegean Sea has been designated as one of the 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks worldwide on account of its outstanding geological, cultural and ecological heritage and efforts to preserve and promote it over the past three decades.

The Petrified Forest is one of the most impressive things a visitor can see on Lesvos, said Zouros. It's a unique natural monument created 20 million years ago due to the volcanic eruptions that took place in Lesvos.

Tree trunks, leaves, reptiles, birds, fishes and small mammals were silicified. The petrified trunks in the park and exhibits at the museum offer a vivid evidence of the geological history and life evolution in this part of the Eastern Mediterranean over the last 20 million years.

Among the highlights of the park today is a 7.2-meter long tree trunk.

"The petrified tree which is behind me is the tallest standing petrified tree in the world. It belongs to the secoya family, it is a giant secoya. At that time several different species that do not exist anymore in the Mediterranean used to live in Lesvos island 20 million years ago," Zouros said.

The main site of the Petrified Forest is closed to the public in recent months due to an extensive restoration-preservation works project for first time since it opened three decades ago. The site will reopen in the summer of 2019.