The cliff exposures along the Dorset and East Devon coast provide an almost continuous sequence of rock formations spanning the Mesozoic Era, or some 185 million years of the earth's history. The area's important fossil sites and classic coastal geomorphologic features have contributed to the study of earth sciences for over 300 years.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Dorset and East Devon Coast has an outstanding combination of globally significant geological and geomorphological features. The property comprises eight sections along 155 km of largely undeveloped coast. The property's geology displays approximately 185 million years of the Earth's history, including a number of internationally important fossil localities. The property also contains a range of outstanding examples of coastal geomorphological features, landforms and processes, and is renowned for its contribution to earth science investigations for over 300 years, helping to foster major contributions to many aspects of geology, palaeontology and geomorphology. This coast is considered by geologists and geomorphologists to be one of the most significant teaching and research sites in the world.
Criterion (viii): The coastal exposures along the Dorset and East Devon coast provide an almost continuous sequence of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rock formations spanning the Mesozoic Era and document approximately 185 million years of Earth's history. The property includes a range of globally significant fossil localities - both vertebrate and invertebrate, marine and terrestrial - which have produced well preserved and diverse evidence of life during Mesozoic times. It also contains textbook exemplars of coastal geomorphological features, landforms and processes. Renowned for its contribution to Earth science investigations for over 300 years, the Dorset and East Devon coast has helped foster major contributions to many aspects of geology, palaeontology and geomorphology and has continuing significance as a high quality teaching, training and research resource for the Earth sciences.
The property contains all the key, interdependent elements of geological succession exposed on the coastline. It includes a series of coastal landforms whose processes and evolutionary conditions are little impacted by human activity, and the high rate of erosion and mass movement in the area creates a very dynamic coastline which maintains both rock exposures and geomorphological features, and also the productivity of the coastline for fossil discoveries. The property comprises eight sections in a near-continuous 155 km of coastline with its boundaries defined by natural phenomena: on the seaward side the property extends to the mean low water mark and on the landward side to the cliff top or back of the beach. This is also in general consistent with the boundaries of the nationally and internationally designated areas that protect the property and much of its setting. Due to the high rate of erosion and mass movement, it is important to periodically monitor the boundaries of the properties to ensure that significant changes to the shoreline are registered.
Protection and management requirements
The property has strong legal protection, a clear management framework and the strong involvement of all stakeholders with responsibilities for the property and its setting. A single management plan has been prepared and is coordinated by the Dorset and Devon County Councils. There is no defined buffer zone as the wider setting of the property is well protected through the existing designations and national and local planning policies. In addition to its geological, paleontological and geomorphological significance, the property includes areas of European importance for their habitats and species which are an additional priority for protection and management. The main management issues with respect to the property include: coastal protection schemes and inappropriate management of visitors to an area that has a long history of tourism; and the management of ongoing fossil collection research, acquisition and conservation. The key requirement for the management of this property lies in continued strong and adequately resourced coordination and partnership arrangements focused on the World Heritage property.
Located on the south coast of England, the property comprises eight sections along 155 km of coast. The property has a combination of geological, palaeontological and geomorphological features. These include a variety of fossils, a beach renowned for its pebbles and textbook examples of common coastal features such as sea stacks and sea caves. The area has been studied for more than 300 years and has contributed to the development of earth sciences in the UK.
The site includes a near-continuous sequence of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rock exposures, representing much of the Mesozoic era (251-66 million years ago) or approximately 185 million years of the Earth's history.
The site contains a range of important Mesozoic fossil localities. A large number of vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils have been discovered. Among the finds are fossil dinosaur footprints, including flying reptiles and marine reptiles. The area has yielded a rich source of ammonites, which have been used to zone the Jurassic. Well-preserved remains of a late Jurassic fossil forest are exposed on the Isle of Portland and the Purbeck coast: many trees are preserved with their associated soils and pollen, a boon for palaeo-ecologists.
The area is also renowned for the study of beach formation and evolution on a retreating coastline. Chesil Beach, stretching from West Bay to Portland, is one of the best-studied beaches in the world. The beach is famous for the volume, type and grading of pebbles. The Fleet Lagoon is one of the most important saline lagoons in Europe, its sediments providing evidence of late Holocene beach evolution, and changes in sea level, climate and vegetation. The Isle of Purbeck is notable for its well-developed coastal landforms, including cave-bay sequences and textbook examples of bays, stacks and rock arches.
Migratory wildfowl habitat occurs in the area, with a relatively diverse invertebrate fauna.
The academic interest in the site derives in particular from the textbook examples of landforms and the diversity of these landforms in a relatively confined area, making the site an ideal location for initiating students of earth sciences. Although the natural integrity of the site has been somewhat compromised by quarrying, stone from the site has contributed to the construction of another World Heritage site - the Tower of London. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC