Stevns Klint Awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status

The World Heritage Committee, meeting in Doha (Qatar) have granted World Heritage status to a number of new sites and locations.  These awards are given to reflect the cultural or natural heritage that such sites and locations represent.  They are important to humanity and therefore it is imperative that their value is acknowledged.

Stevns Klint

One such site is the nine-mile-long cliffs at Stevns Klint, on the Danish island of Sjaelland.  These fossil rich cliffs record the K/T boundary, (Cretaceous – Tertiary).  As a result, this site is extremely important to palaeontologists and geologists.  The cliffs have preserved an exceptional fossil record showing a complete succession of fauna and micro-fauna that charts the extinction event and the subsequent recovery of life on Earth.

An exceptional fossil record is visible at the site, showing the complete succession of fauna and micro-fauna charting the recovery after the mass extinction.  Tertiary aged limestone deposits overlie much softer, older Cretaceous chalk deposits.  Sandwiched between the two distinct rock types is a thin, ash grey coloured band with high levels of the rare Earth element iridium.  This is the ash layer that is associated with the Chicxulub impact event that occurred approximately 66 million years ago.  It marked the end of the dinosaurs and the extinction of something like 50% of all life.

Cretaceous and Tertiary Marine Fossils

This part of the Danish coast is a popular tourist destination.  It lies twenty-five miles south of Copenhagen on the east coast of Sjaelland and many types of Cretaceous and Tertiary marine fossils can be seen at the local museum.  This site is one of three known in the world that exhibit the iridium anomaly.  This anomaly helped form the basis of the extraterrestrial impact theory proposed by Walter and Louis Alvarez in 1980.

The exposed succession is around forty-five metres thick.  It shows the stratigraphic evolution from Maastrichtian (Upper Cretaceous) across the K/T boundary into the very early Tertiary (Danian faunal stage of the Palaeogene).  A huge amount of research has been undertaken in this area.  Studies into the micro-fauna, palaeontology, geochemical changes, sediment deposition and sea level changes are just some of the research that has taken place recently.  The Stevns Klint locality is defined as the type location for the classification of the Danian faunal stage. It joins such famous fossil locations as the Jurassic Coast of East Devon and Dorset and the Messel Quarry near Frankfurt (Germany) as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Our congratulations to everyone involved in nominating this wonderful location.

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