Statement of Outstanding Universal Value
The coastal cliffs at Joggins reveal the most complete fossil record in the world of terrestrial life in the Pennsylvanian “Coal Age” of earth history. Nowhere is this record of the evolution of life on land and biodiversity in the tropical “Coal Age” — encompassing plant, invertebrate and vertebrate life — rendered more evocatively. The magnificently exposed succession of sedimentary layers preserves the fossils in situ, providing environmental context that is unrivalled in the world. The fossil record includes the two defining, iconic elements of the “Coal Age”: fossil forests of the “coal swamps” and the first reptiles, which as the earliest amniotes are the oldest known representatives of reptiles, birds and mammals. The origin of amniotes, the first vertebrates to achieve the capacity to reproduce on land, was one of the most significant events in the history of life on earth, an evolutionary milestone first recorded with certainty at Joggins. No other locality in the world has provided as much knowledge of the nature of early amniotes or more informative specimens for linking them to more primitive groups of Palaeozoic tetrapods, and to the world in which they lived. Through the power of the Bay of Fundy tides, which are unsurpassed in the world, ongoing discovery is ensured at this site of outstanding universal value.
This dramatic setting is home to what Sir Charles Lyell, founder of modern geology, described as “the finest exposure in the world” of the rocks and fossil record of the Pennsylvanian “Coal Age” of earth history. The fossil record of Joggins figured in the first debate on evolution, and remains pivotal to understanding the terrestrial origins of vertebrate life, including our own species. This uniquely representative chapter of the earth’s history has been the subject of the research and writings of some of the world’s most influential scientists since the mid-nineteenth century. Joggins has figured in such seminal works as Principles of Geology by Lyell and The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and has come to be known as a “Coal Age Galapagos.”