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The Dinosaur Tracks of Bad Essen-Barkhausen in The UNESCO Global Geopark TERRA.vita (NW Germany): 100 Years Of Development From an Industrial Quarry to An Open-air Museum



The low level of the Jurassic sea in the area of Bad Essen-Barkhausen (Wiehen Mountains, NW Germany) was a precondition for the migration of a herd of sauropods and theropods through this coastal area about 153 million years ago. The dinosaurs left at least 11 trackways on a single fine-grained siltstone layer and several more footprints on another, younger layer. The dinosaur track layers experienced diagenesis and subsequent uplifting during the Late Cretaceous, so that they are presently exposed in sub-vertical position on a quarry rock wall. Since the discovery of the tracks in 1921, their preservation has been challenging. It has not been possible to recover the tracks because of dense jointing in the host rocks, so an in-situ fossil geosite had to be established. Because in-situ geoconservation was not common practice until the 1960s, the dinosaur tracks were initially conserved only as casts. Since the 1960s, the geosite has undergone regular protection measures, including impregnation, cement slurry injections, a drainage system and construction of a glass roof. In 1976, the quarry was granted the status of an open-air museum, which currently offers regularly updated panels, life-sized dinosaur models, guided tours, events, exhibitions and an anchor point in a hiking and cycling trail network. The conservation of the dinosaur track layers and the continuous improvement of touristic and educational programs have only been possible through decades of collaboration between the UNESCO Global Geopark TERRA.vita and its partners such as Osnabrück County, the City of Bad Essen, the Natural History Museum “Museum am Schölerberg” in Osnabrück, the Experiential Pedagogical Country Hostel Barkhausen and local associations.