The Chaîne des Puys – Limagne fault tectonic arena, situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region in the centre of France, is an emblematic segment of the West European Rift, created in the aftermath of the formation of the Alps 35 million years ago. The property comprises 24,223 ha with a 16,307 ha buffer zone configured to provide strategic protection in key areas. The boundaries of the property were drawn up to include geological features and landscapes which characterise the tectono-volcanic assemblage and include the long Limagne fault, the scenic alignment of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes, and the inverted relief of the Montagne de la Serre. Together these demonstrate how the continental crust cracks, then collapses, allowing deep magma to rise, causing widespread uplift at the surface.
The property is an exceptional illustration of the processes and characteristic features of continental break-up, a fundamental phenomenon in the Earth’s history. It is globally significant in terms of its completeness, density and clarity of topographic expression, providing distinctive evidence of the genetic and chronological links between the rifting features. Densely grouped and clearly interconnected, these features provide focused access to a planetary scale geological phenomenon and its overall understanding.
Criterion (viii): Continental drift, manifested through plate tectonics, is an essential paradigm for the history of the Earth as it explains the current make-up of oceans and continents and their past and future movements. The property is an exceptional illustration of the phenomenon of continental break-up, or rifting, which is one of the five major stages of plate tectonics. The Chaîne des Puys – Limagne fault tectonic arena presents a coincident view of all the representative processes of continental breakup and reveals their intrinsic links. The geological formations of the property, and their specific layout, illustrate with clarity this planet-wide process and its effects on a large and small scale on the landscape. This concentration has a demonstrated global significance in terms of its completeness, density and expression and has contributed to the site’s prominence since the 18th century for the study of classical geological processes.