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WhatAccording to the recent IUCN World Heritage Outlook 3 report, released on Dec. 2, climate change is increasingly threatening a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The World Heritage Outlook serves as a conservation assessment of all 252 natural World Heritage Sites and, according to its latest edition, the outlook for 63% of all sites (159 sites) is either “good” or “good with some concerns,” while the outlook for 30% (75 sites) is of “significant concern” and 7% (18 sites) are of “critical” concern.
Why It MattersSince the last World Heritage Outlook report in 2017, the conservation outlook changed for 24 sites, with 16 deteriorating and only eight improving. This represents a worrying shift from the pattern in 2017, when the number of sites that improved (14) or deteriorated (12) were almost equal compared to 2014. In another change from the last two reports, the 2020 edition has identified climate change as the “most prevalent current threat” to natural World Heritage sites, including increasingly frequent and severe wildfires, coral bleaching and sea level rise, to name a few of the issues endangering the sites. The report stresses that significant efforts are required from the international community to improve the outlook of many threatened World Heritage sites.
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Fast Facts- The list of critically threatened sites includes popular travel destinations such as Florida’s Everglades National Park, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the islands and protected areas of Mexico’s Gulf of California.
- Sites where the outlook is of significant concern include the ancient Maya city and protected tropical forests of Calakmul, Campeche (Mexico); Belize’s barrier reef reserve system; the Galapagos Islands; the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu (Peru); Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia; Serengeti National Park in Tanzania; Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve; Ibiza (recognized for biodiversity and culture) in Spain; and many more.
- Aside from climate change, the report identified additional threats to natural World Heritage sites including invasive alien species and a range of threats resulting from human activities, such as tourism visitation, hunting, fishing, water pollution, fires and logging.
What They Are SayingWhile there is much work to be done to protect these important sites, the report does reveal some optimism, as well: “Despite concerning trends, there is still a majority of sites assessed with a positive conservation outlook. These sites provide examples of best practice, demonstrating the potential of World Heritage sites in addressing complex challenges.”
The DetailsIUCN World Heritage Outlookwww.worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org