Climate change has doubled the number of natural heritage sites that are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which called for “urgent” measures on Monday.
Of the 241 natural sites classified as Unesco World Heritage, 62 are now threatened by climate change compared to 35 in 2014 (out of 228), the year in which the previous “World Heritage Horizon” report was published by IUCN.
Some of these sites are the Peruvian Machu Pichu or the Biosphere Reserve of the monarch butterfly in Mexico, although in both cases, in addition to climate change, other factors are affecting them, such as tourism or pollution.
This report sends a clear message to the delegates gathered in Bonn (on the occasion of the 23rd UN climate conference): climate change acts quickly and affects the most precious treasures of our planet,”
commented the Director General of IUCN , Inger Andersen, in a statement.
The pace with which our natural heritage is degraded highlight the need for urgent and ambitious national actions and commitments to implement the Paris Agreements,”
From the Great Barrier Reef of Australia to the coasts of Belize, passing through the Seychelles or the Aldabra atoll, all the coral reefs registered by Unesco are affected by the increase in sea temperature, which causes their bleaching.
At the other end of the environmental arch are the glaciers of Kilimanjaro National Park, in Tanzania, or the Jungfrau-Aletsch region, in the Swiss Alps.
But climate change also affects wetlands, deltas, or ecosystems vulnerable to fires, according to the report, which estimates that global warming represents a “potential risk” for some 55 sites in those categories.
These sites play a crucial role for local economies and livelihoods and
their destruction can have devastating consequences that go beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value,”
said Tim Badman, director of the World Heritage program of the IUCN.
Although climate change is the fastest growing threat, it comes in second place, behind invasive species. Tourism, the development of infrastructures (roads, dams, mines), hunting, pollution or the effectiveness of site management also have an impact on conservation.
Taking into account the sum of all these factors, the IUCN classifies 17 sites (7%) in a “critical” situation, such as the biosphere reserve of the monarch butterfly in Mexico or the Everglades natural park in the United States. Twelve are in Africa, such as Lake Turkana in Kenya or Virunga Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In twelve sites the situation has deteriorated, as in the Polish forest of Bialowieza, and in another 14 it has improved, as in the Comoé park in Ivory Coast, where the populations of elephants and chimpanzees have been restored.