Thursday, April 12, 2007

Climate change threatens UNESCO World Heritage sites

The threats posed by climate change to natural and cultural sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List are outlined in a new UNESCO publication, "Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage". The report features 26 examples - including the Tower of London, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - case studies that are representative of the dangers faced by the 830 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.

"The international community now widely agrees that climate change will constitute one of the major challenges of the 21st century," says the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, in his Foreword to the publication, calling for "an integrated approach to issues of environmental preservation and sustainable development."

The publication, intended to raise awareness and mobilize support for heritage preservation, is divided into five chapters that deal with glaciers, marine biodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity, archaeological sites, and historic cities and settlements.

Biodiversity on land is threatened by climate change, says the report, which features a detailed case study of the Heritage Site of Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, South Africa, where biodiversity is threatened by shrinking bioclimatic habitats - due to warming and changes in precipitation. On the global scale, climate change is expected to lead to changes in the distribution of species, including "invasive species", pathogens and parasites and on the timing of biological events, such as flowering, and the relationships between predator and prey, parasite and host, plant and pollinator, etc. The report recommends several measures to deal with this problem, including the creation of protected areas and relocating particularly endangered species.

The full document can be downloaded from: http://whc.unesco.org/documents/publi_climatechange.pdf

For more on UNESCO and climate change: http://whc.unesco.org/en/climatechange

Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/319 (10th April 2007) Author Unknown

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