A chilling report recently released by WWF (formerly
World Wildlife Fund) has found that nearly half of the world's
UNESCO-designated natural World Heritage Sites are threatened by
industrial activities including oil, gas, and mineral extraction,
overfishing, and illegal logging.
Sadly, some of the world's most iconic natural sites have
made it onto the WWF's list, including:
the Everglades National Park in the US, which has
been so degraded by encroaching industrial and agricultural
development, among other threats, that it has been inscribed by
UNESCO onto its List of World Heritage in Danger;
National Park in Alberta, which has been investigated by UNESCO
for threats from ongoing development in the oil sands
(incidentally, it is Canada's largest national park); and
Mountain Parks in Alberta and British Columbia, which is a
system of 7 parks under stress from expanding resource development
For "natural" heritage sites, that means they
contain superlative natural phenomena
or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
be an outstanding example
representing major stages of earth's history, including the
record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the
development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or
physiographic features (criterion viii);
be an outstanding example
representing significant on-going ecological and biological
processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh
water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and
animals (criterion ix); or
contain the most important and
significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological
diversity, including those containing threatened species of
outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or
conservation (criterion x).
Not only are do Natural World Heritage Sites provide crucial
support for a multitude of complex ecosystems, many are also
sources of food, freshwater, and employment for millions of people,
among other benefits. Many also act as carbon sinks and provide
protection from the impacts of climate change. They are also
important tourist draws, generating billions of dollars of revenue
Once designated, the states in which they are located are
expected to undertake measures to ensure the protection,
conservation, and protection of the designated site (Article
The WWF report makes a number of suggestions to minimize these
threats, including the establishment of clear buffer zones to
provide additional protection to sites.
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