A joint study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reveals the major role of world heritage sites in safeguarding endangered species. On only 1% of the earth’s surface, these sites are home to more than 20% of known species. Among them, there are 75,000 species of plants and more than 30,000 species of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
The study, entitled World Heritage: A unique contribution to the conservation of biodiversityreveals that in total, the sites protect more than 20,000 threatened species.
The connection between biodiversity and cultural diversity is close, World Heritage sites provide crucial environmental services to indigenous peoples and local communities. In addition to preserving resources and places of religious and cultural significance, they also enable the creation of sustainable jobs. These cultural sites can further support valuable ecosystems and prove to be important allies in efforts to combat biodiversity loss.
The examples of Kaziranga National Park in India and Chitwan National Park in Nepal are emblematic of the positive impact that an effective commitment to conservation can have. Since their inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the mid-1980s, the number of one-horned rhinos has more than doubled in these parks, reaching today around 4,000 individuals.
The unique character of World Heritage sites is also reflected in their historical importance. The unique biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution, following his visit in 1835.
Despite their importance, these sites are increasingly threatened by climate change and human pressures, such as agricultural expansion, infrastructure development, poaching, overexploitation of resources, pollution and the introduction of species. invasive. Every 1°C increase in average temperature could double the number of species exposed to potentially dangerous climate conditions, the study warns.
Faced with these challenges, UNESCO and IUCN are calling on countries to integrate World Heritage sites into their national biodiversity strategies and action plans, as they are essential to the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (FGB) of Kunming-Montreal – a strategic plan for the 2020 decade on actions related to biodiversity. UNESCO encourages the 195 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to increase their investments in the conservation of these sites and to submit new nominations to list areas crucial for biodiversity as World Heritage.
All managers of these sites will be trained by 2025 in adaptation strategies in the face of climate disruption. By 2029, each site should also have a climate change adaptation plan.