More World Heritage sites threatened by climate change, report says

More World Heritage sites are threatened by the effects of climate change, such as the rise in sea levels, more powerful storms, extended periods of drought, and more frequent wildfires, a new report says.
By Tracy Williams | Nov 16, 2017
The number of World Heritage sites at risk because of global warming has nearly doubled from 35 to 62, says the latest report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

There are 206 World Heritage sites, which are granted their status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for their natural beauty and cultural significance. Examples include the Florida Everglades Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and the Galapagos Islands.

The report issued at the latest UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany says a greater number of sites is threatened by the effects of climate change, such as the rise in sea levels, more powerful storms, extended periods of drought, and more frequent wildfires.

"This IUCN report sends a clear message to the delegates gathered here in Bonn: climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet," said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, in a statement. "The scale and the pace at which it is damaging our natural heritage underline the need for urgent and ambitious national commitments and actions to implement the Paris Agreement."

Increased warming is causing the oceans to be more acidic, which triggers coral bleaching events, the report says. Coral bleaching threatens the Great Barrier Reef, along with the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean and the Belize Barrier Reef in the Atlantic also World Heritage sites. At the same time, rising sea levels put the unique species of the Galapagos Islands at risk.

The report also notes 14 sites with improved ratings, which demonstrate the positive outcomes of effective management. For example, elephant and chimpanzee populations have seen a comeback at the Ivory Coast's Como National Park due to good management and international support.

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