IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, recommends World Heritage status for five sites nominated for their outstanding natural values. The advisory body on natural World Heritage, IUCN also recommends action against major threats in listed natural sites and danger-listing for two sites, in a first set of reports for the World Heritage Committee. These reports are now available online.
Five candidate sites for inscription
IUCN agrees to five proposals to inscribe natural areas on the World Heritage List, providing this advice to the World Heritage Committee, which will take the final decision during its meeting in Istanbul in July.
The sites recommended for inscription include: Canada’s Pimachiowin Aki, a vast boreal forest put forward for World Heritage status by five Anishinaabe First Nations as a ‘mixed’ cultural and natural site protecting ancestral traditions; Mistaken Point, also in Canada, where fossil records offer a glimpse of the first large, complex organisms on Earth, which are the earliest ancestors to animals; Archipiélago de Revillagigedo in Mexico, a group of four Pacific islands with diverse and abundant marine life and where impacts from invasive species remain remarkably low; India’s Khangchendzonga National Park in the Himalayan range, which includes the world’s third highest mountain; and Hubei Shennongjia in China, whose thriving ecosystems are home to over 600 vertebrate species.
IUCN has evaluated a total of 17 nomination files in preparation for the 2016 World Heritage Committee meeting due to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, from 10 to 20 July. Twelve of these evaluations have now been issued, while the remainder will be released on 10 June.
Poaching puts World Heritage sites in danger
The reports just released for the Committee meeting also include IUCN’s recommendations on necessary measures against threats affecting the world’s iconic natural areas. A total of 61 natural World Heritage sites have been monitored by IUCN this year, in collaboration with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.
The first set of IUCN’s recommendations contains advice to inscribe two natural World Heritage areas on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to poaching. These sites are Dja Fauna Reserve in Cameroon, where the elephant population has drastically decreased due to poaching; and Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex in Thailand, where poaching of precious Rosewood has been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years, despite Thailand’s best efforts to control it.
Thirty-five monitoring reports containing IUCN’s advice are now available online, with a further 26 due to be released on 10 June. Natural World Heritage sites facing threats include iconic places such as the Grand Canyon, the Galapagos Islands, the Serengeti National Park, Iguazu/Iguaçu National Parks and Białowieża Forest.
Despite having the highest international recognition, natural World Heritage sites continue to face serious threats, including climate change, industrial activities and armed conflict. At present, 18 natural sites are listed as ‘in danger’, representing 8% of the total number of sites listed for their outstanding natural value.
Established in 1972, the World Heritage Convention protects over 1,000 sites of outstanding cultural and natural importance. About one in five World Heritage sites is natural, including 197 classified as natural and 32 classified as ‘mixed’ – both natural and cultural.
The advisory body on nature, IUCN is responsible for evaluating the eligibility of new sites for World Heritage listing under natural criteria, as well as monitoring listed natural sites affected by threats. IUCN’s advice will be discussed by the World Heritage Committee, which will take the final decisions during its annual meeting, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, from 10 to 20 July.