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UN on Protecting Heritage Sites to Conserve Biodiversity

The United Nations’ efforts to safeguard heritage sites for the preservation of biodiversity have gained prominence. A joint assessment released by UNESCO and IUCN sheds light on the critical role of UNESCO World Heritage sites in conserving biodiversity and the urgent need for action to address threats to these valuable locations.

This topic of “UN on Protecting Heritage Sites to Conserve Biodiversity” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Joint Assessment by UNESCO and IUCN

Released by

  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
  • IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Highlights of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Home to Diverse Ecosystems

  • These sites house an impressive array of biodiversity, including:
    • 75,000 species of plants
    • Over 30,000 species of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

Importance of Biodiversity Conservation

  • These sites play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity, as they are home to around a fifth of all species globally.
  • They contribute to meeting targets set by the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

Iconic Species Residences

  • Many iconic species find their last refuge in these sites:
    • One-third of the remaining elephants, tigers, and pandas reside here.
    • At least one in ten great apes, giraffes, lions, and rhinos also inhabit these areas.
  • Home to unique species like Javan rhinos, vaquitas (world’s smallest cetacean), and pink iguanas.
  • More than half of populations of certain species like Sumatran rhinos, Sumatran orangutans, and mountain gorillas call these sites home.

Conservation Challenges and Urgency

Challenges Faced

  • These locations are facing multiple challenges, including climate change and anthropogenic pressures such as:
    • Agricultural expansion
    • Infrastructure development
    • Poaching
    • Overexploitation of resources
    • Proliferation of invasive species.

Urgency of Action

  • Taking action is essential to save vulnerable species.
  • With every 1°C rise in temperature, the number of species threatened by climate change doubles.

Recommendations and Coverage

Preserving Biodiversity

  • The report recommends nominating all biodiversity-rich areas for World Heritage inscription, acknowledging their importance in conserving diverse ecosystems.

Coverage and Numbers

  • Only 1% of Earth’s surface is covered by these sites, but they play a pivotal role in biodiversity conservation.
  • There are currently 1,157 UNESCO World Heritage sites globally.

Cultural World Heritage Sites and Benefits

Ally in Biodiversity Conservation

  • Cultural World Heritage sites also contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation.
  • Around 20% of these sites are located in Key Biodiversity Areas, enhancing their conservation value.

Preserving the Relationship between Humans and Nature

  • These sites help foster a deeper connection between humans and the natural world.

Water Resources and Economic Opportunities

  • These sites contribute to catering to human water needs.
  • They provide opportunities for people to earn a sustainable livelihood through various activities.

Government Action and Training Initiatives

Prioritizing Heritage Sites

  • Governments are urged to prioritize UNESCO World Heritage sites in their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans.

Crucial Training

  • By 2025, all managers of World Heritage sites will receive training in climate change adaptation strategies.
  • By 2029, all sites will have a climate adaptation plan in place, as announced by the Director-General of UNESCO on the 50th anniversary of the Convention in November 2022.

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