Protected areas like natural World Heritage Sites provide the most significant, front-line response to the global extinction crisis and cover 12% of the world’s surface. However, despite this critical role, these special places face many significant challenges, from direct degradation due to human pressures, lack of political support and sustainable finance, and the impacts of climate change.
Natural World Heritage Sites include many household names of conservation such as Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro, Galapágos, Virunga National Park, the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. The total area of natural and mixed World Heritage Sites is over 260 million hectares – around 11% of the 200,000 protected areas worldwide. These sites are often a last refuge for many endangered species, including the Mountain Gorilla, the Giant Panda and the Orangutan.
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention provides a unique framework for securing the conservation of over 200 of the world’s most important natural areas, recognized as being of Outstanding Universal Value.
The identification of these Sites through the Convention is a direct response to the need to preserve and restore globally outstanding protected areas. The Convention provides a unique platform for developing and sharing best-practice, and can act as a barometer of global protected area performance.