Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Report on marine 'gaps' in World Heritage launched

A new IUCN report identifying gaps in marine World Heritage was launched at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC). The study provides a road map to ensure the World Heritage Convention reflects the diversity of marine ecosystems in future nominations.

The World Heritage List includes a relatively small number of sites explicitly recognized for their outstanding universal marine values. Today, it counts 46 marine sites spanning across 35 countries.

This represents about 20% of the natural World Heritage and less than 5% of the total World Heritage. Yet oceans and seas make up over 70% of Earth’s surface and 95% of its habitable space.

Strikingly, less than 3% of the world’s oceans and under 0.2% of high seas are currently protected. World Heritage covers about a quarter of this area.

Marine World Heritage features mainly tropical ecosystems; as a consequence temperate and polar ecosystems are underrepresented.

Over three quarters of the planet’s nearshore areas (under 200 meters deep) either include no World Heritage at all or contain sites with just 1% marine coverage. Likewise, a large proportion of deep-sea habitats do not have any World Heritage sites.

This means the full range of irreplaceable values in these marine ecosystems are bypassed. For example, there are no marine World Heritage sites in the Antarctic, Gulf Stream, Sunda Shelf or Andaman.

One challenge to applying World Heritage to the marine environment to date has been the lack of a clear definition for marine features of potential out
standing universal values.

To overcome this, the study proposes 16 themes, including for example ocean currents, ice, seamounts or diversity of marine life, that can help identify, nominate and inscribe sites representing the most outstanding examples. Read more