Having been designated for their outstanding universal values, Natural World Heritage sites still are under pressure from multiple threats. Have not been addressed timely, such threats undermine ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework goals. Ranging from wildfires, industrial development, overexploitation of endangered species, unsustainable tourism and logging to pollution, irreversible climate change implications and numerous management challenges, some threats overshadow others.
Special research has been carried out to demonstrate the gaps in knowledge about overlooked threats to the integrity of Natural World Heritage sites. Based on the most recent data, researchers provided evidence about disturbances within six Natural World Heritage sites across Botswana, India, China, Bulgaria, Brazilia detected between 2019 and 2021.
Wildfires have been detected in the multiple zones of the rich biodiversity area of Okavango Delta (Botswana) and within the oldest tropical ecosystems in the world such as Cerrado Protected Areas (Brazil). Intact subtropical karst forests of South China Karst (China) and the "most biologically diverse temperate forest ecosystem in the world" of Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (China) are affected by human activities - transformations potentially related to new road infrastructure development. The wildfires were detected in the multiple zones of the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park (Brazil) in June 2021, they affected 2% of total Park area (around 5 thousand hectares). The fact that the issue of fires is mentioned as resolved in the document WHC/21/44.COM/7B causes concern.
In order to effectively protect the values and integrity of Natural Heritage, preserve its ecosystems services which humankind rely on, it is immensely important to harness cutting edge technologies in the detection of deteriorating activities. The urgent and firm stance of the World Heritage Committee on continuous monitoring through geographic information systems tools will contribute to proper monitoring and protection of World Heritage properties.
Such a stance should be ensured by collaboration with civil society and entitled bodies, by key performance indicators and real actions to scale up transparency and prevent tipping point and irreversible losses of biodiversity and ecosystems.
To affirm such commitments the World Heritage Committee is encouraged to recommend State Parties and State Parties are encouraged to provide the next reports on the state of conservation of the property with assessment outputs on damage caused by disturbances revealed by the current research and include information about their remediate actions to reduce adverse impact and prevent similar risks in the future.