Can you believe that the primary threats to natural world heritage are caused by human activity? It’s true! The human species poses many threats to natural heritage through the different activities we carry out. Some of these threats include climate change, invasive alien species, building of infrastructure, negative impacts of tourism, and plastic pollution.
What is natural heritage?
Our world’s cultural heritage includes tangible heritage and intangible heritage. The tangible heritage is made up of built heritage, such as historic places and sites and natural heritage consisting of natural areas of outstanding universal values, treasured for their beauty, special geological features, and biodiversity. They are home to many endangered species of animals and plants. Through actively engaging in the conservation of the world’s natural heritage sites, we can protect all these species of animals and plants, thus preserving the beauty and charm of our natural heritage.
Threats to natural heritage
The biggest threats to our natural heritage are climate change, invasive species, and the negative impacts of tourism.
Other factors threatening the safety of natural heritage and its biodiversity are man-made constructions, exploitation of earth’s resources such as oil and gas, and mining. And another big problem is plastic pollution, especially harmful to marine biodiversity.
The biggest problem our planet is facing is climate change. And yes, climate change is real! And if we don’t start taking this issue seriously, we will only accelerate the rate of deterioration of natural heritage sites, and we will start losing more and more of our planet’s magnificent biodiversity.
Some of the sites that are strongly affected by climate change are the sites containing coral reefs and glaciers.
Think about the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It is home to the world’s largest collection of coral reef networks with hundreds of types of corals whose integrity is severely threatened by global warming. And if the coral reefs deteriorate, the lives of the thousands of types of marine species that are part of the coral reef habitat are also threatened.
Moving on from coral reefs to glaciers — many glaciers around the world are also threatened by global warming. The increasing temperatures could lead to the disappearance of some of these glaciers by the end of this century. With the melting of the ice from glaciers, we will see an increase in the sea level. This will affect the coastline, with severe consequences on the world’s economy, and could even give rise to a humanitarian crisis. It’s like starting a chain reaction. It would be better if we could stop it before it’s too late.
Invasive alien species
Invasive alien species can be species of plants or animals, or other organisms that are not native to a certain place. Whether they got there by accident—maybe through shipping and tourism—or they were deliberately introduced to that area as a temporary solution to a problem, they do not belong there, and they can be very harmful to our world’s natural heritage. Their presence in an ecosystem where they do not belong can disrupt the natural balance of the species native to that ecosystem and can even lead to the extinction of the native species.
Building of infrastructure
As we construct more and more roads, dams, and buildings, we disrupt the natural balance of an ecosystem. This leads to habitat fragmentation, which has severe consequences on biodiversity by reducing the contact between populations of species. This makes it more difficult for the different species to survive in an environment that feels alien to them. These kinds of threats to biodiversity also come from the exploitation of natural resources—mining and gas and oil extraction.
Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to the biodiversity of the marine environment. We’ve all seen images of plastics washed out on the shore, and fish swimming among plastics, and I’m sure many of us have seen that heartbreaking video of the turtle with the plastic straw stuck in its nose. How sad is that?! And that’s not all! The damages continue when the plastic breaks down into microplastics, threatening the lives of the sea creatures ingesting those particles. In the comments below, let me know any examples of how plastic pollution is harming our environment.
Negative impacts of tourism
Tourism activities can be related to all the aforementioned factors. While tourism is great for a country’s economy and useful in creating cultural links between people, it also poses threats to our world’s heritage sites through all the different factors mentioned above. Our travels to the sites lead to CO2 emissions, and these carbon dioxide emissions then contribute to climate change. Our presence at the natural sites has similar effects to the introduction of invasive species. It requires the building of additional infrastructure to support all the tourists visiting a site. And finally, the plastic pollutions that we leave behind can be very detrimental to that site.
One place where we can see the problem with plastic pollution is Rapa Nui (or Easter Island). A small island in the middle of the Pacific, far off the coast of Chile, Rapa Nui is the home of the famous moai statues. But because it is so famous and so many tourists visit the island to admire the moai, the island is now battling severe plastic pollution left behind by tourists visiting the island. If we create these problems, we also need to work on creating solutions for them.
These are some of the major threats to our natural world heritage. They are many, and they pose big challenges. But that doesn’t mean we’re doomed! There are plenty of actions we can take against these threats.
This is our planet, our heritage, and we need to protect it. We need to act before it’s too late! Until Elon Musk manages to colonize Mars, Earth is our only home. And even after we colonize other planets, Earth will still be our home and we need to protect it. It’s up to each of us to take action, to play our parts in protecting our planet, whether it’s from climate change, plastic pollution, or exploitation of earth’s natural resources. We have to consider the effects of our actions on the planet we call home.
Thinking about all these threats to natural world heritage helps us be more conscious about our own actions and be more careful, so our actions don’t harm our natural heritage and its biodiversity. We need to protect our world to ensure our future generations, our children, our grandchildren, and many generations after them have a habitable planet they can call home.
*images - from Canva