- The Everglades National Park is the only site in the United States designated as “critical.”
- Globally, the number of assessed sites that have been threatened by human-caused climate change has nearly doubled from 35 to 62 since 2014.
Florida’s Everglades National Park remains the most endangered natural world heritage site in the United States, a new report says.
According to a World Heritage Outlook released last month by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the outlook for the Everglades is “critical” and is the only site of 11 sites assessed in the United States to be designated as such. The site keeps the same critical designation that it received the last time IUCN assessed the sites in 2014.
The Switzerland-based nonprofit assesses 241 natural wonders around the world from the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to California’s Redwood National Forest. Of those assessed this year, 17 were rated critical and all primarily a result of human-caused climate change, among other causes.
“Potential threats, including hurricanes, climate change, and ocean acidification to the site are a high threat overall and are potentially being realized already,” the report notes.
Globally, the number of sites that have been threatened by global warming has nearly doubled from 35 to 62 since 2014.
“Climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet,” Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, said in a press release.
The assessment notes that the Everglades are threatened by a reduction of water flows caused by the system of dams and canals built over the years to reroute water for development and farming. Other factors contributing to its decline include water pollution and a shifting habitat that is affecting the health, amount and quality of the habitat.
“Some of these losses cannot be restored, as habitat features have taken decades to centuries to develop,” the report says.
The wetland is home to about 20 species either threatened or endangered, including the American crocodile, the green sea turtle and the Florida panther, according to the assessment.
The nonprofit also notes that invasive species like the Burmese python and black and white Argentine tegu have become an issue that “cannot be erased, only managed” and climate-driven sea level rise has pushed saltwater into areas that were previously freshwater, changing the feeding locations of wading birds.
The nonprofit notes that the site is important because the “natural resources protected by Everglades National Park provide key ecosystem services to the regional human population.”
“These services include water storage and recharge of the aquifer, buffering against the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as economic benefits associated with tourism, including recreational fishing, and the commercial fishing industry,” the report says.
Andersen urges world leaders to address climate change before it is too late for these sites and others not assessed by the group.
“The scale and the pace at which (climate change) is damaging our natural heritage underline the need for urgent and ambitious national commitments and actions to implement the Paris Agreement,” Andersen said.
By Pam WrightDecember 01, 2017 TWC Canada