Journal article

Disappearing world heritage glaciers as a keystone of nature conservation in a changing climate

  • Bosson, J.‐B. World Heritage Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gland Switzerland
  • Huss, Matthias Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), ETH Zurich, Switzerland - Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Osipova, E. World Heritage Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gland, Switzerland
Published in:
  • Earth’s Future. - 2019, vol. 7, no. 4, p. 469–479
English Since 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention aims to identify and protect sites of Outstanding Universal Value for future generations. However, growing impacts of climate change are of the utmost concern for the integrity of many sites. Here, we inventory the glaciers present in natural World Heritage sites for the first time. We found 19,000 glaciers in 46 sites located all over the world. We analyze their recent evolution, current state, and project their mass change over the 21st century. Our results are based on a comprehensive review of the literature as well as a state‐of‐ the‐art glaciological model for computing glacier responses up to 2100. Illustrating the strong influence of CO2 emission scenarios and human actions on future ice loss magnitude, we project the wastage of 33% to 60% of the 2017 cumulative ice volume of 12,000 km3 of World Heritage glaciers by 2100. Furthermore, we expect complete glacier extinction in 8 to 21 of the investigated World Heritage sites until the end of the century, depending on the climate scenario. We suggest that World Heritage glaciers should be considered as analogs to endangered umbrella, keystone, and flagship species, whose conservation would secure wider environmental and social benefits at global scale.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
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