Climate change threatens World Heritage Sites including one in Yukon, says report

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A report from an international organization that monitors global biodiversity says climate change is an immediate threat to one-third of all World Heritage Sites, including one in Canada's North.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says of 252 natural World Heritage Sites, 83 are threatened by climate change.

The group's World Heritage Outlook 3 report, released Wednesday in Switzerland, says those sites include the Great Barrier Reef and locations ranging from South Africa to Brazil along with Kluane Lake in southwest Yukon.

The report assigns a "critical" rating to the Great Barrier Reef for the first time, while it says the rapidly melting Kaskawulsh Glacier has changed the water flow into Kluane Lake, depleting fish populations.

The study assesses threats to the protection and management of unique values within each World Heritage Site and finds 30 per cent face threats of "significant concern," while critical threats exist in seven per cent of the sites.

The report says half of the sites have "effective" or "highly effective" protection and management, with sustainable funding being the most common issue rated as a serious concern.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is composed of government and private groups from 170 countries, including Canada, and spokesman Peter Shadie says it aims to ensure a "brighter future for nature's finest."

"The findings of the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 3 point to a dire need for adequate resources to manage our irreplaceable natural areas," he says in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.

The Canadian Press