Protecting the Ecosystems Across the Globe

Permaculture magazine
Thursday, 4th August 2016

A UNESCO report has been released, exploring how five diverse and phenomenal sites in our oceans need to be protected.

Planet Earth is filled with landscapes, ecosystems, structures, forests and more that need protecting and preserving. Since 1972, UNESCO have been working towards protecting and preserving natural and cultural sites.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre have now released a report exploring how five sites, found in the High Seas, should be protected.

As it stands, these five sites cannot be inscribed on the World Heritage List because they are outside of any national jurisdiction, but this doesn't mean they should be lost. Seventy percent of our planet is covered with ocean and nearly two-thirds of the ocean lies beyond the jurisdiction of nations. The open ocean is a vast majestic place that covers half our globe.

The five sites discussed are: the Costa Rica Thermal Dome (Pacific Ocean), a unique oceanic oasis, which provides critical habitat for a thriving marine life, including many endangered species; the White Shark Café (Pacific Ocean), the only known gathering point for white sharks in the north Pacific; the Sargasso Sea (Atlantic Ocean), home to an iconic ecosystem built around a concentration of floating algae; the Lost City Hydrothermal Field (Atlantic Ocean), an 800 meter-deep area dominated by carbonate monoliths up to  60 meters high; and the Atlantis Bank, a sunken fossil island in the subtropical waters of the Indian Ocean.

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These sites could be recognised as having outstanding universal value, a key principle of the World Heritage Convention, where spectacular qualities are seen to transcend national boundaries. The five sites vary in rich biodiveristy to natural phenomena, that can only be found in the depths of our oceans.

Permaculturists and environmentalists will know how important diverse ecosystems are to the balance of the planet. We need to be protecting as many of these areas as we can. These sites are not safe from the threats of climate change, deep seabed mining, navigation or plastic pollution. 

The preface of the report (World Heritage in the High Seas: An Idea Whose Time has Come) states: “Just as on land, the deepest and most remote ocean harbors globally unique places that deserve recognition, just as we have given to the Grand Canyon National Park in the United States of America, to the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador or the Serengeti National Park of the United Republic of Tanzania.”

“The High Seas have outstanding value on the global scale, yet they have little protection,” said Dan Laffoley, Principal Advisor on Marine Science and Conservation for IUCN and co-author of the report. “These areas are exposed to threats such as pollution and over-fishing. It is therefore crucial to mobilize the international community to ensure their long-term conservation.”

For the sites to benefit from the World Heritage Convention, the inscription process needs to be adjusted. Currently only countries can propose sites for inscription, but these sites do not fall under national jurisdiction. The report explores three ways in which protection could be expanded.

To find out more and read the full report visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/highseas

Further resources

Designing regenerative cultures

How to help keep the oceans clean

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