17 Australian World Heritage areas at risk


Climate Change

Agincourt Reef (GBR)

The Great Barrier Reef has been identified as one of 17 iconic Australian sites vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Credit: Darren Jew/Tourism QLD

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Seventeen of Australia's iconic World Heritage properties will experience increased risks from climate change, a new report has found.

Natural sites including the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, Lord Howe Island Group, the Tasmanian Wilderness and the Greater Blue Mountains Area are identified as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as is the Sydney Opera House.

These effects include reduced rainfall, higher sea and land surface temperatures, more severe storm events, ocean acidification and rising sea levels.

The report, published this week and available HERE, is the first comprehensive investigation by any country into the impacts of climate change on all of its World Heritage properties.

"The disintegration of our World Heritage areas would be an irreparable loss to our local communities and the global community,'' the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, said.

"We must act now to ensure they are conserved for the future.''

The report outlines particular risk to the Great Barrier Reef, our largest World Heritage icon, extending from the tip of the Cape York Peninsula to south-east Queensland.

"Its network of reefs - about 2,900 in total - is the largest and most complex coral reef system in the world," Garrett said.

"It is also home to significant biodiversity such as six of the world's seven species of marine turtles, one the world's most important dugong populations and is an important breeding area for humpback and other whale species.''

By identifying the areas at risk, the report will inform the Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Australia's World Heritage and Iconic Areas, which will outline clear principles and key actions for incorporating climate change adaptation into the management of Australia's World Heritage and iconic areas.

The news of our World Heritage sites in danger comes as four new sites are added to our National Heritage List including Queensland's Elizabeth Springs, home to a number of unique and endangered species and Porongurup National Park in Western Australia, part of the internationally recognised Southwest Australian ‘biodiversity hotspot’.