The countdown to climate change

By Georgia Clarke

Global temperatures are predicted to rise up to 4°C by the end of the century, bringing with it a whole host of changes to many regions. UNESCO has put together a list of World Heritage Sites that are likely to be impacted by climate change and have their unique environment altered forever. So, if you are considering where to go on your next adventure, you might want to think about visiting one of these time-sensitive destinations.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone is renowned for its geothermal features, such as erupting geysers like Old Faithful and colourful hot springs including Grand Prismatic. If this isn’t enough to tempt you to visit, the wildlife in Yellowstone is enough of a reason to go. Bears, wolves, bison, moose, raptors and eagles frequent the area and can be spotted whilst driving and hiking through the area. The many campsites and trails throughout the park make this a destination perfect for anyone looking to escape to the great outdoors.

Global temperatures are predicted to rise by up to 4°C by the end of the century

However, some of the area’s species are at risk as temperatures continue to rise. Yellowstone is experiencing shorter winters and less snowfall, affecting the volume of water in rivers and lakes, which are gradually becoming shallower and warmer. Many of the area’s wetlands are also reducing in size. These changes are greatly impacting many of the species that rely on these ecosystems, meaning the richness of species in Yellowstone could be altered drastically in the years.

The Galápagos Islands

Image by Wanderlasss via flickr creative commons

The Galápagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador and are perhaps most well known for inspiring Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The varying environments on each island have led to a great richness of species in the area, including the Galápagos tortoise, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies. Many of these species, however, are vulnerable to warming oceans and more extreme weather brought about by global warming.

As temperatures rise, it is predicted that there will be changes to the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which is characterised by warm and nutrient-poor waters. If El Niño events occur more frequently, marine species may experience food shortages, as populations of phytoplankton are less accessible. Also, during El Niño years, soils tend to be moister and colder, which may lead to diminishing numbers of turtle nests.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments and is much closer to home than the other destinations on this list, and brilliant for a smaller budget. The structure was built around 5,000 years ago during the Neolithic era, with many recovered objects from this time on show at the accompanying visitor centre. However, warmer temperatures and increased precipitation threaten the site.

Warmer winters may result in increases in populations of burrowing animals like moles, causing soil erosion that can weaken the foundations of the stonework. Similarly, more rainfall and subsequent flooding can cause soil erosion. These changes could cause the monuments at Stonehenge to be destabilised and so the original design may be under threat.

Venice

Venice is a city rich in culture, crammed with brilliant architecture, churches and museums that attract millions of visitors each year. Canals connect the different islands of the city and many people talk about the beauty of walking over the many bridges and getting ‘lost’ in the city. However, choosing the right time to visit is a trade-off between weather, crowds and ‘acqua alta’, in which the city floods towards the end of the year. Generally, it seems that spring and autumn are the best times to visit in order to avoid crowds whilst still experiencing some warm weather.

Image by Pedro Szekely via Flickr creative commons

 

Venice has always had issues with flooding, but rising sea levels are exacerbating the issue. The flood barriers built by the city to manage flooding will eventually be overwhelmed and parts of the city will flood for more than just a few weeks of the year.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh has something for every visitor, from the bustling city of Dhaka lled with temples, mosques and markets, to the mangroves in which Bengal tigers roam. You can spend one day tasting tea in the tea region of Sreemangal and the next day relaxing on the beach at Cox’s Bazar.

Natural disasters are predicted to become more frequent as our climate continues to change

However, Bangladesh has been pinned as one of the countries in South Asia that will be most affected by climate change. The country extends across the largest delta in the world, meaning the area is low-lying and subject to frequent flooding. As sea levels rise, more land is lost to the sea and people are being forced to move inland into temporary settlements. Furthermore, natural disasters are predicted to become more frequent as our climate continues to change. So, if visiting Bangladesh is on your list, you may want to visit before any more land is lost.

Featured photograph: Georgia Clarke

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