Too often we take our nature environment – our corals, forests and national parks – for granted, expecting they will always be there for us to experience and visit.
Sadly that’s not always the case. And the mix of climate change, over exploitation and other damaging human activities some of the most spectacular sights around the world could disappear.
RTCC takes a look at some of the top tourist destinations which you should visit sooner rather than later as their existence is putting increasingly at risk.
Just remember to offset your flights and don’t leave any rubbish behind!
With picturesque beaches, clear blue waters, welcoming residents and stunning coral reef systems, this collection of islands have come to represent the epitome of paradise.
Visitors to the country’s countless resorts can expect luxury at every turn. All year round sunshine teamed with fantastic diving and snorkelling opportunities the Maldives is the destination of choice for everyone from honeymooners to explorers.
But this once in a lifetime holiday could become a once is its lifetime experience as the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change predicts sea levels could rise anywhere between 18 and 59 cm by the end of the century.
The highest point of the Maldives is just 2.4 meters above sea level and 80% of it is less than a 1 metre above. Much of the Maldives could be underwater or under serious threat by the end of the century.
Great Barrier Reef
One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world’s largest coral reef, made up of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays – sandy islands formed on the surface of a reef.
The site is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, with over 1,500 species of fish, over 360 species of hard coral and 5,000 species of mollusc. The reef also supports more than 175 species of bird and all types of sponges, anemones, marine worms and crustaceans. This makes it a diver’s paradise.
Having formed over millions of year, the Great Barrier Reef may not remain the spectacular wilderness we know today for much longer. Climate change, ocean warming and acidification all threaten to degrade the corals – impacting the biodiverse ecosystems which rely on it.
At a International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns this week, scientist Janice Lough from James Cook University warned that the Barrier Reef could be “boring and full of rubble” by the end of the century if climate change is not halted.
If raw nature is your thing, there is no where else in the world that comes close to Madagascar.
Separated from mainland Africa by hundred of kilometres of sea, Madagascar’s plants and animals have evolved into some of the weirdest forms on the planet.
To get an understanding of just how natural significant this island is, Madagascar and its neighbouring island groups contain eight plant families, four bird families and five primate families found nowhere else on Earth.
Nowhere else in the world would you be able to see over 50 varieties of lemur, the world’s biggest and smallest chameleons and the elephant bird – the largest bird that ever lived.
While Madagascar will not itself disappear, some of these species which make the island so unique may soon be gone.
Already 15 varieties of Lemur have been driven to extinction by human activity and many more species both on land and sea are under threat.
The main threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity are small-scale but widespread clearance of habitats – for firewood and charcoal production – subsistence agriculture and over-fishing. Climate change is also impacting the region with wetlands and mangroves under threat from sea-level rise and corals from bleaching and changes in seasonal current and weather patterns.
Mount Kilimanjaro Ice Cap
Kilimanjaro National Park is one of Tanzania’s most visited parks. Opened in 1977, the park isn’t visited for its wildlife – although there is plenty to be seen. Rather trekkers head for the snow-capped figure of Mount Kilimanjaro – to climb it and claim to have visited the top of Africa.
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and is also one of the highest freestanding mountains in the world. As people climb to the peak they travel through cultivated farmlands, lush rainforest and alpine meadows, finally reaching the barren landscape of the mountain’s two summits.
The extent to which this snowy peak is melting is widely debated – and the extent to which climate change is to blame even more so. Other than climate change, deforestation at the mountain’s foothills is another factor blamed for the melting ice.
Whatever the cause of this ice melt, a study published by Nature in 2009 said the mountain could be bare as early as 2020-2022.
Jordan’s Dead Sea
The lowest spot on earth, the Dead Sea sit 417 metres below sea level.
The Dead Sea is actually a salt lake bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. Its unique selling point is that this body of water has the highest concentration of salt in the world – due to the quantity of water evaporating from it being greater than that which flows into it.
While this salinity prevents life from being sustained in the lake – hence the name Dead Sea – it does mean that humans can float like a cork on the water. It is also said to have therapeutic minerals and provide relief for those who visit it for its healing properties.
But in the last four decades the Dead Sea has shrunk by a third – leaving once seaside resorts and restaurant over a mile from shore. Environmentalists are warning that unless this rate is slowed, the sea could have disappeared completely by 2050.
The main cause behind this disappearance is due to the water that used to feed into the lake being diverted for industry, agriculture and domestic use in both Israel and Jordan.
Climate change is predicted to make the area even more arid, putting further pressure on water resources.