It is heartbreaking to hear news about the drastic changes in our environment, with global warming only making it worse. By 2030, the Great Barrier Reef will be bleached; the Arctic ice caps will melt, leaving the North Pole bare; and glaciers in the Swiss Alps and Mount Kilimanjaro would be gone.
The immediacy of these timelines prompts curious travelers to visit environmentally-fragile areas before they would be gone for good. Tourism can be good and bad for these areas; while it can add strain to already distressed areas, it can also provide income to help preserve these wonders. Here are 10 areas under threat we think should be witnessed and experienced by everyone before it is too late.
Belize Barrier Reef – Located in Central America, it is one of the most diverse reefs in the world and home to whale sharks, rays, and manatees. The reef has suffered severe bleaching in 1998, losing 50 percent of its coral, including its distinctive staghor coral. Sad thing is that decline still continues due to global warming, coastal development, and an invasion of cruise ships.
Congo Basin – Spanning 1.3 million square miles, it is the world’s second-largest rainforest. According to the UN, up to two-thirds of the forest could be lost by 2040, including its unique plants and wildlife, unless more effective measures are taken to protect it. Every year, 10 million acres of forest is degraded due to mining, illegal logging, agriculture, and guerilla warfare.
Dead Sea – At 1,312 feel below sea level, the Dead Sea is considered as the lowest spot on earth. It is 10 times more saline than seawater and is believed to contain therapeutic minerals. Techincally a lake, it has shrunk by a third and sunk 80 feet in the last four decades. With its only water source, the Jordan River, continued being tapped for consumer use, little reaches the Dead Sea. It also faces degradation from cosmetic companies and potash producers who drain the sea for minerals. If the trend continues, environmentalists fear the lake could disapper within 50 years.
Everglades – This unique wetland environment found in Florida, U.S.A, spans 2.5 million acres and is dotted with cypress swamps, mangroves, sawgrass, and pine savannahs. It is also the only place on earth where crocodiles and alligators share territory. The wetland is at risk from pollution brought by farms, invasive species, encroaching development, and irrigation. Because of these, the Everglades is now half the size it was in 1900. Its native species, including the Florida panther, are also in danger and may be completely lost within the next 40 years.
Madagascar – Eighty percent of plants and wildlife can only be found on the world’s fourth largest island, thanks to millions of years of isolation from Africa. Sadly, its forest slowly disappears because of logging, agriculture, and poaching. Environmentalists fear that its forests–and their unique inhabitants, some have never even been recorded–will be gone in 35 years.
Maldives – This archipelago is rich in coral reefs and endangered fish. Located only eight feet above sea level, it is the world’s lowest nation and scientists are concerned that its 1,190 small islands and atolls would become the first casualties if global warming continues to melt the ice caps, which raises sea levels.
The Poles – The world’s coldest regions are home of unique environments and majestic animals. As global warming continues, the ice caps continue to melt at an alarming rate, rasing concerns that its native species of penguin and polar bears are in danger of extinction. Studies even predict that with continued warming, no ice will form in Antartica within 20 to 40 years.
Rajasthan – Located in India’s Ranthambore province, it is one of the best places to see wild tigers. However, with only 3,200 tigers left in the wild, the big cat might be gone within our lifetime, possibly in as soon as 10 years. Their habitats have been reduced by 93 percent and are being poached for use in Chinese traditional medicine.
Tahuamanu Rainforest – This magnificent rainforest in Peru’s Madre de Dios region is home of parrots and macaws who feed off its salt cliffs, which are said to be the largest in the world. These birds share territory with endangered animals like giant armadillos, ocelots, jaguars, and giant otters. This area is in danger of depletion as its mahogany trees are continued to be cut for furniture, while gold mining has released poisonous mercury into the air and water.
Yangtze River Basin (pictured) – It is home of exotic creatures like giant pandas, dwarf blue sheep, finless porpoises, and Siberian cranes. These animals share territory with over 400 million people, but the river basin’s biggest threat is China’s massive Three Gorges Dam, which has since displaced farmers, flooded villages, and put its indigenous animals in danger.
Source: Yahoo! Travel