31 May 2013, Dresden. The Director of UNU-FLORES, Prof. Dr. Reza Ardakanian presented a speech entitled “Climate impact on Natural Heritage and on Environmental Resources: the need for an integrated management approach” at the panel session of the UNESCO Chair in International Relations Conference on Climate Change as a Threat to Peace: Impacts on Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diversity.
Natural heritage sites are obviously closely related to and affected by environmental resources (such as water, soil, waste) of the area they are situated in. However, also cultural heritage sites are not only affected by e.g. water (via precipitation, water level etc), but in most cases part of a cultural landscape in which the surrounding nature its environmental resources are a critical element. This notion certainly holds for cultural heritage sites such as Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (Iran) or the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou (China), in which water is an essential part. It is also true, however, for sites such as the City of Vienna, in which the river Danube is an essential element. Thus, virtually all Cultural Heritage Sites cannot be managed and maintained without considering their natural environment.
Climate change directly affects both Natural and Cultural Heritage sites (e.g. changing temperature and precipitation patterns and changing, often increasing frequency of catastrophic events), but, perhaps more importantly, it has an indirect effect via its impact on the environmental resources. In addition, climate change may increase the pressure on heritage sites by increasing human impact, since the people in the region may face a shortage of natural resources and/or increase in population density, which means one has to consider impacts of global change rather than only climate.
Mitigating the direct and indirect impacts of global change on heritage sites and/or adapting to it requires an integrated approach. Protection and management of heritage sites must be considered in the context of managing environmental resources in the region in a sustainable way. In addition, especially in developing countries, these management strategies need to be embedded in a suite of measures and activities in capacity development addressing all relevant stakeholders. The Mission of the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) is to address the urgent need for integrated and sustainable management strategies, which may also be termed as a nexus approach to the management of water, soil and waste. Implementing such strategies will be one means to manage and maintain world heritage, be it natural or cultural.