Natural hazard regulation: Sundarbans National Park (India) and The Sundarbans (Bangladesh)

Regulating services can reduce people's exposure to natural hazards such as floods, fire and droughts. The Sundarbans World Heritage Site has been selected to highlight the important benefits that mangrove ecosystems deliver as a result of natural hazard regulation. Inhabiting estuaries and inter-tidal zones, mangroves provide vital ecological stability by delivering protection against erosion, providing buffer zones and reducing flooding– thereby contributing to coastal protection (Colette, 2007; FAO, 2014). It is anticipated that coastal zones, such as the Sundarbans, will become increasingly prone to natural disasters as the results of climate change intensify (Agrawala et al., 2003). Increased exposure to natural hazards amplify the vulnerability of World Heritage Sites by increasing the chances that key ecosystems, listed for having Outstanding Universal Value, will be changed, degraded or destroyed (UNESCO et al., 2010).


Key Messages

- World Heritage sites can play an important role in mitigating the impacts of natural disasters (World Bank, 2010) through the delivery of regulating services which can reduce people's exposure to natural hazards such as floods, fire and drought (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Sites that conserve areas of mangroves are particularly important for their contribution to coastal protection and flood prevention.

- The increasing frequency of events, such as cyclones and storm surges, as a result of climate change highlights the urgent need to maintain healthy mangrove ecosystems for the continued delivery of benefits that local communities depend on and that contribute to human well-being.

- Evidence suggests that it is more cost effective to invest in risk prevention than to fund post-disaster recovery by preserving the delivery of disaster mitigating ecosystem services rather than attempting to recreate them once an ecosystem's capacity to provide these services has been reduced through degradation (UNESCO et al., 2010).

Location and World Heritage designation

Spanning 10,000km² along the coast of India and Bangladesh, the Sundarbans represent the largest expanse of contiguous mangrove forests in the world (Colette, 2007; Giri et al., 2007; UNEP-WCMC, 2011d). This globally significant ecosystem is situated on the Bay of Bengal, within the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers. A network of water courses intersect with a highly variable landscape, including sand bars, mud flats and mangrove islands (UNESCO, 2014i). Sixty percent of the area lies in Bangladesh with the remaining area in India. India's World Heritage site, Sundarbans National Park, was the first to be inscribed in 1987.  The Sundarbans Reserved Forest in Bangladesh was also designated a RAMSAR site in 1992 in recognition of its significance as a wetland of international importance (Ramsar, 2013).

Inscribed on the World Heritage List under natural criteria (ix) and (x), the Sundarbans National Park and The Sundarbans represent a wetland ecosystem rich in biodiversity and is the only mangrove ecosystem left in the world to support the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris).  Due to the unique niche their root systems provide, the mangrove forest offers nursery habitats to a wide variety of invertebrate and fish species (Kathiresan & Bingham, 2001). The area is also recognized for supporting important ecological processes, such as delta formation, tidal influence and plant colonization (UNEP-WCMC, 2011d).

Natural hazard regulation

The Sundarbans is situated in a region prone to a high incidence of cyclonic storms. Over the past two centuries the coastal areas and offshore islands of Bangladesh, which the majority of the Sundarbans belongs to, have been affected by 35 severe cyclones and storm surges (Akhand, 2003). In 2007 Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh causing the death of almost 3,500 people in Bangladesh and affecting millions of people along the coast (Dept. of Disaster Management - Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, 2012; Mirza, 2010). According to the IPCC projections, the frequency of dramatic weather events will increase as temperatures and sea levels rise (Dasgupta et al., 2007). Increasing the likelihood of flooding events, the Sundarbans region will become more vulnerable to cyclonic events (Agrawala et al., 2003).  The advanced warning system for cyclonic events has improved dramatically in recent years as a result of a government response (Paul, 2009) to Cyclone Gorky, which killed around 140,000 people in 1991. However, there are concerns that rising sea levels will compromise many of the current cyclone shelters (Karim & Mimura, 2008).

Extreme events impact ecological and human systems causing human suffering and economic losses thereby impacting human well-being. The region around the Sundarbans has one of the highest population densities in the world, as a result millions of people living throughout this complex landscape are currently benefiting from the coastal protection provided by these mangrove forests (Giri et al., 2007).

Intact ecosystems are better able to deliver the ecosystem services they provide, such as flood mitigation, and to withstand hazardous events. A study comparing the protection provided by intact and cleared mangrove areas in Belize, found that intact mangrove areas provided more protection from storm events than their degraded counterparts (Granek & Ruttenberg, 2007). In addition, evidence suggests that it is more cost-effective to protect ecosystems that deliver key natural disaster mitigating ecosystem services than to recreate them artificially. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has calculated the costs associated with building 2,200km of coastal embankments in the Sundarbans, which purportedly would provide an equivalent level of protection. It was estimated that US$294 million of capital investment and US$6 million for maintenance each year would be needed; an amount far greater than that currently spent on conserving this essential mangrove ecosystem (Colette, 2007).  Consequently, it is more economical to invest in risk prevention, through the preservation of ecosystem services, than to fund post-disaster recovery (UNESCO et al., 2010). Regardless of whether the number and strength of cyclones change as a result of climate change, "exposure of the region to the devastating effects of storms will increase if the mangroves cannot be conserved successfully" (Colette, 2007).

Doñana National Park (Spain)


Ecosystems and beneficiaries

The Doñana National Park occupies the bank of the Guadalquivir River at its estuary with the Atlantic, and so major habitats consist of lagoons, marsh, dune fields, and woodland (UNESCO, 2014). The World Heritage site covers 54,252 ha. The site supports important populations of threatened species and is the most important wintering site for waterfowl in Spain (UNESCO, 2014). Whilst there has been a history of ecosystem conversion (drainage of over half the marshes for agriculture and destruction of over half the cork tree forests), use has also been made of the natural ecosystems, including for grazing cattle, fishing, hunting, harvesting of wetland vegetation and tourism (UNESCO, 2014). However, some of this activity is not sustainable and current issues include poaching, over-grazing and illegal exploitation of crayfish.

The local economy

Until 1930 the population of the area was small, and the wetland ecosystems were largely intact, supporting a small-scale subsistence economy (EEA, 2010). Over the following 50-60 years agriculture expanded in the area as a result of drainage and irrigation schemes, forest plantations were established to supply the production of wood and pulp, and urban development for coastal tourism occurred on the edge of the park (EEA, 2010). This has been offset by investment in the area, such as marsh restoration and habitat management schemes. In addition, the Doñana National Park and the Environment Department of the Andalusian Government have invested resources in efforts to control invasive species (€3.7 million over the last 20 years (EEA, 2010)). Funds have also been spent on research (e.g. the Spanish Geology and Mines Institute has invested €1.9 million over the last several years on research of the aquifer (EEA, 2010)).

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The approach adopted for the economic analysis of Doñana (EEA, 2010) involved the collation of existing studies. Depending on the ecosystem service concerned, the studies had used either market price or contingent valuation methods. The sources used included the Agriculture and Fisheries Statistics Yearbook of Andalusia, Annual Reports of Activities of Doñana National Park, as well as a small number of research papers.

Main findings from the study

The total value of the ecosystem services delivered by the site was estimated to be €570 million a year (for 2006), which equates to US$ 7,845 per ha a year (in 2013 values). To put this value of the site (€570 million) into local context, it is equivalent to one-third of the annual budget for the Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Environment, covering the whole country (SEPG, 2013). The most valuable marketed ecosystem services are food (agriculture followed by fisheries). As for the non-marketed ecosystem services, landscape beauty is valued more highly than the regulating services. Table 7 reports the original values as well as the 2013 US$ values for the main ecosystem services the study explored.

Table 7. Annual value of ecosystem services and benefits from the Doñana National Park. Source: EEA, 2010

Ecosystem service categories            Total annual value (2006 € million)        Total annual value US$ (2013)
Food production  -crops                       240                                                                363
Food production - cattle                        69                                                                  104
Food production - crayfish                    3                                                                     5
Food production - marine fisheries    11                                                                  17
Food production - estuary fisheries    13                                                                  20
Other provisioning                                   2                                                                   3
Cultural (aesthetic only)                        86                                                                 130
Recreation/tourism                                64                                                                  97
Regulating services                               26                                                                 39

General conclusions from the case study

The approach adopted here involves a review of existing literature to derive values for both marketed and non-marketed ecosystem services. As such it relies on the existence of reports and studies that have examined ecosystem services for that area. The approach is relatively simple and low-cost, but it is unlikely that relevant studies exist for most World Heritage sites. It also means that there will be unfilled gaps in the literature, where some ecosystem services are left unvalued. Further, such studies do not provide useful information on where ecosystem services are mutually incompatible, or how management might change to minimize trade-offs between ecosystem service provision. Nevertheless the current value of the existing use of ecosystem services at a site is still useful for raising awareness to decision makers of the importance of a site.

Transboundary management of ecosystem services and benefits: The Wadden Sea (Denmark/Germany/the Netherlands)

Anja Domnick and Harald Marencic

Transboundary protected areas are a particularly important form of shared governance, involving two or more governments and other actors (Borrini-Feyerabend, 2013). These sites also face unique governance challenges.

Location and World Heritage designation

The Wadden Sea stretches for 500 km along the North Sea coast of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, and was inscribed on World Heritage List for its outstanding universal geological, ecological and biodiversity values. This large World Heritage site encompasses a multitude of transitional zones between land, the sea and freshwater environment, and is rich in species specially adapted to the demanding environmental conditions (UNESCO, 2014l).

Main ecosystem service provided by the site

The Wadden Sea plays an important role as a tourist destination and thus has a significant impact for the regional economy. Many regions are entirely dependent on tourism. Every year millions of tourists are drawn to the Wadden Sea coast. 50 million overnight guests and 30 – 40 million day visitors per year are attracted to experience this natural wonder. Tourism is one of the major sources of income in the region with a turnover over 5 billion € per year.


Nature conservation and recreation coexist well in the Wadden Sea, mainly due to long-term policies, comprehensive protection and management schemes.


Governance and management system

Almost the entire Wadden Sea is managed under a nature conservation regime with natural processes undisturbed throughout most of the area. Since 1978, the three countries have been cooperating successfully together to protect the entire Wadden Sea as an ecological entity as laid down in the Joint Declaration. The trilateral Wadden Sea Plan together with the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Programme is the framework for policy, management, monitoring, research, communication and education. The World Heritage status of the site underlines the fact that the Wadden Sea has to be protected and managed as one ecological entity.


However, as the area is a popular tourist destination for many generations, there is a risk that increased tourism may have negative impacts and that protection and conservation of the World Heritage Wadden Sea could be harmed by new touristic developments.


Responding to these challenges the transnational project "PROWAD", funded by the EU via the Interreg IV B North Sea Program, plays an essential role in enabling and facilitating countervailing strategies. It uses a combination of knowledge and information tools, procedural advice and practical support, and capacity building and training to strengthen cross-sector relations between stakeholders across local, regional, national and transnational levels to answer the question: How can sustainable tourism be guided into safe ways to minimize the environmental impact that may come with touristic activities in the World Heritage Wadden Sea area.


The development of the Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy for the entire Wadden Sea was commissioned in 2010. The strategy foresees multi-level involvement and collaboration among different sectors (such as tourism and private business sector, ministries, nature agencies, national parks and NGOs) to create effective solutions. The strategy outlines the true potential that exists for nature-based tourism in the Wadden Sea and how, by supporting and protecting the ‘Outstanding Universal Value' of the site, the provision of social, economic and environmental benefits can be ensured at local and regional levels.

Knowledge and Education: Sian Ka'an (Mexico)

Through living alongside an ecosystem, utilising its natural resources for food, fuel and medicines, indigenous populations come to understand how an ecosystem functions. Knowledge about the functioning of an ecosystem is valuable to both local and global communities, as it allows local communities to manage their resources in a sustainable manner, and provides opportunities to progress scientific knowledge. In this case study, we focus on Sian Ka'an to illustrate the benefits in terms of education and traditional ecological knowledge that can result from interacting with an ecosystem.

Key Messages

- World Heritage sites can provide cultural benefits in the form of education and knowledge to both local and global communities.

- The traditional ecological knowledge accumulated by indigenous populations through interacting with an ecosystem can provide valuable information:

- That allows indigenous populations to sustainably manage their natural resources.

- That combined with scientific knowledge can be used to create effective management strategies.

- Often being locations of high biodiversity, World Heritage Sites are valuable in terms of the scientific knowledge that they could generate through scientific research.

Location and World Heritage designation

Located on the Eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the State of Quintana Roo, Sian Ka´an, literally translating as "Where the sky is born" (UNEP-WCMC, 2011c) is one of Mexico's largest protected areas. Established in 1986 under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program, the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987 under criteria (vii) and (x) (UNESCO, 2014g), and manages around 530, 000 hectares  of marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems (UNEP-WCMC, 2011c).

Sian Ka'an supports an extremely diverse set of habitats including tropical forests, palm savannah, lagoons, sinkholes and swamps, extensive mangrove stands, sandy beaches and dunes and a large marine area bisected by part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (UNEP-WCMC, 2011c).  Particularly noteworthy are the "Cenotes", water-filled natural sinkholes isolated from each other, which have promoted rapid speciation, and resulted in a diverse set of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrate species (Kramer, 2002), and the "Petenes", which are tree islands emerging from the swamps. Sian Ka'an is home to a remarkably rich set of flora and fauna, (UNEP-WCMC, 2011c; UNESCO, 2014g), including the vulnerable West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), and the Black-handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) (UNESCO, 2014g). In 2003, the region was further recognised by being designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention (The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 2013). Culturally, this site is also important with evidence of human settlements dating back around 2,300 years being found, along with 22 other archeologically important sites.

Knowledge building and education

The indigenous Mayan people have lived for a long time within the ecosystems of the Sian Ka'an landscape (Brown & Hay-Edie, 2013), with discoveries of human remains, ceramic pieces, and other artefacts having been dated up to 2,300 years old (CESiaK, 2014). Living alongside the biodiversity of the region has allowed these communities to develop ways of using the natural resources for food, medicine, clothing and shelter. This traditional ecological knowledge enables these populations to utilise the natural resources, and often also promotes sustainable use of these resources and conservation of the ecosystem to allow future use of the resource. This knowledge when combined with scientific knowledge is potentially extremely valuable, as it can help develop management strategies that protect the ecosystem, while simultaneously helping the indigenous populations to meet their needs.

The Community Management of Protected Areas initiative (COMPACT) is a project being undertaken in the World Heritage Site combining such knowledge. COMPACT advocates principles of empowerment and self-supported development  in its aims to establish sustainable management strategies for Sian Ka'an (Brown & Hay-Edie, 2013). It relies heavily on participatory approaches with local stakeholders, to create management strategies, based on a combination of traditional ecological knowledge and scientific knowledge.

An example of such a strategy is the development of apiculture (bee keeping), which has helped maintain forest cover and improve the quality of life. Through financial support from COMPACT (Brown & Hay-Edie, 2013), a group of women have developed over 90 apitherapy products by combining honey with other products such as medicinal plants. COMPACT further supported this organisation by assisting them in obtaining an organic certification, allowing them to sell their products for a higher price. These are sold from a retail store and marketed at hotels and trade fairs nationally and internationally (Brown & Hay-Edie, 2013).

The Amigos de Sian Ka'an (ASK) is another such organisation. ASK have been operating in the World Heritage Site for the past 18 years where they have, and continue to, undertake work to help the Mayan culture survive by encouraging the use of traditional skills and development of economic activities, which help generate income but do not harm the environment. Examples include, embroidery, furniture carving, medicinal plant use and honey making (Amigos de Sian Ka'an, 2014).

As a biologically diverse site of outstanding natural beauty, sustainable tourism in Sian Ka'an is being backed by a number of organisations, including the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an (CESiaK), as a route to sustainably develop the region. Using local guides and their knowledge of the region (CESiaK, 2014) a number of tours venturing into the buffer regions of the World Heritage site have been organised. These ventures have increased average income,  allowed the community to diversify its income sources and has promoted the inclusion of women in new enterprises (UNESCO, 2014b). As local communities have benefitted directly from activities related to careful management of natural and cultural resources; an additional positive impact has been an increasing awareness of the connections between these activities and protection of the Sian Ka'an biosphere, including its status as a World Heritage site.

The World Heritage Site also houses an education centre which aims to provide tourists with an understanding of the ecosystem, the traditional Mayan culture, and sustainability projects taking place. Additionally through partnerships with Universities students can get involved with the ongoing projects taking place (CESiaK, 2014).

Governance by government: Yellowstone National Park (USA)

Harvey Locke

Yellowstone is one of the most famous national parks in the world and a model of a protected area managed by a government body. Yellowstone's management system as it has evolved since 1872 is interesting not only for this important park but also as an archetype of how the management of national parks evolves over time.

Location and World Heritage designation

Yellowstone National Park is the world's first national park (though not the first protected area) and was in the initial group of the five first natural sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.  It is a large park in the Rocky Mountains, square in shape, with most of its 900,000 ha area located in the State of Wyoming, USA, with small but significant edges in Idaho and Montana. World Heritage criteria (vii) through (x) are met in an exemplary fashion:  beauty and natural phenomena including half of the world's geothermal features, a magnificent canyon, important stages of earth's history especially relating to volcanism, ecological and biological processes of major significance (including exceptionally abundant and observable wildlife which includes the full range of carnivores native to the system and diverse ungulate prey base), and natural habitat representative of biological diversity including montane Douglas fir savannahs and the headwaters of the longest undammed river in the United States. Yellowstone is both a global icon of the national park and an exemplar of the large national park which is an important land use in western North America.

Main ecosystem services provided by the site

Yellowstone NP is the headwaters for the two largest river systems of the western United States: the Missouri- Mississippi and the Snake-Columbia. The Snake River is the source of freshwater for domestic consumption and irrigation for the largest part of the Idaho potato industry which is the largest potato producing region in the US.  The Missouri provides irrigation and freshwater for most of the state of Montana. The 1,114 km long Yellowstone River (which joins the Missouri) is the longest undammed river in the United States which provides vital natural processes for native fish and riparian species. Yellowstone Lake located entirely within the national park is the largest lake at high elevation (2,357 m) in North America and has exceptional water quality (

Carbon is stored in park soils and forests. The park is an important natural control for the study of climate change. Ecosystem production and carbon fluxes in the Yellowstone region over the next century will likely reflect complex relationships between climate, forest age structure, and disturbance-recovery patterns of the landscape, plus management policies for large grazing herbivores and their predators (Genovese, 2011). Recent increases in fire activity suggest climate warming and associated alterations to hydrology are already changing disturbance regimes (Kashian et al., 2013).

Yellowstone is one of the premier ecotourism destinations in the western United States and draws visitors from around the world (3,188,030 visitors in 2013).  Eighty-eight percent of visitors are American (2011). The international visitors' origins are 27% from Canada, 11% from the United Kingdom, 10% from France, 10% from Germany, Netherlands 9%, 7% from China and the rest from other parts of Europe. Most visitors come in summer (June, July and August). There are no day-use limits and lodging and campgrounds in the park can accommodate about 14,300 visitors during the summer. There is significant additional supply of lodging and camping facilities in the gateway communities located outside the park (Gardiner and West Yellowstone in Montana, and Cody and Jackson in Wyoming). For all its popularity the park still offers wilderness solitude on an extensive network of backcountry trails and the Thorofare area of the park is the wildest and most remote place from a road in the lower 48 States. In 2010 45,045 people camped in the park's wilderness (; Kulesza et al., 2012a).

There are eleven native fish species. Recreational fishing is a popular activity in the park and is now managed to support native species restoration. Anglers must keep non-native fish and native fish must be released. Yellowstone has three of the four known pure wild populations of native Westslope Cuttthroat Trout that remain in the US and there are reintroduction efforts underway. There is one lake-based population of Arctic grayling.

The direct economic benefits are associated with tourism and park jobs. The Park's 3, 188,030 visitors in 2013 spent $382,000, 000 in local and non-local spending which supported 5,300 jobs.  Fifty one percent of the parks economic impact from ecotourism is realized in Montana and forty nine percent in Wyoming.  There are 550 total park staff (in summer there are 850 positions) and the Park's annual operating budget is $34 million. In addition, the park combined with its relative proximity to airports and attractive communities has given rise to a significant amenities–based economy that has driven most of the job growth in the region for the last twenty years (Cullinane et al., 2014).

Governance and management system

The Yellowstone National Park Act 1872 created the Park and dedicated it as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and protected the scenic and geological wonders; the Yellowstone Game Protection Act of 1894 then protected the Park's wildlife (except dangerous animals which were protected in 1931); the Park then became managed for future generations by the newly created US National Park Service under the Organic Act of 1916. The overall effect is that first, Yellowstone like all US national parks must be maintained in unimpaired form for the use of future generations as well as those of our own time; second, it is set apart for the use, observation, health, pleasure, and inspiration of the people; and third, the national interest must dictate all decisions affecting public or private enterprise in the parks.

The National Park Service's Call to Action 2013 promotes large landscape conservation to support healthy ecosystems and cultural resources.  There are also park specific rules and regulations designed to protect ecosystem services while allowing for visitor use (

The Park's Yellowstone Centre for Resources was created in March 1993 to centralize the park's science and resource management functions. It monitors the Park's ecosystem vital signs including ecosystem drivers, environmental quality, native species, stressors and cultural resources and publishes the findings periodically and employs between 100-150 staff including seasonal, temporary and permanent employees (Yellowstone Center for Resources, 2013).  Overall, there are 550 total park staff (in summer there are 850 positions).

The existing management system of the Yellowstone National Park has been efficient in protecting important natural processes and the flow of ecosystem services which results in significant benefits to local, regional and global beneficiaries. The site provides economic benefits in the range of half a billion dollars to its region and country and supports a robust amenities based-economy in adjacent areas. Through direct visitation it inspires over three million visitors a year and through its existence enriches the lives of the people of the United States and the entire world.

Pantanal Conservation Area (Brazil)


Ecosystems and beneficiaries

The Pantanal Conservation Complex consists of a cluster of four protected areas, with a total area of 187,818 ha (UNESCO, 2014), and is located in western central Brazil. The site represents 1.3% of Brazil's Pantanal region, which is one of the world's largest freshwater wetland ecosystems. Two major rivers flow from these headwaters. There is a high species abundance and diversity, including plants and birds, the latter attracting many tourists. Beneficiaries of the ecosystem therefore include these tourists (two-thirds of whom are from outside Brazil (Araújo & Bicalho, 2009)), as well as local cattle farmers and fishermen.

The local economy

The Pantanal is remote from the main centres of economic activity in Brazil; the nearest airport is located in the city of Cuiabá (around 100km away), which is the gateway to the region. Development in the Pantanal has been hindered by the cyclical hydrological regime: the Pantanal is an immense alluvial plain which becomes extensively flooded during the rainy season, temporarily storing a large volume of water (Swarts, 2000). Whilst cattle grazing is conducted in the Pantanal, it is sparsely populated, and in recent years many ranches have switched to tourist lodges due to the declining profitability of ranching and the growing tourism sector (Araújo & Bicalho, 2009). Sustainable economic activities based on use of the ecosystem have been identified (Dolabella, 2000) as:

- cattle ranching, which has been conducted largely in natural pastures for 200 years with minimal negative impact on the environment, and the Brazilian Association of Organic Producers now has a number of members in the area raising organic cattle;

- tourism, mainly nature-based or eco-tourism, is another important (over 250,000 tourists a year in the southern Pantanal (Araújo & Bicalho, 2009)), and growing, economic activity, though ideally further growth would be aligned with a strategic plan to minimize negative impacts;

- sustainable fishing, though this requires not focussing on a limited number of species.

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The main economic analysis relating to the Pantanal was published in 2000 (Seidl & Moraes, 2000) and is based on the values contained in Costanza et al.'s much-cited Nature paper (Costanza et al, 1997). The study focuses on Nhecolândia, which is the second largest of the eleven Pantanal sub-regions, comprising some 19.5% of the region (Silva et al., 1998), though with a very small population (less than 2,000 inhabitants). The different biomes in the area were identified using satellite data and field plots were used to typify the general biophysical features of the categories. These were then assigned to one of four broad biome categories identified by Costanza et al (1997). The values of ecosystem services (simply transferring the per hectare/year values from the Costanza et al. study) were then weighted to appropriately reflect the amount of time and area spent providing services of a particular biome. For example, low-lying, flat grazing-lands were considered grasslands for two-thirds of the year and wetlands for one-third of the year. Note that these proportions, whilst considered typical for Nhecolândia, may not necessarily apply to other Pantanal sub-regions.

Main findings from the study

Table 5 shows the estimated annual value of a wide range of provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services and benefits in Pantanal da Nhecolândia. The first column of values list those reported in the original study, the second are up-rated (by Consumer Prices Index inflation measure).


Ecosystem service            US$ (1994) per hectare        US$ (2013) per hectare
   categories                        per year                     per year
Water supply                1,977.11                    3,108.41
Disturbance regulation        1,747.19                    2,746.93
Waste treatment                505.05                        794.04
Cultural                    25.13                        668.39
Water regulation            378.81                        595.56
Nutrient cycling            185.06                        290.95
Recreation/tourism            157.37                        247.42
Habitat/refugia                105.88                        166.46
Raw materials                75.05                        117.99
Gas regulation                67.35                        105.89
Erosion control                63.41                        99.69
Food production                53.4                        83.96
Climate regulation            44.76                        70.37
Soil formation                22.37                        35.17
Pollination                    12.27                        19.29
Biological control            11.29                        17.75
Genetic resources            8.23                        12.94

Total annual                 5,839.72                    9,181.21
regional value


Together, water supply and disturbance regulation (flood control) contribute close to two-thirds of the total calculated value. This makes sense due to the hydrological importance of this site. Some values were not included in the above (e.g. non-use and educational). However, evidence suggests that these are also significant. For example, multilateral donors provide grants for conservation activity and a former ranch of almost 8,000 ha of protected area was purchased for scientific research.

Cross-checking results with other studies of the area can be useful. For example, Shrestha et al, (2002) examined the recreational fishing value of the Pantanal using the travel cost method (see Section 4.3.2). It estimated that total social welfare ranged from US$35 million to US$56 million (1994 values). Recreational fishing was estimated to account for 80% of recreation at that time (Araújo & Bicalho, 2009). So, adjusting for this, results in an upper recreation value estimate of US$67 million (1994) for the whole of the Pantanal, which compares with around US$157 million in the above study (Table 5) just for Nhecolândia.

General conclusions from the case study

The approach (benefits transfer) is relatively simple but relies on the accuracy of the values being transferred to the new site. Some of the underlying studies used by Costanza et al (1997) were relatively deficient. However, valuation databases of values for benefit transfer now exist containing a larger number of more recent studies and these could be utilised to derive more accurate valuations for a site (they could be further improved following the approaches outlined in the methodology section 4.3.2). However, this approach offers an option as a first approximation of (a somewhat hypothetical) total value for awareness-raising purposes. Applying the average total regional value per hectare from this study to the area of the Pantanal Conservation Area gives a 2013 total ecosystem service value of US$1,700 million per year. To put this figure into local context, it is greater than the value of Brazil's exports of fish (FAO, 2010) and fresh fruit (IBRAF, 2011) combined, whilst the entire Brazilian Ministry of Environment annual budget for the years 2010-2012 was US$ 1,718 million (INESC, 2014).


The provision of natural resources: Gunung Mulu National Park (Malaysia)

Provisioning services are the material benefits that are directly obtained from an ecosystem. Protected areas, in addition to safeguarding regulating and supporting ecosystem services, can also provide provisioning services that can be directly utilised by local people. They can take a wide variety of forms, from fuelwood and timber for construction, to non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as medicinal plants, and bush-meat. These provisioning services allow local populations to meet their basic subsistence needs, support their livelihoods, and to live their lives as they choose. These two case studies - the Gunung Mulu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - illustrate the benefits derived from terrestrial and marine provisioning ecosystem services.

Key Messages

- World Heritage sites can significantly benefit human well-being through the provisioning ecosystem services.

- These provisioning services can be used to meet a number of different stakeholders needs for example:

- Indigenous peoples who rely on these services to meet their basic subsistence needs, support their livelihoods and underpin their way of life

- Recreational users who use the resource for recreational purposes, potentially generating an income for those who manage the resource.

- Conflicts between the conservation of a World Heritage Site and making use of its provisioning services need to be carefully resolved to ensure that a balance between conservation and sustainable use is reached.

- Once management strategies have been emplaced, ongoing monitoring is necessary to ensure that they are having the desired results, and that they can be adjusted if necessary.

Gunung Mulu National Park (Malaysia)

Location and World Heritage designation

Located on the island of Borneo within the State of Sarawak, a combination of its rain-forest covered mountains, wild rivers contained within deeply-incised canyons, sheer limestone pinnacles, long cave passages and immense caves makes Gunung Mulu national park a site of incredible natural beauty. Geologically the landscape is fascinating, holding records of over 1.5million years of change (UNESCO, 2014e), and providing one of the world's finest examples of collapsed karst terrain in the world (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a), with over 295 km of caves and tunnels in addition to the Sarawak Chamber, the world's largest known cave chamber (Eavis, 2006).

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000 (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a), Gunung Mulu National Park covers almost 53,000 ha (UNESCO, 2014e), is home to a large number of species endemic to the region, ranks near the top globally in terms of palm diversity, and features an extensive network of caves. These caves are home to millions of swiftlets and bats (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a), and provide a unique opportunity to study the origins of cave fauna.

The land adjacent to the national park is home to a number of tribes collectively referred to as the ‘Orang Ulu' (Sarawak Tourism Board, 2012). One tribe, the Penan is of particular interest to this case study. While the majority of the tribe has settled outside the boundaries of the national park, a small nomadic group lives in the eastern regions of the site. To protect the livelihoods of these people, the national park upon its inauguration gave them the rights to gather plant resources and hunt pig and deer within the subsistence zones of the national park (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a).

Provisioning services: food security, materials and health

The various indigenous tribes of the region have lived within the ecosystems of Gunung Mulu for a long time, with archaeological expeditions finding human remains, and evidence of burial rituals almost identical to those used today dating back 3,000 years (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a). Living alongside the biodiversity of the region for so long has allowed these communities to evolve traditional knowledge allowing them to fully utilise the natural resources for food, medicine, clothing and shelter.

In acknowledgment of this heritage both Penan and Berawan indigenous people who live beside and within the boundaries of the site were given hunting and collecting privileges allowing them to hunt and harvest semi protected species, such as the wild boar, for subsistence consumption (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a). This use of natural resources for helping local communities is important not only for helping them meet requirements in terms of food, but also in terms of respecting the tribe's customs and way of life.

In addition to helping overcome food security issues, the right to harvest timber and NTFPs from Gunung Mulu National park also contributes to the well-being of local populations by providing them with materials with which build and make the various items they need for day to day to life, traditional medicines, and goods. For example, a study conducted by Naming (Naming et al., 2008) found that the Penan communities of the Gunung Mulu region made use of a total of 490 different plants for a wide variety of uses. Of the plants identified by local communities, over half of the plants identified were used for medicinal purposes, with some examples of other uses including poisons, antidotes, insect repellents, ritual usage and food flavouring (Naming et al., 2008). 

To recognise the different users of the site, the management plan defines various zones within the National Park (UNEP-WCMC, 2011a). Traditional zones have been set aside for use by the indigenous population in these areas where indigenous populations have the right to hunt and gather. High density zones include some of the more easily accessible caves for use in tourism and the buildings necessary for the management of the park. The final zone designated are the wilderness zones which cover approximately 90% (UNESCO, 2014e) of the National Park area, and which are not open to the general public. Strict rules are in place to ensure that high density areas have a minimal impact on the local fauna as possible (Anderson et al., 1982; UNEP-WCMC, 2011a).

The provision of natural resources: Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

Provisioning services are the material benefits that are directly obtained from an ecosystem. Protected areas, in addition to safeguarding regulating and supporting ecosystem services, can also provide provisioning services that can be directly utilised by local people. They can take a wide variety of forms, from fuelwood and timber for construction, to non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as medicinal plants, and bush-meat. These provisioning services allow local populations to meet their basic subsistence needs, support their livelihoods, and to live their lives as they choose. These two case studies - the Gunung Mulu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - illustrate the benefits derived from terrestrial and marine provisioning ecosystem services.

Key Messages

- World Heritage sites can significantly benefit human well-being through the provisioning ecosystem services.

- These provisioning services can be used to meet a number of different stakeholders needs for example:

- Indigenous peoples who rely on these services to meet their basic subsistence needs, support their livelihoods and underpin their way of life

- Recreational users who use the resource for recreational purposes, potentially generating an income for those who manage the resource.

- Conflicts between the conservation of a World Heritage Site and making use of its provisioning services need to be carefully resolved to ensure that a balance between conservation and sustainable use is reached.

- Once management strategies have been emplaced, ongoing monitoring is necessary to ensure that they are having the desired results, and that they can be adjusted if necessary.

Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

Location and World Heritage designation

The Great Barrier Reef, located along the North Eastern coast of Australia, is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world and is thought to be around half a million years old. Consisting of more than 2,900 individual coral reefs and nearly 1000 individual islands and covering an area of approximately 34,870,000 ha, it is the single largest structure on Earth to have been created by living organisms. In addition to its reefs, the Great Barrier Reef also includes significant areas of mangroves, and sea grasses.

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981, the Great Barrier Reef is the most biodiverse World Heritage Site in the world. It contains over half of the world's Mangrove diversity, in addition to a great diversity of sponges, anemones, marine worms, crustaceans, fish, corals and birds to name but a few. The waters also provide major feeding grounds for one of the world's largest populations of the threatened dugong. At least 30 species of whales and dolphins occur here, and it is a significant area for humpback whale calving.

The Great Barrier Reef property has a long relationship with humans, with evidence suggesting that Aboriginal occupation of the coast probably dates back to the earliest human occupation of Australia around 40,000 years ago. Today, over 70 coastal clan groups maintain strong cultural relationships with the area and a number of native claims to land within the World Heritage Site are officially recognised.

Provisioning services: Fisheries

The Great Barrier Reef is used by a wide range of people, for a wide range of uses. Focusing on in the provisioning services, carefully managed commercial, recreational, and charter fishing, helps generate a significant income for the coastal populations, with commercial fishing generating Aus $192.5 from 2010-11 (Deloitte Access Economics, 2013), with a further Aus $57.7 million being generated from recreational fishing in the same time period (Deloitte Access Economics, 2013). In compliance with management strategies a range of species including fish, sharks, crabs and prawns are targeted over a wide area to help reduce the pressure on any one area. To ensure that sound management decisions are made extensive monitoring schemes exist, and altogether make the Great Barrier Reef one of the most highly monitored UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the World (UNESCO, 2014d). Commercial fishing within the Great Barrier Reef is controlled through permits, licensing, quotas and strict rules about methods used enforced (Australian Government, 2003). One of the key features of the Management strategy has been to ensure that commercial fishing is spread out over a wide area so to ensure that no single area is subject to high fishing pressure (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2011a). Recreational fishers are also carefully managed and are subject to size and possession limits in addition to seasonal and spawning closures to protect fish numbers.

In addition to commercial and recreational fishing, for the Aboriginal communities that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef, the reef and the coasts of the Heritage Area are part of their living cultural landscape, where the natural features that they have lived alongside for 60,000 years (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2011b) are inextricably interwoven with their spiritual life, economic uses and social organisation, of which fishing contributes significantly to their income. To protect the rights of these people the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority assists them register as Traditional Owners of part of the park which gives them not only the legal right to hunt, fish and gather within the designated site, but also the responsibility to manage it sustainably, with the help of the Reef Rescue Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships Program (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2011c).

Nature-based tourism: Wadi Al-Hitan (Egypt)

The wide range of benefits generated through cultural ecosystem services are complex, multidimensional and can contribute significantly to human well-being. While the cultural, spiritual and aesthetic aspects of ecosystem services play an essential role in human existence and quality of life, nature-based tourism also has the capacity to provide economic, educational and conservation benefits. With biodiversity and ecosystems in peril around the world, ecotourism is increasingly being embraced as a means of conserving protected areas. World Heritage Sites, by virtue of their globally recognized status, are often popular tourist destinations. While nature-based tourism is not always considered beneficial and potential negative impacts should also be taken into consideration when planning, the sustainable tourism initiative undertaken at Wadi Al-Hitan World Heritage Site provides an example of how nature-based tourism can be used to benefit both local communities and natural World Heritage Sites.

Key Messages

- The benefits nature-based tourism can provide to World Heritage Sites has been explored in both conservation and development contexts, and has been recognized for its ability to generate funds, create awareness and encourage conservation efforts by providing education and promoting sustainable practices. 

- Nature-based tourism initiatives can also facilitate local empowerment and encourage local communities to take responsibility for the long-term conservation of their natural assets.

- While it is important to recognize the benefits tourism can bring to the conservation of World Heritage Sites, it is equally important to acknowledge that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach and that negative impacts can result from mismanagement. Poorly managed tourism can compromise the integrity of a site, as well as its Outstanding Universal Value, and potentially create negative socio-cultural implications.

Location and World Heritage designation

The Wadi Al-Hitan World Heritage Site, also known as the Valley of the Whales, is situated in Egypt's Western Desert and covers 20,000 ha.  The site is located 150km southwest of Cairo and is part of, and managed under, the Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area (WRPA). Wadi Al-Hitan became a Special Protected Area within WRPA in 1997 and was awarded World Heritage Status in 2005. Identified as a site of Outstanding Universal Value under Criterion (viii), Wadi Al-Hitan has been recognized as the most important site in the world for demonstrating the pivotal evolutionary phase in which whales evolved from land-based mammals (UNEP-WCMC, 2011e). Emerging from a sediment depression that once represented a shallow bay in the Tethys Sea 40 million years ago, the fossils at Wadi Al-Hitan are distributed through three Eocene formations and provide a rich example of the fossil record through time. In addition to exemplary whale skeletons, the site has also revealed an abundant array of other life forms, including sea cows, turtles, crocodilians, marine invertebrates, and vegetation – such as ancient mangrove species.

Nature-based tourism

In 2005, the World Bank carried out a Country Environmental Analysis which identified Egypt's environmental problems as being closely linked with localized poverty.  The same year the global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlighted linkages between human well-being and poverty reduction (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). With this being said, ecotourism opportunities associated with the conservation of natural and cultural World Heritage Sites, providing that benefits are equitably shared, can foster community participation and support for conservation efforts through awareness building and education. In its recent evaluation report (2013), the Egyptian Italian Environmental Cooperation Programme approached the issue of poverty alleviation and the advancements made regarding quality of life. In assessing the impacts of the programme, the report concluded that projects, including those ongoing at Wadi Al-Hitan, enabled both natural and cultural World Heritage Sites to become community development assets. Benefits that ecotourism can provide to communities surrounding Wadi Al-Hitan include: job creation, local economy diversification, community awareness/education, and additional support operations. With increases in tourism, local beneficiaries can also develop their own small businesses – including handicraft production.

Although an earlier report (2007) produced by the Nature Conservation Sector of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency found that local communities around the Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area had limited awareness of the benefits the protected area provided to their communities, Wadi Al-Hitan has been identified as a good example of how well planned tourism development can provide local benefits (Borges, Carbone et al., 2011). Although small-scale, most of the services offered to site visitors are provided by local communities. In order to facilitate this, emphasis has been placed on capacity building so that local people can develop the skills they need to offer these services (Borges et al., 2011).

Wadi Al-Hitan reflects a World Heritage site which has undergone a gradual transformation in regards to the conservation and management of its geological legacy. The increased prioritization of the site, along with internal restructuring and considerable improvements in regards to monitoring and ecotourism development were cultivated with a specific goal in mind – to establish the site as an example for other protected areas in Egypt. Although management work, in response to growing visitor numbers, had already begun at the site prior to its inscription, the strategies implemented as a result of World Heritage listing demonstrate concerted efforts to minimize damage to the site while improving the experiences of tourists. In receiving World Heritage status in 2005, a stronger emphasis was put on the conservation of Wadi Al-Hitan.  This emphasis included more community involvement, improved infrastructure and interpretation materials, staff capacity building and increased governmental support.

Cultural and spiritual values: Laponian Area (Sweden)

Different cultures place values on natural features of the environment that have great meaning and importance for them and on which their survival as cultures depends. These values can be cultural but also spiritual. The later refer to the transcendent significance of nature that puts people in touch with a deeper reality greater than themselves, that gives meaning to their lives and motivates them to revere and care for the environment. In the case of protected areas that are or include sacred sites, these values are intimately related to the beliefs and practices of indigenous traditions and religions. Iconic natural features of many World Heritage sites, such as for example wilderness areas, also have spiritual significance for people as places of inspiration, symbols of identify, etc.

Key messages

- Cultural and spiritual values of natural sites shape people's relationships not only in social and in a religious life but also with the landscapes they inhabit

- The socio-cultural significance of sacred sites plays a pivotal role in the lives of local communities. Failing to recognise this socio-cultural and spiritual significance can exacerbate misunderstandings of ontological differences and jeopardize the management of these areas

- Cultural values of wilderness refer to the strong attachment to wild nature and the aesthetic dimensions of wild emblematic landscapes and the experience of nature.

- The unimpaired character of nature in those World Heritage sites that are wilderness areas is important both for local people and for the global community; however, these untouched ecosystems also benefit human well-being by providing other important services.


Laponian Area (Sweden)

Florence Revelin


Location and World Heritage designation

The Laponian Area World Heritage Site covers a territory of 9,400 km2 in northern Sweden. Listed as a mixed site on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996 (criteria (iii), (v), (vii), (viii) and (ix)), the Laponia Area brings together several protected areas and comprises four national parks and two nature reserves, offering a great variety of natural landscapes reputed of exceptional beauty. Two of the site's National Parks count among the first established in Sweden and Europe (1909) and other component protected areas were established in the early second half of the twentieth century.


This old nature protection system has guaranteed a good state of conservation of the whole area over the years. Both its remoteness and its vast wild landscapes spared from industrial development have led to the region being deeply associated with wilderness values, from both an ecological and a cultural perspective (Dälström, 2003; Green, 2009; Revelin, 2013).


These various protected landscapes can be divided into two dominant landscapes types: an eastern lowland of Archaean geological origin, which comprises marshlands, many lakes, and mixed woodlands; and a western mountainous landscape with spectacular mountain scenery. This higher part comprises a thinly-vegetated mountainous landscape with steep valleys and powerful rivers. The area contains more than 100 peaks higher than 1800m and about 100 glaciers (IUCN, 1996). Snow-covered mountains border on large alpine lake areas, contrasting with very active delta areas and marshlands. The vast mire complex of Sjaunja Nature Reserve - the largest in Europe outside Russia - is virtually impenetrable by human beings except during winter, allowing natural succession to continue unimpaired (IUCN, 1996).


Wilderness values

The major cultural value of Laponia's wilderness relates to its aesthetic dimension. Tourism and recreation are historically important in the area, starting around 150 years ago (Revelin, 2013). Nature and wilderness experience holds an important place in Scandinavian culture, as illustrated by the concept of "friluftsliv", valuing outdoor life and activities (Sandell & Sörlin, 2008). The dramatic and wild landscapes of the region became very reputed and attractive since the early 20th century, and especially important in national values. This is exemplified by the Swedish anthem, which celebrates the wild mountainous north: the "most beautiful land upon earth". Today, nature tourism and wilderness experience is a significant activity in the region. Five mountain stations and around 20 overnight cabins are situated inside or at the vicinity of the site. Some parts of the site have no tourist facilities at all, and require full autonomy. This is the case for Sarek National Park, especially valued for its inaccessibility and its full image of wilderness.

Free access to wilderness areas is highly valued culturally in the Swedish society (the so called ‘everyman's right' - Allemansrätt) and entering protected areas of Laponia is free of charge. Some emblematic landscapes also have important values for locals, such as those of the Skierfe mountain which is both an impressive landscape attracting tourists and a Saami sacred place.

Because of the ancient Swedish customary right of "allemansrätt" everyone is allowed to harvest common plants (if not protected) everywhere in Sweden, including in protected areas. Wild food plant and mushroom collection is permitted in the Laponia site, seasonally providing both the locals and visitors with some subsistence daily food. This provisioning service is hardly assessable economically, but is very important culturally, notably because the Scandinavians are deeply attached to this tradition of free access to nature, making wild nature areas especially valued (Berry, 2011; Sandell & Sörlin, 2008).

Using wild food resources, and more broadly living from and in this subarctic and hostile environment, are part of the fundaments of an important and complex system of traditional ecological knowledge of the Saami indigenous people living in the area (Roué, 2012). This knowledge covers various areas from medicinal uses of plants (Dubois & Lang, 2013), to moving around and surviving within an arctic wild environment thanks to complex knowledge of snow (Roturier & Roué, 2009). Wilderness areas also provide important pasture resources for reindeer herding, which is an essential cultural and economic activity for the Saami. Based on a transhumance system, herders use the whole diversity of local ecosystem throughout different seasons, moving from forest and mires in winter to mountain pastures in summer.

Lagoons of New Caledonia (France)

Nicolas Pascal


Ecosystems and beneficiaries

The World Heritage site "Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems" is located in the French Pacific Ocean archipelago of New Caledonia and consists of six marine clusters covering the total area of 1,574,300 ha. The site displays intact ecosystems, with healthy populations of top predators, and a large number and diversity of large fish (UNESCO, 2014k).

Local economy

Nearly 235 000 people have used or depended on one or more of the ecosystem services incorporated in the WHS, including:

  • Fishermen of the commercial artisanal fishery (350 professionals)
  • Local families for whom fishing in the coastal zones is a source of regular protein (2500 households) and non-regular revenues
  • Blue tourism entrepreneurs (120 businesses, 400 jobs for 180 000 visitors a year) whose businesses depend directly on the underwater landscape quality
  • Other related tourism businesses (1000 businesses and 1200 jobs) receiving the "blue" tourists.
  • Real estate owners protected from coastal flooding (8800 households)

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The study by Pascal (2010) estimates the economic value of different ecosystem services (commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing; nature-based tourism; protection from flooding and research and education) by using different valuation methods, such as producer surplus assessment, avoided damages and travel cost method. In addition to existing data, survey with users and interviews with experts were undertaken to collect additional data.

Main findings from the study

Coral reefs and associated ecosystems (mangroves and seagrass beds) absorb the wave energy and prevent or minimise damages due to flooding during cyclones. It has been estimated that around 8 800 households benefit from this protection service in the WHS sites. The total value of damage that is avoided by the presence of ecosystems is in the order of € 32M. When applying the frequency of cyclones, this corresponds to an annual value of € 7M. This figure means that every year, coral reefs and associated ecosystems prevent coastal flooding which generates damage to residential buildings, hotel infrastructure and equipment to the order of € 7M. The ecosystem service of protection against coastal flooding represents approximately 12% of total services provided by the ecosystems incorporated in the WHS sites.

Fisheries linked to coastal ecosystems generate annually an added value of € 15.5M for the local economy, of which an estimated €5 million are from self-consumption, € 7.5M from the commercial fishery and €3M from the recreational fishery. The importance of the non-commercial fishing relative to commercial fishing (declared and undeclared) reflects the socio-cultural context of the fishing activities (both recreational and subsistence).

The added value of this ecosystem service represents approximately 27% of the total of the services produced by the ecosystems of the WHS. Around 350 fishermen derive income from this activity and more than 2500 households extract additional income and important proteins for their well-being. In volume, coastal catches represent more than two thirds of the annual consumption of fresh fish of the households of New Caledonia.

The service of underwater scenic beauty for "blue" tourism represents an added value of €8.4M for the local economy (15% of the total of the services produced by the ecosystems of the WHS). Each year, approximately 180 000 visitors (both tourists and residents) make use of coral reefs under various forms of recreation (diving, snorkelling, charters, day-tours, etc.). These activities, which are dependent on the health of the marine ecosystems incorporated in the WHS, have generated benefits for more than 120 companies and produced almost 400 jobs. The nautical sector (boats brokering, marina, maintenance, etc.) represents nearly 30% of the value of this service.

This ecosystem service reflects an important use of the lagoon by the residents and tourists. These users contribute to the financial health of the 120 hotels, 100 guesthouses and other 800 tourism companies. It is estimated that more than 1400 jobs are related to these uses.

This value is growing and has good potential if the positioning of the site and coral reefs of New Caledonia becomes consolidated in the competitive market of underwater tourism. As highlighted in the co-management plans of the WHS, there needs to be a sustainable development of tourism in terms of impacts on the environment. Among other things, the treatment of wastewater from hotels, control of sediment inputs, and carrying capacity regulation must be taken into account.

General conclusions from the study

The study presents a comprehensive valuation of the different ecosystem services provided by the site. The main services in economic terms are the biomass production from the commercial, subsistence and recreational fishery (€15.5 M/year) as well as the service of underwater scenic beauty for the 'blue' tourism (€8.4 M/year), followed by the protection against coastal flooding (€7 M/year). However, the study also mentions that many aspects of these services, particularly subsistence fishing cannot be reflected through the monetary approach:

  • It is an activity that is difficult to substitute, due to a low level of initial investment and minimal required training.
  • It is a source of food and income for the women living in the tribes. The degree of dependence on the resource depends on the household and its proximity to urban centres. This aspect contributes to the continued presence of women in the villages, which has been recognized as a factor of social cohesion.

Fishing is a stable source of food and a protection against uncertainties of the future or other sectors (e.g. tourism).

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines)


Ecosystems and beneficiaries

Tubbataha Reef Marine Park covers just over 130,000 ha, and is a unique example of an atoll reef with extensive lagoons and two coral islands (UNESCO, 2014). It is the only national marine park in the Philippines and is located in the bio-geographic centre of marine diversity in the world (with 441 fish species, 379 corals, 8 cetacean species as well as some globally threatened species of seabirds (UNESCO, 2014)). The site is located in a remote area without human habitation, but is a popular tourist destination (especially for diving) with visitors accessing the site on boats. In order to ensure the values of the property are maintained, tourism requires careful planning and management.

The local economy

With regard to fishing, Tubbataha is a no-take area, and the only activities allowed are tourism and research. There is some evidence that this has benefitted fish-stocks in adjacent fishing grounds (TEEBcase, 2011). The World Heritage site listing has helped the reef became a famous tourist destination and a number of boat operators directly benefit from this. For example: "The inclusion of Tubbataha Reefs as a World Heritage Site is a very positive aspect in marketing to tourists, especially foreign, mainly European and American, divers. It gives the reefs a more important status compared to other areas, it is now a must-see destination." - Alex Floro, Dive Boat Operator working in Tubbataha (UNESCO, 2014). The park has capitalized on this through the collection of entry fees from the turn of the century, some of which is shared with local communities (Subade, 2010). In order to determine the user fee a willingness-to-pay survey was conducted among divers and dive operators, which showed that the average diver was willing to pay US$ 41 per visit (Tongson and Dygico, 2004). In 2006 fee collections covered about 80% of the core park management costs (TEEBcase, 2011). External funding has also been forthcoming, with circa US$ 1 million (2013) being granted for conservation activities at the site between 2000-2003 (Subade, 2010).

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The Subade (2005) study assesses the willingness of people in the Philippines to pay towards the conservation of Tubbataha Reefs. In order to do this the contingent valuation method was used to find out how much residents in three nearby cities (Quezon City, Cebu City and Puerto Princesa) would contribute to a conservation trust fund for the park. The study followed the recommended procedures for undertaking a contingent valuation study: a) designing and pre-testing of the survey questionnaire (focus group discussions were conducted to determine what would be an acceptable payment mechanism), b) carrying out the main survey, c) estimating the willingness-to-pay, d) bid curve analysis (i.e. testing the estimation model), e) data aggregation, and f) final assessment. In such surveys it is important that respondents are made aware that payments are not hypothetical and may be collected at a future point by government agencies or other institutions (which was the case in this study). Two variants of data collection – personal interviews and self-administered surveys – were employed, and the dichotomous choice method of contingent valuation adopted (which involves presenting respondents with a value and asking them whether they would be willing to pay it or not). The total number of completed forms was 2,591.

Main findings from the study

The response rate for the self-administered questionnaires was fairly high at 79%, and 97% for the personal interview surveys. The study finds that 41% of all respondents would be willing to pay money to support conservation in the reserve. The main motives for a positive willingness to pay were: bequest value/motive (concern for future generations), existence value/motive (knowing that the Tubbataha Reefs were being well-protected), and altruistic value/motive. These are non-use values. However, a small number of respondents (between 9-14%) cited direct use values as their motivation for their "yes" to the willingness to pay question. The main reasons for non-willingness to pay found in this study were similar to other studies, namely limited income available, mistrust of the institutions managing the conservation funds, and the belief that conservation of the reef would take place anyway (without the respondent's contribution). The average willingness to pay values using the personal interviews were higher than the self-administered surveys (twice the value on average). For the household population of the three cities the aggregate willingness to pay per year (in 2002) is PHP 141-269 million (US$ 3.2-6.1 million in 2013), which is over ten times the core costs of running the park and more than required for an expanded conservation programme at the site (Subade, 2005).

General conclusions from the case study 

The Subade (2005) study provides empirical evidence on non-use values for a World Heritage site in the developing country context. This is important since there is a mistaken impression that large non-use values are likely to be associated only with developed countries. If economic valuation is to be used for more than awareness-raising, then there is a two-part process: first, measure the economic value of natural assets to an identified population, and second, find ways to appropriate the value for use in securing those natural assets. Options for capturing values (i.e. collecting money) include taxes and voluntary donations. Studies such as this for the Tubbataha Reefs can be used to make the case with a national government for the introduction of a tax, or allocation from existing tax revenues. Since World Heritage sites are global goods the non-use values will extend beyond individual countries where the World Heritage site is located. This is sometimes demonstrated by international grants. A national source of funding is generally more secure than the use of tourism fees since external events can reduce visitor numbers. A final point to note from this study is that the estimated average willingness to pay significantly differed across the sample sites in the Philippines, thereby lending caution against benefit transfers of estimates from one place to another (at least without making careful adjustments). Although the city closest to the reefs (Puerto Princesa) had the highest willingness to pay, the second closest (Cebu) had the lowest (almost half the value of Puerto Princesa), and the furthest city (Quezon) was only around 15% lower than Puerto Princesa. If attempting to demonstrate the level of financial support a national population is willing to see government commit to funding World Heritage sites, then the benefit transfer approach is unlikely to be adequate. A large-scale contingent valuation survey, such as the one conducted in the Philippines, is to be preferred, ideally covering a weighted representative sample of the national population.

Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)


Ecosystems and beneficiaries

The Virunga National Park lies in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on the border with Uganda and Rwanda. It covers an area of 790,000 ha and includes a wide range of habitats from savannahs and swamps to lava plains, tropical rainforest and snowfields (UNESCO, 2014). The wide diversity of habitats produces exceptional biodiversity. Some of the largest wild animal concentrations in Africa occur along the rivers of the park (UNESCO, 2014), but it is most famous for its mountain gorilla population.

The local economy

The area has seen over two decades of armed conflict, which (in addition to the loss of countless lives) has caused the collapse of public infrastructure and the economy, so that it is now one of the poorest areas on the planet (AfDB/OECD, 2008). Tourism disappears each time there is a break-down in stability due to a return of violence to the area. Plans were recently announced for oil and gas exploration in the park, which although it might bring some employment opportunities, could have an overall detrimental impact on the local population (WWF/Dalberg, 2013).

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The study for WWF (WWF/Dalberg, 2013) identified all ecosystem services to be included in each value category and a valuation technique for each factor (Table 8).

Table 8. List of ecosystem services and their value technique in the WWF study. Source: WWF/Dalberg, 2013

Text Box: Ecosystem Service Technique Fishery Market price Tourism Travel Cost & Market price Hydro-electric Market price Pharmacological use Estimated royalties Education Grant values Carbon Market price (REDD+ value) Water supply Replacement cost Erosion control Restoration cost of forest

This is largely a desk-based approach, with very limited collation of data in the field. The study notes the limited time (12 weeks) available for the review of key documents and interviews with stakeholders. Data availability limited the ability to include an economic value for all factors (e.g. use of Non-Timber Forest Products and absorption of pollution by the lake were not included). In addition to estimating current values the study also attempts to estimate the potential values if current challenges (such as security) are addressed.

Main findings from the study

The current total value of the ecosystem services and benefits provided by the park (or at least of those where values were able to be calculated) is estimated to be almost US$ 49 million a year (see Table 9). This is more than the foreign aid that DRC receives each year from the UK, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland combined (USAID, 2014). The majority of this value is associated with food production (fisheries). These are all use values and there is potential to increase these almost ten-fold, mainly through development of tourism. The assumptions behind this implicitly suppose significant long-term investment in tourism infrastructure. It is also argued that non-use values (i.e. the value that people in other countries place on knowing that the mountain gorillas still exist) could increase (though they would not be realised in the DRC economy). The values are calculated based on a previous study (Hatfield & Malleret-King, 2007).

Table 9. Current and potential value of ecosystem services and benefits in Virunga National Park. Source: WWF/Dalberg, 2013

General conclusions from the case study

The approach uses a number of different techniques to value a range of ecosystem services. This involves undertaking some limited data collection to enable the calculations to be performed. Such data collection can be time-consuming depending on the local circumstances. The study could be further improved by undertaking an additional study of household use of Non-Timber Forest Products as these can be important for local livelihoods (though this would involve significant extra field work). In addition, where potential values under future scenarios are estimated, sensitivity analysis should be carried out to test the significance of key assumptions on the outcome (e.g. visitor numbers, carbon prices, fish-stock recovery rates).

Indigenous Lands: Joint Management at Kakadu National Park (Australia)

Bas Verschuuren

The governance of ecosystem services and the benefits they provide involves an understanding of how ecosystems are linked to human well-being (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). This becomes particularly apparent in the governance of Kakadu National Park where joint management between contemporary and culture-bound institutions involves a continuous process of defining and sharing responsibility for looking after the land and the ecosystem services and benefits is provides.


Location and World Heritage designation

Located in the remote Alligator Rivers Region of Western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory Kakadu is Australia's largest National Park of almost 2 million ha. It was found in 1975 and in 1981 it became Australia's first inscribed World Heritage site with additional inscriptions in 1987 (stage 2), 1999 (stage 3) and another extension in 2011 ( Kakadu contains the largest diversity of ecosystems of all Australian protected areas including a part of the world's largest tropical savannas. These grass and woodlands are alternated with open forest, floodplains, tropical rivers, mangroves, tidal mudflats, coastal areas, monsoon forests and impressive escarpments of up to 330 meters high.

Kakadu is recognized as an outstanding example of the "combined works of nature and man" but with relatively little influence from western settlers (UNESCO 1972, p. 2). The first guiding principle of the Kakadu Plan of Management therefore is: "culture, country, sacred places and customary law are one, extend beyond the boundaries of Kakadu, and need to be protected and respected" (Kakadu Board of Management 2007, p. iv). Aboriginal people known as Bininj have lived in Kakadu for over 50,000 years and their rich rock art sites are part of the world's longest continued and living art tradition (Chaloupka 1993). Some 5,000 art sites have been recorded and a further 10,000 sites are thought to exist (Kakadu Factsheet undated). This art tradition reveals insights into hunting and gathering practices, social structure and ritual ceremonies of Kakadu's past and present Indigenous societies. It is complemented by songs, stories and ceremony which together are a manifestation of the dreamtime, a time in which the earth and all beings were created by ancestral or mythological ancestors such as the Rainbow Serpent Bula, Lightning Man Namarrgon and Earth Mother Warramurrungundji. The Bininj believe that these ‘mythological' beings created the land, sea and everything in it and that they laid down the traditional law for Bininj people that still plays a role in every day management of Kakadu.


Main ecosystem services provided by the site

Kakadu National Park provides a range of ecosystem services to a diverse group of beneficiaries. These include supporting services in the form of nursery and habitat function necessary for the reproduction of commercially viable species such as the Baramundi (Lates calcarifer) and other fish that are favoured by sport anglers in the park (Palmer, 2004). The underground water basins recharge seasonally and provide water to communities over the dry season (Finlayson et al., 2005). Kakadu is also home to many different Aboriginal peoples whose livelihoods, languages, traditional knowledge and worldviews are intimately linked to the land and constitute an extraordinarily biocultural diversity (Hill, 2010).

Aboriginal peoples enjoy many different types of use such as hunting, gathering, the use of construction materials but also the use of medicinal, ornamental and genetic resources. However, what makes Kakadu truly unique are its cultural ecosystem services - not just its Aboriginal cultural heritage and art tradition with associated intangible spiritual and religious values but also its capacity for inspiration and recreation of the many visitors it receives annually. Knowledge generation and education functions are also important benefits provided by the site alongside its role as a natural laboratory for scientific research (deGroot et al 2008).

Governance and management system

Approximately 50 per cent of Kakadu National Park is Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Most of the remaining area of land is under claim by Aboriginal people. Title to Aboriginal land in the Park is held by Aboriginal Land Trusts that have leased their land to the Director of National Parks (under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) for the purpose of being managed in accordance with the park's management plan and relevant decisions of the Kakadu National Park Board of Management. A majority of Board members represent the park's Traditional Owners (BMT WBM, 2010). The Traditional Owners engaged in this arrangement because they felt that having their land managed as a national park would support them in looking after their land in the face of growing and competing pressures.

The joint management system of the Kakadu National Park showcases how 'joint management' can combine ancient but dynamic culture and modern conservation practice. Bininj landowners have two leading responsibilities – looking after country gunred and looking after people guhpleddi (Gundjemjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, 2014). Understanding and communicating these interests within the current framework of joint management is seen by some Aboriginal and state protected area managers as one of the largest challenges for the future conservation of Kakadu.

In an attempt to engage with broader society, the new management plan being developed for 2014-2024 will go through a period of public comment and consultation with Traditional Owners, allowing different perspectives to be included (Planning Steps, undated). The new plan aims to conserve natural and cultural values, protecting the interests of the park's traditional owners and it provides safe visitors experiences. It also sets out the development of partnerships between government, the private sector and traditional owners that provide new business opportunities for local Aboriginal people. Essentially some of these opportunities lay in land management itself. As the new plan also focuses on the importance of weed control and traditional fire management Indigenous Ranger group are increasingly being established and are taking on management tasks using traditional practices whilst guided by a solid management plan and thousands of years of traditional knowledge and experience.

A unique Community Conservation Area: Mount Athos (Greece)

Thymio Papayannis

Mount Athos World Heritage site provides a unique example a self-administered system with the management exercised by representatives of Holy Monasteries, who comprise the Holy Community.

Location and World Heritage designation

In 1988 the Athonite Peninsula in Northern Greece was inscribed on the World Heritage List both for its cultural and natural values. Jutting into the North Aegean, this mountainous peninsula of 33,400 ha – dominated by the conical peak of Mt Athos at 2300 m – hosts a variety of ecosystems with rich biodiversity and has been recently proclaimed a Natura 2000 area in its entirety. The peninsula also hosts 20 historic monasteries, some of them dating from the tenth century, and many smaller sacred facilities.

Main ecosystem services provided by the site

The sacred mountain of Athos has been a spiritual centre of Orthodox Christianity since the 10th century (UNESCO, 2014j). The harmonious coexistence of nature and man has been a constituent element and aim of monasticism from its origins. In addition to its cultural and spiritual values, the site also provides other important ecosystem services. The forests in the area have remained largely untouched because of their inaccessibility, and play an important role in nutrient cycling and water storage (Bhagwat, 2009). Mount Athos also offers significant nature conservation benefits by protecting rich flora and fauna, including endemic, rare and endangered species. Traditional agriculture and forest management practices testify to the harmonious century-long interaction of man and nature in Mt Athos could potentially serve as examples for sustainable agro-forestry management at a wider scale.

Governance and management system

The management of the Athonite Peninsula depends on its special privileged status of self-governance, as provided by Article 105 of the Hellenic Constitution, by the Constitutional Charter of Mount Athos[1], as well as by the European Communities Greek Accession Act of 1979 and the respective texts attached to it. More specifically, Article 105 of the Constitution and the Constitutional Charter of Mt Athos determine the institutional framework of organisation and operation of the site, protect its regime and prohibit any modification of the administrative system, of the number of monasteries and of their hierarchical order. Thus, the administration of Mt Athos is exercised by the 20 Holy Monasteries through their representatives, who constitute the Holy Community. The territory of Mount Athos may not be expropriated and belongs exclusively to its Monasteries, which also have total rights of ownership, possession and occupation of their monuments and heirlooms. All other institutions, clusters (sketes) and retreats (hesychasteria) are dependencies of the 20 Monasteries.

In 2010 a positive step was taken towards the preparation of a ‘strategic framework for the conservation and management of the cultural and natural heritage of Mt Athos'. A team of experts and a general coordinator were appointed by the Holy Community and a comprehensive preliminary report was prepared.

According to this report, the integrated management of the site should be regarded as a participatory process of cooperation between the monastic fraternities, the government services and UNESCO. The report reviewed the present situation and proposed ten principles on which the management process should be based. It was reviewed extensively by the Athonite institutions and was discussed in detail in two expert meetings organised in Thessaloniki, in January and in late August 2013 by the Ministry of Culture and the cooperation of the Holy Community, the second one with the contribution of UNESCO experts, and was broadly endorsed by the participants. As there were certain reservations among the 20 Holy Monasteries on the best way to proceed, the issue was debated by the Holy Community in late December 2013 and by the Double Session in May 2014. The decisions taken were to advance prudently, establishing a Working Group among representatives of the Athonite institutions and the State services to finalise the management study specifications and to raise funds for its commissioning and completion.

The unique status of self-governance of Mount Athos, combined with the traditional way of life of the resident monastic community, has largely protected the site from significant anthropic threats. The monastic community of Mt Athos, of approximately 2000 monks, is the zealous steward of a millenary, uninterrupted spiritual tradition, which it nurtures since Byzantine times with a considerable degree of autonomy within the State of Greece. The rich flora and fauna the Athonite Peninsula have been well conserved by careful management of the forests and traditional agricultural practices.

[1]           Ratified by Legislative Decree 10/16.9.1926.

Co-management: Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize)

Marina Cracco

Shared governance of protected areas is based on mechanisms and processes which share authority and responsibility among several actors. In Belize, engagement of NGOs in co-management is quite common, including in the component protected areas that constitute the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage site.

Location and World Heritage designation

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS) is located in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize in Central America. It forms part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. Its main ecosystems include fringing, barrier and atoll reefs types, mangrove forests, coasts and coastal lagoons, sand cays and estuaries. Inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1996 under natural criteria (vii), (ix) and (x), the reef illustrates evolutionary history of reef development. This is a serial World Heritage site encompassing seven protected areas with different legal status (from marine reserves and national parks to natural monuments).

Main ecosystem services provided by the site

The main ecosystem services derive from coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds, and coastal areas and cayes. These ecosystems provide nursery grounds for fisheries and areas for ecotourism (TEEB 2010; Cooper et al, 2009, Garcia-Salgado, 2006 In Neal et al. 2008l). Other benefits provided by the Belize Barrier Reserve System include mitigation of natural disasters through coastal protection (barrier) and climate change adaptation and mitigation (blue carbon sequestration) (Greiner et al., 2013).


Tourism revenues for 2006 were around $250 million. An estimated 80% of tourists visit a destination within the coastal zone.  Tourism has increased from 90,000 visitors in 1991 to 900,000 in 2006 as a result of marketing Belize's pristine natural environment. Activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, sports fishing and manatee watching. 60% of income is derived directly from coastal and marine activities (Neal et al 2008).


In 2007, the value of the reef and mangrove related fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection services, was estimated to be between $395 million and $559 million. Also, in terms of national employment, it is estimated that reef-related tourism employs 20 percent of national workforce (Wade 2012).


Governance and management system

Five components of the BBRRS are co-managed (see table 10 below) with NGOs. The Government of Belize formally agrees to share management of public protected areas with non-government organizations (NGOs) (or community-based organisations-CBOs) through a legally binding agreement that lays out guidance and responsibility of each party within the contract (Salas, 2008).


Table 10. Management entities of component protected areas with BBRRS




Management entity/ies

Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve

10700 Ha

Co-management: Green Reef Environmental Institute and Fisheries Department (marine reserve)  assisted by Green Venture for biodiversity assessments/monitoring

Blue Hole Natural Monument

 4100 Ha

Co-management: Belize Audubon Society and Forest Department

Half Moon Caye Natural Monument

 3900 Ha

Co-management: Belize Audubon Society and Forest Department

South Water Caye Marine Reserve

 29800 Ha

Fisheries Department  assisted by Smithsonian Institute for biodiversity information

Glovers Reef Marine Reserve

 30800 Ha

Fisheries Department assisted by WCS for biodiversity monitoring information and activities

Laughing Bird Caye National Park

4300 Ha

Co-management: Southern Environmental Association with the Forestry Department

Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve

12700 Ha

Co-management: Southern Environmental Association with the Fisheries Department




Belize Audubon Society (BAS), under formal agreement, is responsible for on-site management following a management plan, financial management (collecting and managing fees, fundraising, managing income generating activities), coordinating all activities spanning across programmes, hiring all staff and temporary workers, etc.  The Public Party is responsible for protected areas management unit, support (trainings, workshops), law enforcement (joint patrols, court prosecution), guidance on research proposals, etc. The Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in Laughing Bird Cayes National Park and Sapodillas Cayes Marine Reserve undertakes activities from law enforcement to community education and outreach and scientific research and monitoring (SEA, undated).


The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) was formally established in 2007 to coordinate the activities of protected area management organizations.  In addition, Advisory Committees, and more recently regional Coastal Advisory Committees, have been established for the coastal areas, cayes and atolls.

Biodiversity Stewardship: Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (South-Africa)

Often in  order  to  effectively conserve  biodiversity,  conservation efforts  must  focus  outside  of  formerly  protected area. In South Africa, 80%  of  the  country's  most scarce  and  threatened  habitats  are  privately  owned. Biodiversity Stewardship provides this new and proactive approach to conservation.

Location and World Heritage designation

The Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site is located in the southwest corner of South Africa in the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces of the country. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004 and consists of eight clusters extending from 50km south of the City of Cape Town northwards 210km to the Cederberg and 450km northeast to the Swartberg. The 553,000 ha cluster of eight sites together form a representative sample of the eight phytogeographic centres of the Cape Floral Region.

The eight sites, their area size and the relevant Management Authorities are shown in Table 11 below.

Table 11. The eight clusters making up the Cape Floral Region. 


Area (ha)

Management Authority


Cape Peninsula National Park

17 000 ha

South African National Parks Board


Cederberg Wilderness Area

64 000 ha



Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

26 000 ha



Boland Mountain Complex

113 000 ha



De Hoop Nature Reserve

32 000 ha



Boosmansbos Wilderness Area

15 000 ha



Swartberg Complex

112 000 ha



Baviaanskloof Protected Area

174 000 ha

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency


Total area

553 000 ha





Main ecosystem services provided by the site

The Cape Floral Protected Areas (CFRPA) WHS plays an important role in providing benefits and ecosystem services, most notably freshwater provisioning services.

The Groot Winterhoek and Boland Mountain Complex are key water source areas for the Western Cape and the protected areas in these mountains, which form part of the CFRPA WHS are vitally important to protecting freshwater resources. The Groot Winterhoek conservation area comprises of 30 608ha, of which 19 200ha was declared a wilderness area in 1985. The conservation area is particularly important for the conservation of mountain Fynbos and wildlife, as a source of clean water to the Cape Town metropolitan area and the West Coast. The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area also forms the watershed area that feeds two catchment areas that support rural and urban areas.

Governance and management system

The CFRPA WHS is jointly managed by the following Conservation Agencies, i) The Eastern Cape parks and Tourism Agency, ii) the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board (CapeNature) and iii) The South African National Parks Board. The Governance platform for the management of the site is the Joint Management Committee.

A key aspect to consider with respect to World Heritage Sites is that of buffering of the site. In the context of the CFRPA WHS the term coined by Mr Guy Palmer from CapeNature, to refer to the various tools and mechanisms used to buffer the site, is buffering mechanisms. These mechanisms include planning tools and products, landscape initiatives, corridors, biodiversity stewardship, declared mountain catchment areas and UNESCO designated biosphere reserves.

These buffering mechanisms such as the biodiversity corridors are designed to mitigate and act as adaptation mechanism to anticipated climate change impacts. These buffering mechanisms therefore play a key role in supporting the World Heritage concept by further safeguarding the important biodiversity of the Cape Floral Region.

Biodiversity Stewardship

Stewardship  refers  to  the wise use, management  and  protection of  that  which  has  been  entrusted  to  you.  Within  the context  of conservation,  stewardship  means  wisely  using  natural  resources that  you  have been  entrusted  with  on your  property, protecting important ecosystems, effectively managing  alien invasive species and fires, and grazing or harvesting without damaging the veld/vegetation (CapeNature Stewardship Operational Procedures Manual updated version 2009).

The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme within CapeNature is aimed at engaging private landowners with conservation worthy land. Landowners voluntarily participate in biodiversity conservation by formally agreeing (through a biodiversity stewardship agreement) to secure the conservation status of their land to (i) protect important ecosystems; (ii) enable the more sustainable use of natural resources and (iii) effectively manage threats to natural systems and biodiversity. Incentives may be offered to the landowner.

A biodiversity stewardship agreement is a voluntary agreement that may be informal or legally binding, and which commits a landowner and a public conservation agency to mutually agreed conservation management objectives.

One of the component  protected areas of the site - the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area - forms the southern core of the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) and is the anchor site for the freshwater corridor in the GCBC. The Groot Winterhoek Freshwater Stewardship Corridor is aimed at linking the Cederberg and the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness areas through biodiversity stewardship and encouraging better land management with private landowners.

In 2009 CapeNature and WWF jointly implemented a project to support freshwater conservation within the Groot Winterhoek Freshwater corridor. The aim was to engage private landowners to support freshwater conservation and to secure priority areas through biodiversity stewardship. 

This engagement resulted in the securing of almost 9000ha of land of which the Groot Winterhoek Protected Environment (PE) made up 4 368ha. The Groot Winterhoek PE borders the protected area and further supports with buffering the site. The signing up of another 4404ha as a contract nature reserve resulted in the securing of lowland wetlands at the foothills of the Groot Winterhoek Mountains.

Key buffering mechanisms that support the WHS, such as biodiversity stewardship also contribute to securing and supporting the ecological infrastructure (and the benefits and services that flow from it) associated with the site. The mitigation for the effects of Global Climate Change is continuously factored into the planning and implementation of all initiatives. These multiple protection layers and tools play a synergistic and complementary role to support persistence of the site.

Škocjan Caves (Slovenia)


Ecosystems and beneficiaries

The Škocjan Caves are located in the Kraski Landscape Park, Slovenia, and the World Heritage site extends over 413 ha (UNESCO, 2014). It includes four deep and picturesque chasms as well as the Mahorcic cave, which has several underground lakes and cascades. Habitats corresponding to the floras of Central Europe, the Mediterranean, Sub-Mediterranean, Ilyrian and Alpine, are all present, side by side, in the area. Large numbers of five species of wintering bat roost in the caves. Archaeological finds indicate that the site has been occupied for more than 10,000 years. The grotto system has been considered important since the first scientific studies were carried out in the 19th century (and is Europe's largest underground canyon). Whilst the total population in the area is only 400 people (present in three villages), around 100,000 people visit the Škocjan Caves each year. Local people are involved in the management of the World Heritage property.

The local economy

Despite having a very low local population, the park is very accessible. The caves are just 2km from the Ljubljana-Koper expressway, only 15km from Italy, and accessible by train (Slovenian Tourist Board, 2014). The park is considered the main tourism attraction in the area and provides opportunities for sustainable development. As such it attracts external investment for tourism infrastructure development, for example €1.4 million provided by the EU in 2013 (MEDT, 2013).  Tourism-related income and employment includes working as a tour guide, local restaurants, the Škocjan Caves Information Centre, as well as provision of tourist accommodation (i.e. apartments as well as Bed & Breakfast in private dwellings) (Slovenian Tourist Board, 2014). According to the national authorities, fifteen years of the protected area has significantly contributed to local development (UNESCO, 2014, 2). Over the last decade visitor numbers have doubled and there are concerns that tourist carrying capacity could be exceeded on some days in the summer, especially during August (Jurinčič & Balažič, 2010). Therefore, measures to spread visitor numbers over less busy times of the year, or other areas within the park, will continue to be required (Jurinčič & Balažič, 2010).

Type of economic analysis undertaken

The study (Actum, 2011) of the Škocjan Caves Regional Park was carried out in 2011 and attempts to produce a monetary valuation estimate for the ecosystem services delivered by the park. As some ecosystem services originating in the park are delivered outside of the protected area, a buffer zone of activity was also included in the analysis. A workshop of experts and stakeholders was convened to identify the main ecosystem services being delivered at the site. Data on local salaries as well as visitor numbers was collated from existing studies. An additional survey of summer visitors (n=512) was implemented, in order to help determine future potential values if tourism was expanded by opening additional caves to visitors and marketing local products. Other data on economic activities was collected through interviews with local residents and other stakeholders. In order to establish the economic value of all of the ecosystem services provided by the park, a variety of economic techniques were used (mainly market prices, but also avoided damage cost, travel cost method, and a descriptive approach). Values for eight ecosystem services related to natural habitats were estimated (see Table 6).

Main findings from the study

Table 6 highlights the value of the main ecosystem services and benefits (in original 2011 € values as well as 2013 US$ values) delivered by the site.

Table 6. Total value of ecosystem services and benefits from the Škocjan Caves. Source: Actum, 2011


Ecosystem service categories    € (2011) total current use value    US$ (2013) total current use
Recreation/tourism                          10,993,764                                           15,498,081
Water supply                                      427,076                                                 602,056
Cultural (education only)                 100,540                                                 141,733
Fibre/fuel                                            48,559                                                     68,454
Food production                               13,586                                                     19,152
Climate regulation                           4,720                                                        6,654
Ornamental                                       2,610                                                        3,679
Air quality                                           538                                                            758

The total value of ecosystem service provided by the Škocjan Caves Regional Park in 2011 is estimated at €12.85 million, of which tourism accounts for almost 90%. With a discount rate of 5 %, the net present value over 30 years is estimated at around €216 million. Some estimates in the study could only be made descriptively, and others could not be calculated for various reasons (so the full benefits received by society are likely to be higher than the above figure). The study also estimated that if the tourism potential was further exploited then the 2011 value was estimated at €14.77 million, and net present value estimated at just over €253 million. This increase in value is largely derived from guided tours to additional caves as well as a new Tourist Information Centre. The importance of this tourism income can be clearly understood when considering that the average per capita income of rural households in Slovenia has been estimated at less than €4,000 a year (Möllers  et al, 2008).

General conclusions from the case study

The first point to note is the difficulty of using values for a wider area to indicate a value for a smaller protected area located within it (ideally a bespoke study is required). The approach used (mostly) existing data to derive current use values for ecosystem services based on market prices. The advantage of this is that existing data can be used without the need for new surveys, but this can only be an option in areas where data collection is relatively well developed. Whilst the full range of ecosystem services were explored in the study it was noted that for many ecosystem services it was not possible to estimate an accurate monetary value. Market prices also underestimate the total value to society. Thus the figures reported should be taken as a lower bound estimate. Nevertheless, even where market prices are of little use, awareness of the full value of the site can be increased, as evidenced by the approach the study adopted. This was done by engaging with stakeholders to identify ecosystem services and then attempting to quantify in a non-monetary way, or at least describe, the ecosystem services being delivered by the site. Such an approach – using market prices where available and a description where they are not – is attractive for site managers from a budgetary point of view since it avoids commissioning costly non-market valuation studies. ‘Real' money figures also sometimes gain more traction with decision-makers than hypothetical economic valuation estimates. The risk, though, is that the figures subsequently used to demonstrate the value of ecosystem services are significant underestimates of true worth to society.

Private protected areas: Salto Morato Natural Heritage Private Reserve (component of Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves World Heritage Site, Brazil)

Marina Cracco

Private governance comprises protected areas under individual, NGO or corporate control and ownership (Borrini-Feyerabend, 2013). In addition to nature conservation benefits, privately owned protected areas can provide other important benefits, such as tourism and recreation, education and knowledge building.

Location and World Heritage designation

Salto Morato Natural Heritage Private Reserve (SMNHPR[1]) shelters a 2,253 hectare-area of Atlantic Forest in Guaraqueçaba, state of Paraná, in Brazil (FGBPN, 2012). 1,716 hectares of SMNHPR are part of the 470,000 hectares large serial[2] Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves World Heritage Site. The entire World Heritage property is composed of 25 protected areas of different designations ranging from a private reserve, several state parks to national parks. SMNHPR was established in 1994 and open to the public in 1996 (FGBPN, 2011; FGBPN, 2011b). The Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, including SMNHPR, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999 under natural criteria (vii), (ix) and (x) (WHC, 2014). The main ecosystem in the area is the Atlantic Forest. SMNHPR is home to 650 species of plants, 58 mammals, 384 birds, 34 reptiles, 61 amphibians, and 55 fish species (FGBPN, 2011, FGBPN, 2011b).

Main ecosystem services provided by the site


The main ecosystem services that the site provides include regulating services (carbon sequestration and storage, local climate and air quality regulation, erosion prevention and soil fertility maintenance, water conservation and water regulation), supporting services (habitat for species, maintenance of genetic diversity), and cultural services (recreational and mental and physical health through its landscape, aesthetics and cultural appreciation, spiritual experience, and knowledge). The unique biodiversity of the area makes the site a hotspot for scientific research. In addition, the reserve is important for nature-based tourism at local and national level.


Salto Morato NHPR is one of the positive examples of developing scientific research in Brazil through partnership towards nature conservation (Cegana, 2005). Over 86 scientific studies have been completed in SMNHPR since 1996 (FGBPN, 2011). The reserve also hosts a meteorological station to record climatic data every 15 minutes and a research laboratory.

The reserve receives between 4,000 to 8,000 visitors per year (over 8,000 in 2012, 4,500 in 2011) in addition to researchers (FGBPN, 2011; FGBPN 2011b). Ecotourism services include access to

[1] RPPN for its acronym in Portuguese: Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural

[2] "A serial nomination is any nomination which consists of two or more unconnected areas. A single World Heritage nomination may contain a series of cultural and/or natural properties in different geographical locations, provided that they are related" (

interpretative trails for walks, bird watching, etc. In 2011, the majority (39%) of tourist were from the capital of the State and (34%) within the local municipality (FGBPN, 2011b and 2012).

Governance and management system


Salto Morato NHPR is a private reserve owned by the Boticário Group Foundation created by Group Boticario, a Brazilian Cosmetic Company. The reserve was created to complement both public and private efforts in the effective conservation of threatened species and ecosystems in the Atlantic Forest. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was the partner in obtaining the area (FGBPN, 2011).


In Brazil, Natural Heritage Private Reserves belong to the category of sustainable use protected areas, or conservation units, and are established in perpetuity and voluntarily by the landowner. The owner is requested to include signage in and outside the area, ban hunting, fishing and capture of animals, clearing of forests and fires in addition to other activities detrimental to the environment. The owner is also required to develop and follow a management plan and to present periodic reports with help of the institution in charge of the environment at the federal/national level (IBAMA), other environment institutions at the state level and NGOs. Fines are assigned by the authorities when obligations are not met (Wiedmann, 1997 in Cegana 2005). Within this type of reserves, the activities allowed include scientific research, tourism and recreation and environmental education as established in the management plan and legislation (ICMBio/MMA, 2012; Case Study in Borrini-Feyerabend, 2013). The environmental police at the state level responds to complaints from owners of NHPRs in cases of illegal hunting, etc. in their property. In the case of SMNHPR, an environmental police unit is hosted within the property. In addition, support in protected area management, from the National Confederation of NHPRs (CNRPPN) is given to those voluntarily registered (


Private reserves, among other governance types, can provide benefits and conservation at little cost to society (Hayes, 2006; SCBD, 2010, Kothari et al., 2012 In Borrini-Feyeraben, 2013) and can serve as instruments to complement and strengthen the public system (Mesquita, 2004 in Teixeira and Silva, 2011). In many areas population growth and increasing demand for resources and environmental services coupled with scarce financial resources available for nature conservation are limiting the establishment of public protected areas (McNeely, 1984 in Teixeira and Silva, 2011) increasing the importance of the private sector in biodiversity conservation (Mesquita, 2004 in Teixeira and Silva 2011). In addition to nature conservation benefits, privately owned protected areas provide other important benefits, such as tourism and recreation, education and knowledge building.

Climate regulation: and Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture (Spain)

An important feedback loop exists between ecosystems and climate. While ecosystems regulate climate by influencing the mechanisms of water, energy and greenhouse gases (GHGs) exchange between land and the atmosphere, climate variation itself impacts the dynamics of ecosystem processes, determining the maintenance of their integrity and capacity to provide goods and services for people (Bonan, 2008; Foley et al., 2003; Heimann & Reichstein, 2008; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005; World Bank, 2010). As such, climate regulation is important to ensure the normal functioning of the biosphere, which in turn will maintain the delivery of regulation services. The latest IPCC report states that "continued emissions of GHGs will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system" (IPCC, 2013). Under current climate change scenarios, protected areas are key to ensuring the provision of regulation services that can act both in terms of mitigation, by sequestering carbon and reducing deforestation; and in terms of adaptation to climate change, by ensuring the resilience of the ecosystems to extreme events is maintained and services such as climate regulation continue to be provided (World Bank, 2010).The two case studies –the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks and Ibiza - have been selected to highlight the benefits ecosystems deliver through climate regulation in terrestrial and marine environments.

Key messages

- World Heritage Sites that contain large tracts of forest can significantly contribute to the delivery of climate regulating services by ensuring that carbon stocks remain undisturbed.

- Coastal and aquatic ecosystems also play an important role in carbon sequestration by capturing significant amounts of ‘blue carbon'

- Regulation effects occur not only on a local scale, but taken together these sites can also impact the global climate system; therefore, World Heritage sites can be of particular importance for mitigating further impacts of climate change

- Since the effects of climate change already occurring are likely to not be reduced even under best-case scenarios, it is important for areas that provide regulation services to be managed and have a protection status, given that they too are likely to suffer indirect consequences from a changing climate.




Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture (Spain)

Christine Pergent Martini

Location and World Heritage designation

The World Heritage site "Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture" is located in the Balearic Islands, Western Mediterranean. This site was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999 as a mixed site for both its cultural and natural values. The site provides an excellent example of the interaction between the marine and coastal ecosystems (UNEP-WCMC, 2011) and includes areas of salt marshes and seagrass meadows. The natural component of the World Heritage site is included in the Salinas de Ibiza y Formentera Nature Reserve. The site has also been declared a Special Protection Area (SPA) and is included in the EU Natura 2000 Network, and is a Zone of Special Protection of Birds.

The marine component of the site, with an area of 13 776 ha, includes the open sea between these islands up to limit of the 40 m depth. The main part of the underwater area in the Salinas de Ibiza y Formentera Nature Reserve is a vast underwater platform with sandy substrate, spreading between Ibiza and Formentera Islands. The area is characterized by dense and very well preserved coral reefs, dominated by Cladocora caespitosa, and P. oceanica meadows. P. oceanica is considered as an endangered species of the Mediterranean (e.g. Barcelona Convention – Annex II of the SPA/BD Protocol) (UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA 1995).

Climate regulation

The literature provides sufficient evidence on the capacity of submerged aquatic vegetation to physically and chemically engineer their environment and to supply coastal protection services, a term applied to describe the benefits that human populations obtain from ecosystem functions (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Seagrasses are one such ecosystem and are known as ecological engineer species (Wright and Jones 2006). They provide important ecological services (Costanza et al. 1997) such as organic carbon production and export, nutrient cycling, sediment stabilization, enhanced biodiversity, and trophic transfers to adjacent habitats in tropical and temperate regions (Orth et al. 2006).

The Posidonia meadows play an important role in the dynamic and evolution of the coastal zone of the islands and the interaction between the marine and coastal ecosystems. The plant material produced in the meadows, supplies significant quantities of sediment and nutrients to the beach and associated dune system, particularly in regions where sediment production is of biogenic origin, as in the Balearic Islands (Marbà 2009).

Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows can absorb and bury a significant portion of atmospheric CO2, helping to reduce greenhouse gases and regulate the planet's climate. This meadow acts as a long-term carbon sink which stores five times as much carbon for each kilometer of coastline as the average recorded for the Mediterranean.

Posidonia meadows produce an excess of organic carbon which can be stored in a specific structure, called "matte". Due to the slow decomposition, the organic fraction of the matte can be preserved for a long time, forming structures several meters thick (Mateo et al. 1997). Therefore the matte acts as a long-term carbon sink with the sequestration of carbon for several centuries or even thousands of years (Boudouresque et al. 1980; Mateo et al. 1997). Although several studies have highlighted the major role played by coastal vegetation (salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses) in carbon sequestration, with more than 70 % of the  ‘blue carbon' stored (Nellemann et al. 2009), P. oceanica has the largest documented organic among seagrass species (Fourqurean et al. 2012; Serrano et al. 2012).

P. oceanica meadows of the Balearic Islands are particularly abundant (Diaz & Marbá, 2009). The P. oceanica meadows within the Ibiza World Heritage site constitute more than 70 % of the meadows of Ibiza and Formentera islands, and in comparison to the whole Balearic Islands, they have the highest ratio between surface of seagrasses and length of coastline. This area shows an exceptionally high carbon fixation rates (0.23 106 tC a-1 or 0.84 106 tCO2 a-1). The Balearic Islands' contribution to total national emissions of the greenhouse gases is 2.4 %. However, emissions per capita in the Balearic Islands are slightly higher than the national average and, since 1990, the population of the islands has increased by 45.3 % and has been accompanied by an increase in emissions per capita (Mac Cord and Mateo 2010). So it can be estimated that P. oceanica meadows surrounding the Islands offset 8.7 % of these emissions. The total stock accumulated equals 105 years of the Balearic Islands' CO2 emissions. The store of carbon sequestered beneath the meadows (matte) corresponds, for each kilometre of coastline, to an accumulation five times higher than the average recorded for the Mediterranean. On the global carbon market, this stock is valued at 4 billion euros, i.e. around 6 € m-2. These estimates confirm the outstanding role of Posidonia oceanica in the Balearic Islands as a carbon sink (Pergent et al. 2012).