On our beloved planet there are over a thousand sites declared World Heritage by UNESCO. These are sites of indisputable and eminent cultural, historical and scientific importance, among which, however, some are in danger of disappearing today, due to wars, mismanagement and climate change.
Cyrene, founded by the Greeks on what is today Libya, is at risk due to the unstable situation in the country, has been part of the UNESCO sites at risk since 2016. Saltpetre refineries in Humberstone and Santa Laura, Chile, They have been at risk since 2005, following the damage caused by the Tarapacá earthquake.
The two old saltpetre refineries saw the presence of thousands of workers in the first half of the 20th century. In Uzbekistan, the historic center of Shahrisabz, over 2000 years old, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List at risk in 2016 due to the growing tourism industry that threatens to undermine the priceless buildings.
Archaeological area of Chan Chan, in Peru, It has been at risk since 1986 (the year in which it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site) due to urban overdevelopment and incorrect agricultural practices.
Surtsey: the Icelandic island inaccessible to everyone
Surtsey is a very amazing and interesting volcanic island off the southern coast of Iceland.
The volcanic eruption that formed it began 130 meters below sea level and reached the surface on November 14, 1963. The eruption probably began a few days earlier and lasted until June 5, 1967, when the island reached its maximum extension.
equal to 2.7 km². Since then the wind and the waves have eroded its surface making it steadily decrease: in 2005 it measured 1.4 km². In 2012 the surface area was reduced to 1.3 km2. Its highest point, measured in 2007, reached 155 meters above sea level.
The island is free from human interference, the islet of volcanic origin has offered science valuable information on the process of colonization of new lands by plants and animals. From the studies undertaken since 1964 by the experts, extraordinarily interesting data emerged on the fauna and flora that characterize this place.
The submarine eruptions that created Surtsey are part of the Vestmannaeyjar submarine volcanic system (Icelandic: islands of the men of the west) which is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an immense fissure in the seabed along which numerous seismic and volcanic phenomena occur.
The new island was extensively studied by volcanologists during its creation and since the end of the eruption it is of great interest to botanists and biologists who can observe how life forms are gradually colonizing it.
Surtsey was declared a nature reserve in 1965, when the eruptive phase was still in progress. It became a key site for the study of biocolonization by a founding population coming from outside. Only a small number of scientists are allowed to land on Surtsey; the only way for everyone else to see it up close is by using a small plane.
In 2008, UNESCO declared the island a World Heritage Site in recognition of its great scientific value. In the 20 years following the end of the eruption, measurements revealed that the island was steadily shrinking in height, and had subsided by about a meter.
The rate of reduction was about 20 cm per year, and then decreased to 1–2 cm per year in the 1990s. The reduction was due to various causes: sedimentation of the volcanic stone that forms the mass of the volcano, consolidation of sediments in the seabed underlying the island and downward deformation of the lithosphere due to the weight of the volcano. The island currently loses about one hectare of land area every year.