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European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)

Facts and figures on the importance of UNESCO World Heritage Marine Sites for marine biodiversity

The user organisation and challenges faced by the user

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO ) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ) have compiled a first-time assessment of the status and trends of species within UNESCO World Heritage sites , revealing specific insights in the species richness of these sites.

In order to compile these insights for the marine World Heritage Sites, the coordinators of the World Heritage Marine Programme  under the Secretariat of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention have contacted the data centre of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ ) and the secretariat of the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS ). A collaboration between these three entities provided the needed access to data and information to unambiguously and accurately provide insights into the species richness of the marine sites under the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This first-time ever assessment aimed to collect and provide a baseline of facts and figures on the marine biodiversity and species richness in all the UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world. As some of these sites are within European marine waters, the data retrieved from OBIS contain data that was made available via EMODnet Biology to this aggregator through the European regional OBIS node- EurOBIS. Combining efforts on a global scale made it possible to generate a global view on the current diversity in these Marine Heritage Sites and European data were essential in creating a full picture.

EMODnet services used

As this was a global approach, data on a global level have been used, through OBIS. A number of the marine World Heritage sites are however located within European waters, and the data for these sites were contributed through EMODnet Biology. All observations of marine taxa within the geographical boundaries of the (European) marine World Heritage sites were taken into consideration in the global analyses. The data flow from EMODnet Biology to OBIS made the work much easier and more straightforward, in light of data collection. By being able to access all (worldwide) available data through a single system, following the same international standards, has greatly improved the workflow and sped up the data processing work.

Impact of EMODnet

This collaboration allowed UNESCO to gain, for the first time, clear insight on the importance of UNESCO marine World Heritage sites for global biodiversity. For example, sites are safe havens for about 35% of the world’s threatened marine species, many of which are IUCN Red Listed threatened and vulnerable species.

Fanny Douvere, Head, UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme






Towards a digital ocean integration
World Heritage: a unique contribution to biodiversity conservation. UNESCO, 2023. CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO