This year’s International Day for Biological Diversity focuses on biodiversity as the foundation for our food and health and as a key catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human well-being. The World Heritage Convention recognizes some World Heritage properties specifically for their outstanding biodiversity values, protecting many of the most important ecosystems and areas of high biodiversity on the planet.

Some World Heritage sites are vital for those dependent on them for their wellbeing.  The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines), are an example of a community's sustainable and primarily communal system of rice production, based on harvesting water from the forest clad mountain tops and creating stone terraces and ponds, a system that has survived for two millennia.

The Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba (Cuba) includes not only architectural and archaeological material evidence of 171 old coffee plantations or cafetales, but also the infrastructure for irrigation and water management, as well as the transportation network of mountain roads and bridges connecting the plantations internally and with coffee export points.

The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape (France) demonstrate almost every type of pastoral organisation to be found around the Mediterranean (agro-pastoralism, silvi-pastoralism, transhumance and sedentary pastoralism). The terraced landscape at Sukur Cultural Landscape (Nigeria) with its hierarchical structure and combination of intensive and extensive farming is another important source of food.

The UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes was created in 1995 to reward outstanding examples of action to safeguard and enhance the world’s cultural landscapes (a category of World Heritage) such as The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape and Sukur Cultural Landscape.

The Prize, generously supported by the Greek Government, bears the name of Melina Mercouri, former Minister of Culture of Greece and a strong advocate of integrated conservation. The Prize is awarded every two years to one laureate and has been awarded six times between 1995 and 2011. The next Prize will be awarded in Autumn 2019, in connection with the 40th Session of the UNESCO General Conference.

Here are actions you can take to help conserve the irreplaceable biodiversity in World Heritage sites:

  • Reduce your meat consumption
  • Eat and purchase seasonal foods
  • Buy local foods
  • Reduce your food waste
  • Avoid single-use plastics like plastic straws, coffee cups, plastic cutlery, take out containers or plastic water bottles
  • Promote local and indigenous biodiversity for food and nutrition

 Learn more about Biodiversity and World Heritage: https://whc.unesco.org/en/biodiversity/