1.         Everglades National Park (United States of America) (N 76)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1993-2007, 2010-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

The property was re-inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, on the request of the State Party, due to concerns that the property's aquatic ecosystem continues to deteriorate, in particular as a result of:

Corrective measures identified

Nine corrective measures have been identified and adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Decision 30 COM 7A.14 - https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/30COM)

Additional ones are also proposed for adoption in the draft Decision.

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/76/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/76/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

April 2006: IUCN participation in a technical workshop to identify benchmarks and corrective measures; January 2011: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/76/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 8 April 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. From 22 to 27 January 2011, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission visited the property following its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger at the request of the State Party (Decision 34 COM 7B.29). The mission report is available online at the following web address: http:/whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM.

a) Alterations to the Hydrological Regime (volume, distribution of inflows)

The State Party notes that water management changes in the upstream Everglades over the last century eliminated much of the natural sheetflow through the Everglades, which over time caused the peat soils to oxidize and the ridge and slough landscape to flatten, as open-water slough communities were replaced by dense sawgrass. The State Party also notes that these habitat changes resulted in a significant decline in the property’s aquatic productivity and a loss in overall biodiversity, causing a reduction in primary food sources, which led to a decline in wading bird populations of 70 to 90% compared to pre-drainage estimates. The State Party further notes that prolonged flooding in the marl prairies of Western Shark River Slough, and the associated habitat change towards wet prairie vegetation, has caused a marked decline in the nesting success of the ground-nesting, critically endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. According to information received by the mission, the population of this sparrow has declined by 90% in comparison to pre-drainage estimates.

The State Party notes that a number of the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006) address the issue of the altered hydrological regime, through raising and bridging the Tamiami Trail, adding new conveyance and seepage management features, and revising water management operations to increase water volumes and improve flow distributions to the property. These corrective measures are part of the Modified Water Deliveries and C-111 South Dade Projects. The State Party reports that progress in the implementation of both these projects has been slow, and that restoration efforts to date have yielded only minimal improvements in water volumes or flow distributions relative to what is needed to achieve the Desired state of conservation.

The mission concluded that the restoration of the property is dependent not only on the improved hydrological flows anticipated in the current Modified Water Deliveries and C-111 initiatives, but also on other projects (current and future) which make up Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and non-CERP activities and which focus on the need to integrate new scientific information and catchment-wide hydrological objectives. It is essential that the State Party further progresses the modifications on the Tamiami Trail to include extending the bridging to a further 5.5 miles, in line with the recommendation of the Final Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement for the Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project, together with additional road raising and other associated infrastructure changes to reduce groundwater seepage losses from the property.

b) Adjacent Urban and Agricultural Growth (flood protection impact)

The State Party reports that the expansion of urban and agricultural development into the eastern marl prairies caused vegetation communities in the eastern marl prairies to slowly shift to more drought tolerant and terrestrial species, and resulted a major loss of productivity and biological diversity of aquatic animal communities. The State Party notes that this once important wading bird foraging area lost much of its ecological value, and the historic rookeries in the southern estuaries began to disappear. 

The State Party notes that the completion of the seepage management features from the 8.5 Square-Mile Area to the C-111 south detention area to reduce groundwater losses around the eastern boundary of the property has been partially completed. It also notes that the C-111 northern detention area, which would allow excess flows from the 8.5 Square-Mile Area to pass southward, as well as fill the current gap in the seepage management features in the upper portion of Taylor Slough, is currently in development and expected to be completed by 2017. The State Party further notes that tests are underway to identify appropriate additional seepage management features to reduce groundwater losses from Northeast Shark River Slough.

The mission concluded that it is crucial to strengthen cooperation among all partners involved in the restoration projects through adoption of a common vision which includes conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property as a consistent high priority. The mission further concluded that it is essential to ensure that the importance of an entire catchment scale approach and water planning and management in South Florida is fully recognized across all relevant agencies and stakeholders and that decisions far upstream may have significant impacts within the property.

c) Increased nutrient pollution from upstream agricultural activities

The State Party notes that the Everglades have a distinct north-to-south gradient of nutrients and pollutants from the degraded upstream agricultural and urban areas to the relatively un-impacted park. The mission notes that the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) Project’s canal system acts as a conduit for nutrient transport, and stormwater runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) has significantly increased phosphorus concentrations in the downstream Water Conservation Areas and the Park. The State Party reports that more than 16,200 hectares of Everglades wetlands, primarily north of the property, show signs of significant eutrophication, and these impacted areas are still increasing in size. It notes that the progressive eutrophic impacts include altered periphyton species composition and a complete loss of algal communities, substantially reduced water column dissolved oxygen, increased phosphorus content in the macrophytes and soil, conversion of the prairie, sawgrass, and slough mosaic to dense stands of cattail, reduced fish and invertebrate productivity, and a loss of wading bird foraging habitat.

The State Party notes that approximately 4,900 ha of new Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA) are currently under construction and expected to be operational by 2013. It also notes that other STAs will be expanded and 12,950 ha worth of flow equalization basins constructed by 2014 to 2018. It expects that the expansion of the Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West (STA-1W) could bring approximately 8,712 million cubic feet (mcft) of new water into the Water Conservation Areas and the property.

The mission concludes that it is necessary to resolve uncertainties upstream of the property arising from the legal actions linked in particular to water quality. It considers that it is further essential to address the delays in the implementation of the Modified Water Deliveries (MWD), C-111 and CERP projects, and related water quality initiatives which will result in continued degradation of the property and likely reduce the resilience of the Everglades ecosystem in the face of climate change.

d) Protection and management of Florida Bay

The State Party reports that reduced fresh water inflows to Florida Bay have resulted in increased salinity, especially upstream of the nearshore embayments of central Florida Bay and downstream of the Taylor Slough wetlands. It notes that overall estuarine productivity that is needed for successful reproduction of both estuarine fish communities and their associated wading bird and marine shorebird communities has been significantly reduced, and that the high salinities have contributed to seagrass die-off, recurring algal blooms and increased turbidity. The State Party notes that the ongoing implementation of the C-111 South Dade project and the C-111 Spreader Canal Phase 1 project is expected to create a nearly continuous groundwater ridge along the eastern border of Taylor Slough, to retain water within this watershed and redirect freshwater flows into central Florida Bay. It also notes that plans for substantially increasing flows into Northeast Shark River Slough will ultimately be needed to restore freshwater flows into Florida Bay and reduce bay-wide salinity.

The mission was informed that Florida Bay Florida Keys Feasibility Study (FBFKFS) has not made significant progress since its authorization. The South Florida Natural Resources Center (SFNRC), which contributed significantly to the FBFKFS, continues to develop the physical and ecological models that address the issue of how inflows affect the salinity regime of Florida Bay and the potential biological responses. The results of this work are intended to provide tools for assessment of proposed changes in water management as well as establish specific targets for restoration of inflows that will significantly benefit the Bay ecosystem. This work is conducted in coordination with the multidisciplinary and multi-agency efforts toward the common goal of providing science-based recommendations on Everglades restoration. A report is anticipated end 2011.

e) Effects from climate change and sea level rise

The mission notes that successful restoration of historic fresh water flows through Shark River and Taylor Sloughs is likely to improve ecosystem resilience and enhance capacity to adapt to climate change and sea level rise. It also notes that improved fresh water flows would help hold back salt water intrusion and avoid the very rapid environmental change which reduces the ability of species to move or adapt. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that movement of certain habitats such as mangroves may be inevitable but this does not in itself necessarily threaten OUV. The mission considers that there is currently insufficient evidence that climate change and sea level rise will pose an immediate or equivalent degree of threat as those associated with the alterations in freshwater quantity and quality entering the property.

f) Invasive species

The mission found evidence of significant increases in invasive species of both flora and fauna and considers that these increases could well be a threat to the property’s OUV. The mission concludes that it is necessary to undertake an assessment of the effects of invasive species (plants and animals) on the OUV of the property.

g) Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

As requested by Decision 34 COM 7B.29, the mission assisted the State Party with the development of a Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Fourteen different indicators are proposed to monitor the integrity and ecological rehabilitation, as well as management effectiveness. Proposed integrity indicators include the magnitude and direction of sheetflow, timing and distribution of surface water depths (hydro-pattern) and the concentration of total phosphorus in freshwater Everglades. Proposed ecological indicators include concentrations and distribution of nutrients and salinity in Southern Coastal ecosystems, species abundance and distribution of periphyton and freshwater faunal assemblages, abundance and distribution of wading birds; American Alligator; American Crocodile, submerged aquatic vegetation in Southern coastal ecosystems (notably seagrasses) as well as the nearshore faunal community (notably spotted seatrout and pink shrimp). Proposed management effectiveness indicators include catchment-wide support of a common vision for the conservation of the property’s OUV, and delivery of necessary financial resources. A detailed description is available in the mission report. The report submitted by the State Party further refines these indicators and provides measurable targets for the integrity indicators. No measurable target or quantification is provided for the ecological indicators. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that measurable targets or quantification should be developed for all indicators that make up the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

Based on the findings of the mission, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the OUV of the property is continuing to degrade due to an inadequate level of water flow and quality into the property. The mission recognized that the State Party has developed significant plans during the last three decades to provide more natural flow of water and improve water quality, but confirms that the projects necessary to achieve these goals have not been fully implemented nor are they fully underway. There are considerable ongoing delays in project funding that largely prevent the park authorities from implementing and completing the nine corrective measures identified in 2006.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish to draw the World Heritage Committee’s attention to the fact that the existing nine corrective measures will not be sufficient for the property to achieve the Desired state of conservation for removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger. In addition to these, the mission considers that it will be essential to strengthen the cooperation among all partners involved in the restoration projects through adoption of a common vision, ensure that the importance of an entire catchment scale approach to land and water planning and management in South Florida is fully recognized across all relevant agencies and stakeholders, address the delays in the implementation of the Modified Water Deliveries (MWD), C-111 and CERP projects and related water quality initiatives, progress the further modifications on the Tamiami Trail to include extending the bridging to a further 5.5 miles together with additional road raising and other associated infrastructure changes, and resolve uncertainties upstream of the property arising from the legal actions linked in particular to water quality. These are included in the draft decision as additional corrective measures.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note that there is evidence of commitment and measures which, if fully implemented, will lead to a Desired state of conservation which would be sufficient to enable removal in the future. However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the conclusion of the mission that it may take the property several decades to reach the Desired state of conservation. Therefore, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and that the corrective measures be re-assessed in 2016, to gain understanding of their cumulative impact on the restoration of the property.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7A.14

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7A.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.29, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Notes the conclusion of the 2011 World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property continues to degrade due to an inadequate level of water flow and quality into the property;

4. Notes with appreciation that the State Party has developed significant plans during the last three decades to provide more natural flow of water and improve water quality, but expresses its concern that the projects necessary to achieve these goals have not been fully implemented nor are they fully underway and that there are considerable ongoing delays in project funding that largely prevent the park authorities from implementing and completing the nine corrective measures identified in 2006;

5. Requests the State Party to implement, in addition to the remaining corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the following additional corrective measures:

a) Strengthen the cooperation among all partners involved in the restoration projects through adoption of a common vision which includes conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property as a consistent high priority. This common vision should be integrated in the General Management Plan expected in Spring 2011,

b) Ensure that the importance of an entire catchment scale approach to land and water planning and management in South Florida is fully recognized across all relevant agencies and stakeholders (e.g., through cross-compliance) and that decisions far upstream do not further impact the conservation of the property. The catchment scale approach should be reflected in and implemented through the General Management Plan expected in Spring 2011,

c) Address the delays in the implementation of the Modified Water Deliveries (MWD), C-111 and Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects, and related water quality initiatives which will result in continued degradation of the property and likely reduce the resilience of the Everglades ecosystem in the face of climate change,

d) Ensure progress on the further modifications on the Tamiami Trail to include extending the bridging to a further 5.5 miles together with additional road raising and other associated infrastructure changes to reduce groundwater seepage losses from the property whilst also addressing the concerns of other stakeholders,

e) Resolve uncertainties upstream of the property arising from the legal actions linked in particular to water quality;

6. Urges the State Party to strengthen efforts to implement all fourteen corrective measures, and to place the highest priority on the outstanding budget necessary for their full implementation;

7. Also requests the State Party to undertake an assessment of the effects of invasive species (flora and fauna) on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

8. Takes note of the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, provided in the report of the 2011 World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission, and further requests the State Party to refine and quantify all indicators so that progress towards their achievement can be measured;

9. Encourages the State Party to explore further practical and feasible measures (including the feasibility to delineate water conservation areas 3A and 3B as buffer zones) which will reduce the source of nutrient enrichment from the Everglades agricultural area together with other locations and resolve conflicts among stakeholders which otherwise might prevent the actual delivery of the required volumes of clean water to the property (e.g. water conservation area 3B);

10. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1February2012, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, including on progress achieved in implementing the corrective measures, as well as the other points raised above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012;

11. Decides to retain Everglades National Park (United States of America) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-11/35.COM/7A, WHC-11/35.COM/7A.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/7A.Add.Corr),

2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: