World Heritage

Natural World Heritage sites include iconic places such as the Great Barrier Reef, Yellowstone, the Galápagos Islands and Kilimanjaro, and are recognised as the world's most significant protected areas.


Protecting the planet’s most iconic natural places


We advise

~ 60

natural sites are monitored by IUCN each year for the World Heritage Committee; 252 are now listed

We assess

64 %

of all sites listed up to 2017 are assessed by IUCN as having a positive conservation outlook

We provide knowledge

+ 77 %

increase in sites threatened by climate change in 2017 (62 sites), compared to 2014 (35 sites)

How we engage

Natural World Heritage sites are recognised as the planet’s most important protected areas, providing life-supporting benefits to millions of people worldwide. And yet, they are under increasing pressure from climate change, infrastructure development, mining, poaching and other threats.

IUCN is the official advisory body on nature under the World Heritage Convention. IUCN evaluates sites nominated for the World Heritage List and monitors the state of conservation of listed sites. IUCN aims to improve the management of World Heritage sites and enhance the role of the World Heritage Convention in nature conservation and sustainable development.


Section Slider


  • Selous Game Reserve, World Heritage, Tanzania All rivers within Selous Game Reserve belong to the Rufiji system, Tanzania's largest basin Photo: IUCN / Tilman Jaeger

    IUCN-outsourced paper finds no proof Rufiji dam project can meet Tanzania’s development needs


    A strategic environmental assessment meant to guide decisions on the Rufiji hydropower project in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve World Heritage site is completely inadequate, according to an independent technical review commissioned and issued today by IUCN....

  • Bhitarkanika Conservation Area, India Photo: IUCN / Remco van Merm

    Experts call attention to the key role of World Heritage in meeting biodiversity objectives


    Experts convened by IUCN have issued a statement on how World Heritage contributes to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This includes recommendations specific to World Heritage and its relevance to biodiversity. Negotiations to develop the...

  • Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks, Brazil Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks, Brazil. The site's conservation outlook improved from "significant concern" in 2014, to "good with some concerns" in 2017. Photo: IUCN / Elena Osipova

    World Heritage as an indicator of protected areas’ success: the case of Latin America and the Caribbean


    As the global conservation community rallies around a common ambition – to assess the level of achievement of Aichi Targets and define the post-2020 agenda for biodiversity – the IUCN World Heritage Outlook emerges as a useful indicator of the effectiveness...

Learn more

East Rennell, Solomon Islands Photo: IUCN/Paul Dingwall

Global World Heritage projects

IUCN implements initiatives to enhance the role of World Heritage


IUCN World Heritage Outlook Photo: Our Place World Heritage

IUCN World Heritage Outlook

Blue and John Crow Mountains, Jamaica Photo: IUCN/Melissa Marín

Advisor on World Heritage

IUCN provides technical advice to help the World Heritage Committee make informed decisions on natural heritage


Monarch Butterfly Reserve, Mexico Photo: IUCN/Wendy Strahm

World Heritage and Climate Change

Climate change is the biggest potential threat to natural World Heritage sites, but these sites can be part of the solution


Quick reads

Aimed at policy-makers and journalists, IUCN Issues Briefs provide key information on selected issues in a two-pager format.

thumbnail_natural World Heritage_issues brief Photo: IUCN

Natural World Heritage

One in five (23%) sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are natural sites, most often protected areas such as national parks or nature reserves. Natural World Heritage sites are globally recognised...
Go to top