Lecture: World Heritage Volcanoes: the best of the best?

Speaker: Dr Chris Wood, School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University

Entry Fee

Members: Free

Visitors: £5.00

Date and Time

19:30 -


Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN

Lecture Description

This presentation examines the extent to which volcanoes and volcanic features are represented on the World Heritage List. It was commissioned by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and investigated the records of the 878 sites on the current World Heritage List, as well as 1468 sites proposed for nomination in the Tentative Lists of State Parties. It was found that while there are 57 sites that have some volcanic geology, 28 of these contain active volcanoes (i.e., volcanoes listed in the database of the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program as having been active during the Holocene period, or the last 10,000 years). Furthermore, because many of the sites with active volcanism contain more than one volcano, it is estimated that the World Heritage List may contain over 100 active volcanoes, which is over 6% of all the world’s Holocene volcanoes. Examination of the Tentative Lists revealed a further 40 volcanic sites, 28 with one or more active volcanoes, these latter sites containing over 70 Holocene volcanoes.

The World Heritage List therefore represents a most important mechanism for protecting the global volcanic estate. As will be illustrated in the presentation, the volcanic sites on the List display a wide variety of volcanic forms and features, including single active, dormant or extinct volcanic edifices; complex, large scale, active volcanic landscapes representative of particular plate tectonic settings; individual volcanic landforms or features, or combinations of these; eroded remnants of former volcanoes; and significant hydrothermal systems. The study found that the volcanic sites on the World Heritage List exhibit virtually all types of major and subsidiary constructional and erosional (destructional) volcanic landforms.

While the World Heritage List appears to possess good overall representation of volcanic features, deeper analysis in the context of plate tectonic setting, landform and geopolitical boundaries has revealed some gaps that might be filled by future nominations. There are also some iconic volcanoes, such as Mt Vesuvius or Mt Fuji, that have so far missed nomination. One important aspect of management not usually so dominant in other natural World Heritage Sites is the hazardous behaviour of many volcanoes, necessitating the scientific monitoring of volcanic activity, as well as the drawing up of Hazard Assessments and Risk Contingency Plans.

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