Whether because of natural disasters or mismanagement, tourism or deforestation, neglect or pollution, several of the world’s most precious landmarks are facing serious threats to their survival. We often think of extinction as something that happens to animals and plants, yet places, too. Indeed, there are hundreds of historic landmarks, irreplaceable ecosystems, ancient cities, and unique traditional villages across the globe that are in serious need of preservation. Click through to check out just some of these amazing places.
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1. The Floating Villages of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
About 1,700 people call the four “floating villages” in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay home. The villages, comprised of boats and floating wooden houses, date back to the 19th century. Traditionally, villagers earned their income through fishing; today, the village has transformed into a popular tourist destination, an activity that has seriously threatened the traditional way of life.
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2. Ellis Island Hospital Complex, New York City
One in three Americans can trace their lineage to immigrants that passed through this legendary immigration center. Indeed, for their immigrant ancestors, Ellis Island was a place of hope for a new life in a new nation. But it was also a place of heartbreak; before most immigrants were cleared to enter the United States, they were put through a medical screening. Those who were deemed unfit, whether by disease, pregnancy or mental illness, were detained in the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. In a time before antibiotics, the hospital was on the cutting-edge of medicine.
Unlike the immigration center, which has been a museum since 1990, the Ellis Island Hospital remains unrestored. Public and private funds haven’t come through to repair the historically important buildings. Nearly 60 years after the facility closed, the hospital interior is in a serious state of disrepair.
Image Credit: Pro-Zak via Flickr
3. Nazca Lines, Peru
Over the span of a millennium, these famed geoglyphs were produced in the arid plateau of Peru’s Nazca desert. Hundreds of the figures were produced by removing the top layer of red pebbles to reveal the white pebbles underneath. Visible from both the sky and the foothills around the desert, the Nazca lines have changed little in the 1,500-2,500 years they were built. Preservationists, however, are concerned that their incredible longevity may soon come to an end. With an influx of tourism, the potential for flooding and rainfall, and pollution, these ancient wonders may not be around next century, let alone millennium.
4. Gingerbread Neighborhood, Haiti
Even before the devastating earthquake that plagued the country in 2010, Haiti was the poorest country in the Americas. But that wasn’t always the case, and the 200-odd gingerbread houses in Port-Au-Prince are a testament to that. These ornate, almost cartoonish, homes were built at the turn of the century by Parisian-educated Haitian architects for the country’s elite. Unlike so many of the nation’s most important and historic architecture, only 5 percent of the gingerbread homes collapsed during the earthquake. This makes their preservation even more important — for Haiti, it’s one of the few physical connections to its rich history remaining in this devastated nation.
Haitian laws currently don’t protect private property from preservation, so the homes can be demolished to make way for their valuable large lots. Though efforts are underway to preserve the remaining homes, there is still plenty left to do.
5. Everglades National Park, Florida
Encroaching urban and agricultural development has severely threatened this already fragile wetland. Among the most well-known aspect of the Everglades is the intricate network of mangroves, home to a highly-significant bird breeding ground, and species like the Florida panther, manatee, American crocodile, and, of course, plenty of alligators. There have been several attempts, over the years, some of them successful, to drain the Everglades and develop the land. Though they are protected by the federal government, the massive development of South Florida has had serious consequences on the water quality, and thus marine life of the area. Everglades National Park, in fact, is on UNESCO’s “List of World Heritage in Danger.”
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6. Quiriguá, Guatemala
From about 725 to 785 AD, this Mayan city flourished from the trade of obsidian and jade. Though most Mayan archaeological sites are prized for the architecture, what stands out at Quiriguá is its impressive works of sculpture, most notably including the tallest stone sculpture in the Mayan civilization, if not the entirety of the New World, ever discovered. The site, however, is under threat from both legal and illegal deforestation. In 2010, the site was closed after a flood. Management of Quiriguá has had financial issues, too.
Image Credit: HJPD via Wikimedia Commons
7. Arg-é Bam, Iran
In 2003, the most devastating earthquake in Iranian history almost completely leveled this centuries-old 44 acre citadel. In its aftermath, 80 percent of the once popular tourist destination was either destroyed or demolished. Once the largest adobe structure in the world, Arg-é Bam sat on the legendary Silk Road trade route. Nations across the globe have pledged money to rebuilding the ancient city and the modern city that sprung up around it. Its inclusion on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, and the funding that goes along with it, however, is in danger of being revoked. The rebuilding efforts have not complied with UNESCO’s standards.
Image Credit: Ales.kocourek via Wikimedia Commons
8. Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar
The six national parks that comprise the rainforests of the Atsinanana are some of the most ecologically diverse places on the planet. Because the island broke off from the Gondawana supercontinent over 70 million years ago, the flora and fauna of Madagascar developed in isolation. Most of the plants and animals on the island today are found nowhere else in the world. Dozens of species of lemur, Madagascar’s most iconic animal, roam these forests. Most of these are, sadly, endangered. That, along with rampant illegal logging, mining, and human encroachment, are all threatening these unique habitats.