Linguistic diversity of natural UNESCO world heritage sites: bridging the gap between nature and culture

Suzanne Romaine, L. J. Gorenflo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites (WHSs) are some of the most important biophysical and geological places on Earth, yet nearly half are endangered or face considerable risks from ever-expanding human impacts. Often sites have people living within or nearby who speak different languages, many of which are unique and similarly endangered. Here we examine the co-occurrence of Natural WHSs with languages, as a key index of cultural diversity, to identify locations for integrative conservation opportunities aimed at protecting human and non-human diversity. Our analysis reveals many WHSs with high linguistic diversity, as well as endangered sites with associated indigenous languages and endangered languages that intersect Natural WHSs. Results identify Australia as the continent which has the greatest number of Natural WHSs, many co-occurring with highly endangered languages. Engaging speakers of indigenous languages often can help maintain nature, while efforts to conserve Natural WHSs can help preserve settings that enabled indigenous languages and cultures to emerge and persist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1973-1988
Number of pages16
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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