- With global warming, pollution, deforestation and overpopulation becoming imminent threats to the permanent stability of our fragile ecosphere, the danger of extinction is no longer relegated to Earth's rarest species. Some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring destinations, both naturally occurring and manmade, are at risk of disappearing forever. Hostelworld.com recommends visiting and supporting the following endangered locations before it's too late!
The Great Wall of China
Construction began over 200 years before the birth of Christ and was promptly completed in the 17th century. Not necessarily the wisest use of a nation's labor force, but when you're constructing a 30 foot high, 4500 hundred mile long wall, complete with 10,000 watchtowers, meant to keep out the rest of the world, all without the use of modern equipment, you can't sweat the small stuff. China's most famous landmark, and generally considered the longest man-made structure on Earth, spans all varieties of the Chinese landscape, twisting through the stark Gobi desert and rugged mountain ranges to the fertile grasslands and high plateaus. Exploited for tourist dollars, too large to adequately maintain, and subject to the ravages of time, it is estimated that one-half of the wall has completed disappeared, with a large percentage of the remaining wall rapidly deteriorating. How do you make a 4500 mile wall disappear without the help of David Copperfield? Wait a few years and we'll have the answer.
The Dead Sea
Located between Jordan and Israel, the Dead Sea isn't merely an ancient oasis in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Instead, the home of the now famous Dead Sea scrolls is a site of immeasurable cultural and religious significance, having hosted historic figures such as King David, Herod the Great and Jesus Christ in its therapeutic waters. Now a major tourist attraction, the saltiest body of water on the planet welcomes millions of tourists every year who come to float in its unusually buoyant waters and revel in the many physical therapies provided by the natural landscape. Whether it's a balneotherapy session, which uses the black mineral mud of the sea, or the reduced ultraviolet rays at the lowest dry point on earth, the Dead Sea area has become a major center for health research and treatment. Unfortunately, due to irrigation and human intervention, the Dead Sea is shrinking at an unprecedented rate, and according to experts, will completely evaporate in approximately fifty years.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Sometimes referred to as the tropical rain forest of the sea, the largest organic collective in the world resides along 1600 miles of coastline off of Queensland, Australia. Besides having the distinction of being one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is home to one of the most diverse collections of wildlife on the planet, many of which are endangered. Leatherback sea turtles share this ocean playground with humpback whales, clownfish and thousands of other distinct and beautiful sea creatures. Thanks to human activity, this essential component of the Earth's ecosystem is in danger of ending its 500,000 year existence in our lifetime. Reef scientists agree that global warming, which results in coral bleaching, is the greatest threat to the reef, predicting that a three degree rise in the global temperature would result in the total destruction of the 300,000 square kilometer refuge of biodiversity.
Glacier National Park, Montana, U.S.
This ancient ecosystem, dominated by cragged mountain ranges that reach into the North American sky, was carved by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age. The offspring, remnants of these Earth-shaping ice giants, have remained the centerpiece of this national treasure for 15,000 years. To general dismay, photographic evidence dating back to the mid-19th century provides indisputable evidence that the 150 glaciers scattered throughout the park have rapidly retreated, and by 2005 only 27 of the original glaciers remained. If global warming continues at the current rate, scientists agree that by 2030 there will be no glaciers left in Glacier National Park. Not a welcome prognosis for the many plant and animal species that depend on the seasonal melting of glacier ice for survival, or for the millions who make the trek each year to experience a world frozen in time.
Gondolas floating silently down the Grand Canal. Streets free of cars that wind past the architectural triumphs of the Basilica di San Marco and the Doge's Palace. Back alleys and hidden waterways that creep through the crumbling beauty of an ancient word built upon the water. Nicknamed the ¡§Queen of the Adriatic,¡¨ Venice is decadently rich in both history and culture, from its famous canals to its celebrated glassblowers, attracting over 7 million people a year to view this window into the past. Venice is also sinking. Between it's dissolving foundation and the rising sea level, the Italian government faces a daunting challenge in the coming century to keep one of the most romantic and beloved cities in Europe from becoming an underwater attraction.
Amazon Rain Forest
The ¡§lungs of our planet¡¨ pump approximately 20 percent of the world's oxygen into the atmosphere. Covering more than half of Brazil, the Amazon represents half of the remaining rainforest in the world, and is home to most diverse and abundant collection of plant and animal life on the planet. So numerous in fact, that most still wait to be discovered. However, the time for discovery is quickly waning, as deforestation, human expansion and global warming threaten to muffle the breaths of this ecological necessity. At the current rate of deforestation, in 20 years the Amazon will be reduced by 40 percent, and according to some experts, global warming could lead to the complete annihilation of Amazonian rainforest by 2100.
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