23. Kakadu Wetlands • Australia
We have selected 100 unique places on Earth that are projected to undergo profound changes within the next few generations. We based our selection of the 100 places on the 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Simply by drawing attention to the beauty of these places, 100 Places to Remember Before they Disappear creates an argument to preserve them. The 100 Places we have chosen to highlight, and the people who live in them, are in serious danger because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures and extreme weather events triggered by climate change. Among ambassadors are Joss Stone, Desmund Tutu for more info visit http://www.100places.com. A Living Cultural Landscape Aboriginal clans have occupied the land of Kakadu in the north of Australia for more than 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is famous for its unique interaction between culture and nature, as exemplified by the 10,000-year-old stone paintings and the remarkable variety of wildlife made possible by the diversity of its tropical climate. The lush, green wetlands of Kakadu support more than 60 species of water bird and, at the end of the northern summer, the wetlands attract about 30 species of migratory birds that have flown south to these warmer climates from their breeding grounds in Siberia and China. Along the flood plains of the wetland lie paperbark forests that sustain honeyeaters, lorikeets and other nectar-feeding birds. Paperbark trees are vital to the Aboriginal peoples, who produce canoes from them by folding a single, large piece of bark. The Kakadu National Park is home to about 500 Aboriginal people, who live according to the principle that has always governed their lives: caring for the land. They are highly dependent on the large number of people who turn up every year to visit the lily-carpeted waterways. Climate change now presents a serious challenge, both to the livelihood of the Aboriginal people and to the rich natural environment. Rising sea levels are causing salt-water intrusion that threatens to destroy the paperbark forest and turn a major part of the fertile wetlands into salty mudlands. If this happens, tourism will decline and many of the distinctive birds will abandon the park, with a devastating effect on the wildlife of the wetlands.