Location and Values: The South China Karst world heritage site is a serial site with seven widely separated clusters (a total of 12 component parts) spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongking. It contains the most significant types of karst landforms, including tower karst, pinnacle karst and cone karst formations, along with other spectacular characteristics such as natural bridges, gorges and large cave systems. It is representative of the huge karst area (some 500,000 km2) that covers much of southern China, Vietnam and the rest of Indochina.
Conservation Status and Threats. According to IUCN’s most recent Conservation Outlook Assessment (December 2020) the conservation status of the South China Karst is considered to be ‘good, with some concerns’. The exceptional values which are recognized by the site’s inscription on the World Heritage List are not seriously threatened, but a number of issues affecting conservation of the site are noteworthy, including:
- Atmospheric and groundwater pollution. Some components of the South China Karst are subject to varying degrees of atmospheric and groundwater pollution, including acid rain and agricultural runoff, which may (in the long term) affect the natural erosion processes that have produced the site’s spectacular karst formations.
- Increased tourism infrastructure development. There has been growing concern about the proliferation of tourism facilities as visitor numbers have increased, but recent measures to impose stricter controls and improve tour routes and visitor management has alleviated this threat. Some tourism service facilities have been relocated and various environmental control and ecological restoration projects initiated.
- Waste management. Some parts of the South China Karst are affected by inadequate disposal of solid waste from residents and tourism operations. This is a particular issue for heavily visited sites, such as the Shilin Stone Forest (which receives at least five million visitors annually).
- Subsistence cropping and livestock grazing. These activities are taking place within many of the component sites and may affect their aesthetic values and visitor experience, but are not likely to affect their spectacular geological formations.
- Natural disasters such as landslides, floods and droughts. Parts of the site experience earthquakes, landslides, accelerated soil erosion, flooding and drought. For example the region of Shilin Stone Forest is subject to frequent earthquakes, whilst Jinfoshan is vulnerable to rock collapses and landslides. These natural events contribute to the evolution of landscapes but may cause significant short term damage to the geological features that are recognized by the world heritage listing of the South China Karst. The intensity and frequency of natural events may increase as a result of climate change.
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description