Environment and Culture

© Oscar Minera/UNEP/Topham/The Image Works
A ceremony in the Andes honours the Apu (deity) embodied in the sacred mountain.

Sacred natural sites play an important role in the conservation of biological diversity and the environment at large. Through studies and meetings the world over, UNESCO’s MAB Programme has worked with scientists, local and indigenous practitioners, cultural experts and custodians of sacred natural sites  to ensure recognition of sites that are significant for people’s spiritual values and cultural integrities as well as for the conservation of nature.

As a result of this work, IUCN and UNESCO have developed guidelines for protected area managers on how to manage sacred natural sites based on traditional knowledge and contemporary conservation strategies.


Sacred Natural Sites: Guidelines for Protected Area Managers (English/French)
IUCN Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 16, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, 2008.

Conserving Cultural and Biological Diversity: The Role of Sacred Natural Sites and Cultural Landscapes
Proceedings of the international symposium held in Tokyo, Japan, 30 May to 2 June 2005 (UNESCO, Paris, France, 2006).

The Importance of Sacred Natural Sites for Biodiversity Conservation
Proceedings of the international workshop held in Kunming and Xishuangbanna Biosphere Reserve, China, 17-20 February 2003 (UNESCO, Paris, France, 2003).

Protection of Sacred Natural Sites: Importance for Biodiversity Conservation
Proceedings of the 10th Meeting of the East Asian Biosphere Reserve Network held in Terelj National Park, Mongolia, 1-5 September 2007 (UNESCO Office, Beijing, China, 2007).

Natural Sacred Sites – Cultural Diversity and Biological Diversity
Abstracts of the international symposium held at UNESCO, Paris, France from 22-25 September 1998 (UNESCO-CNRS-MNHN, Paris, France, 1998).

UNESCO Thematic Expert Meeting on Asia-Pacific Sacred Mountains
Proceedings of the international meeting held in Wakayama City, Japan, 5-10 September 2001 (UNESCO World Heritage Centre/Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan/Wakayama Prefectural Government, 2001).

Back to top