WORLD famous Neolithic sites on Orkney, such as Skara Brae, are at significant risk from the effects of climate change and will have to be constantly monitored, a new five year management strategy recognises.
Five thousand years ago, the residents constructed some extraordinary monuments out of stone for homes and ritual. These include a beautifully preserved domestic settlement at Skara Brae, the chambered tomb at Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness circle and henge, and the Ring of Brodgar: a great stone circle, 130 metres across.
These important monuments are now collectively known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney and represent one of the richest surviving Neolithic landscapes in western Europe underlined by their status as an official Unesco World Heritage Site.
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This is a designation for places on Earth that are "of outstanding universal value to humanity", including the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Acropolis in Greece. Representatives from Historic Scotland, Orkney Island Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have now launched the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Management Plan 2014-19, which sets out how the partners will protect, conserve, and enhance the site.
It identifies the threat posed by climate change, noting this is a global issue and one Unesco is concerned about for its effects on World Heritage Sites.
The one in Orkney "... is at significant risk from a variety of climate-related factors including: increases in storminess and sea level rise and consequent increases in coastal erosion; torrential rain and flooding; changes to wetting and drying cycles; changes to the water table; and changes to flora and fauna," it says.
"So the management plan demands areas of the site at risk are identified, and steps taken to ensure they are appropriately monitored with plans for mitigation."