Endangered places are locations that are believed to be under threat. If action to preserve them is not taken, these sites may change permanently or vanish entirely. There are a number of reasons why sites can become endangered and a number of different criteria are used to identify endangered places by conservation organizations, governments, historical societies, and other interested parties.
One type of endangered place is a site that is under threat because of environmental changes. These can include sites that will flood after damming, locations at low elevations that are at risk due to rising sea levels, and sites that are threatened by volcanoes, earthquakes, mudslides, and other natural disasters. In this case, an endangered place is a site that will vanish forever and it may not be possible to intervene to save it. Conservationists may focus on documenting the site and removing artifacts of interest so that future generations can view them.
Endangered places can also be at risk of fundamental changes as a result of human activity. Sites that are identified as unique because of natural beauty, historic interest, or the habitat they provide can be endangered by development, farming, tourism, and other human activities. For these sites, conservation organizations may work to find alternative locations to these activities to preserve fragile sites.
The remnants of human societies can also become endangered places. Archaeological sites are often at risk, as they are uncovered and exposed to the elements. Other sites may be abandoned and targeted by developers or at risk as a result of natural environmental factors. Abandoned mining towns in the western United States, for example, are under threat from flash flooding, high winds, and heavy winter weather because many of the structures built were not designed to last for decades without maintenance.
Other historic sites may be well preserved, but still at risk. The Parthenon in Greece is an example. Although this site is thousands of years old and is remarkably intact, it is in danger because of pollution and heavy tourist traffic. Likewise, some historic sites have been damaged because occupying cultures actively destroyed them and the devaluation of cultural sites continues to be a problem in some regions of the world.
Organizations that identify endangered places usually do so with the goal of raising awareness and intervening to save fragile sites if it is feasible. Intervention can include lobbying to set sites aside as parks so they cannot be developed, funding restoration initiatives, fighting the construction of dams, and taking other steps that will preserve unique places around the world. Many advocates are also interested in finding places that could be threatened at some point in the future and taking action before it is too late.