Effects of Environmental Degradation on Cultural Heritage

Effects of Environmental Degradation on Cultural Heritage


Environmental degradation is one of the major environmental concerns across the globe. There are many effects of environmental degradation on cultural heritage and they occur due to depletion of natural resources including soil, water, and air, destruction of various ecosystem and wildlife extinction.

Ecological degradation can also be defined as any change or disturbance to the atmosphere that is perceived to be undesirable or deleterious thus, affecting human life and has various effects on cultural heritage .

Understanding the effects of environmental degradation on cultural heritage

Air quality

Air pollution and change have been affected due to a wide range of industrial activities across different parts of the globe. Climate and air quality are very crucial in preservation of cultural heritage, libraries, historical buildings and archives. Therefore, changes in climate translate to changes in precipitation and temperatures among other related parameters.

In countries such as Norway, there are concerns over stronger and increased precipitations and high temperatures. It leads to greater loads on structures and materials used for preservation of cultural heritage in form of high catastrophic failure and wear.

Similarly, climate change led to in spread and in migration of new plant species and animals. In many cases, these animals have adverse effects on museums and buildings. Maintenance costs will therefore increase to prevent damages caused by water on cultural infrastructure.


Salinity also occurs due to soil and air pollution. It affects areas of cultural importance especially for aboriginal people (‘Aboriginal heritage & salinity’. It also affects contemporary expression of their culture. Salinity has further led to decline of species valued as wild foods, medicines and totems in many communities.

It has also damaged different archeological sites such as carved and scarred trees among other historical and cultural sites. Many gardens, monuments and heritage buildings are additionally at a very high risk of saline water rising thus coming into contact with and damaging them. When water evaporates, salt crystalizes and places masonry under duress leading to collapse and destruction of historical buildings. Many of them cannot be replaced or repaired.

Humidity also causes significant damage to monuments. In the past years, multi accidents have occurred due to environmental degradation. One disaster such as earthquakes leads to another including economic, social and environmental effects as well as in cultural spheres.

Water pollution also has a considerable and long term effect on ground water table thus affecting archeological and architectural heritage. This further causes potential damage on major historic buildings and archeological sites. More generally, modern buildings are regenerating and other sustainable activities can be at odds hence, the desire to protect and conserve cultural heritage.

Construction and other above ground cultural heritage features including standing monuments are affected by environmental degradation. They are an easier model than the complex issues of chemical, biological and chemical variables in archeological sites. It affects the visibility and vicinity of cultural sites.

Similarly, environmental degradation and neglect is one of the most insidious threats to cultural heritage. There is lack of awareness and lack of very important resources. Failure to preserve the environment and to undertake important activities on cultural objects and buildings leads to deterioration of cultural features.

Industrial pollution and cultural heritage

Industrial pollution is a major threat to cultural heritage. This occurs in form of air and water pollution in different spheres. Accumulation of particles and gasses over monuments and other cultural buildings also damages them.

Soil creep is typical in other countries and it damages natural architectural and cultural as well as capital buildings. Soil creep damages the structures and plants around them. This is further worsened by changes in climate because they go beyond normal variation. They decrease in temperature and snowfalls in spring. As a result, they cause damage to historic and cultural monuments.

Strong winds also transfer bacteria, fungi and micro fauna among other organisms. They accumulate on walls and roofs in buildings especially in stone walls and seam connections. In the end, they expand and spread causing damages and bringing monuments and other cultural buildings very close to their destruction. They also lose their value and with tainted images, valuable writings and damaged ornaments they tend to put off tourists.

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