Glacier landscapes are central in the inscription of several natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In different mountains around the world, the glaciers themselves and the related landforms and processes are indeed part of the heritage value that justifies a recognition at a global scale. However, due to global warming, many glaciers are retreating and glacier landscapes are changing rapidly. As local actions to reduce their melting will not allow to reverse the trend, many glacier landscapes as we know them today are threatened. The question of how it is possible to guarantee the conservation of this World geoheritage is therefore urgent, and we propose here to highlight some elements of answer, illustrated by the cases of Vatnajökull National Park (Iceland) and Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch (Switzerland).
If ice melts and glaciers disappear, they also leave many traces of their presence. Erosion landforms, such as U-shaped valleys, roches moutonnées, etc., and constructed landforms, such as moraines, outwash plains, kames, etc., are valuable testimonies of the characteristics, dynamics and evolution of ancient glaciers. As the Icelandic case study suggests, management plans have to ensure the conservation of inherited geomorphological landforms against potential damages.
Despite the conservation of inherited landforms, the disappearance of ice and deep changes in glacier landscapes are engaged. It is therefore important to conserve the memory of ancient glacier landscapes, because this allows comparison and reinforces our understanding of the changes that are occurring. As the Swiss case study shows, scientific, artistic or literary productions illustrate the transformations of the landscape from the end of the Little Ice Age to the present day. In both cases, actions in terms of geo-interpretation, as promoted for 30 years by scientists active in the field of geoconservation and geotourism, should be included among the management tools of these sites.
Keywords: glacier landscape|geoheritage|UNESCO World Heritage|Vatnajökull (Iceland)|Jungfrau-Aletsch (Switzerland)