21 Captivating Pictures of Places Worth Protecting

Challenged to #protecttheselands, National Geographic Your Shot photographers from around the world share pictures of their most beloved natural places.

It’s old news: nature is really, really good for us. In fact, green spaces are so beneficial to human health and happiness that the effects can be seen not only in those who regularly make use of them, but also in those who simply live nearby. (Dive into Nat Geo’s coverage of the power of parks.)

In the United States, Trump’s April request for a sweeping review of 40 national monuments was greeted with consternation by many. It also prompted photo editor Matt Adams to ask the community of Your Shot photographers: which lands should be protected, and stay protected? (See incredible pictures of 27 U.S. national monuments under threat.)

“I thought it would be interesting to see the opinions of not only U.S. residents, but of those all over the world—how they think about protected lands,” Adams says. “What I love is [Your Shot] is a community where many voices from all over the world come together to tell stories.” (Related: here are UNESCO's newest world heritage sites.)

According to the World Bank, in 2014 protected areas accounted for only 12.8% of the world’s land and marine environments. Though many scientists argue this is not enough, these protected areas are an invaluable resource and refuge to many. (Learn 6 ways to be a more sustainable traveller.)

Take a look through this gallery of editor’s picks from the Your Shot challenge—and then head outside to take a picture of a place that’s important to you.

SØRFJORD, NORWAY: PHOTO BY ALEXANDER KOENIG, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

This fjord is most famous for Trolltunga, an oft-photographed rock formation overlooking the water 2,300 feet (700 meters) below. But as photographer Alexander Koenig wrote, “Sadly, this spot gets mistreated like few other places I have seen.” When hiking, leave no trace.

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