Eleven parks and archipelagos receive United Nations World Heritage protection
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has awarded protected status to 11 natural sites and warned that one listed bird sanctuary is in danger.
On November 30 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization inscribed 61 new cultural and natural sites to its list, bringing the total to 690 sites. The new sites are:
- The Ischigualasto and Talampaya Natural Parks in Argentina. The parks extend over 1,060 square miles (2,700 sq km) in the desert region on the western border of the Sierra Pampeanas of central Argentina and contain the most complete fossil record known from the Triassic Period (245-208 million years ago);
- The Greater Blue Mountains Area in Australia. Consisting of 3,900 square miles (10,000 sq km) of mostly forested landscape on a deeply-incised sandstone plateau just inland from Sydney. The site is particularly noted for its wide and balanced representation of eucalyptus habitats;
- Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in Bolivia. At 5,800 square miles (14,800 sq km), it is one of the largest and most intact parks in the Amazon Basin, containing a rich mosaic of habitat types from Cerrado savannah and forest to upland evergreen Amazonian forests. An estimated 4,000 species of flora as well as over 600 bird species and viable populations of many globally endangered or threatened vertebrate species live in the park;
- Jaú National Park in Brazil. It is the largest national park in the Amazon Basin at 8,800 square miles (22,400 sq km), and one of the planet’s richest regions in terms of biological diversity. The Jaú River is considered the best example of a ‘blackwater ecosystem’ (the name is taken from the colour given to the water by the decomposition of organic matter and the lack of terrestrial sediments);
- Pantanal Conservation Complex in Brazil, with a total area of 725 square miles (1,860 sq km). Located in western central Brazil, the site represents 1.3% of Brazil’s Pantanal region, one of the world’s largest freshwater wetland ecosystems. The headwaters of the region’s two major river systems, the Cuiabá and the Paraguay rivers, are located here, and the abundance and diversity of its vegetation and animal life are so spectacular it is known as South America’s Serengeti;
- Aeolian Islands in Italy, which provide an outstanding record of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena;
- Kinabalu Park in Malaysian Borneo, is dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea and has a very wide range of habitats, ranging from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. The park is exceptionally rich in species with examples of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, as well as pan-tropical flora;
- Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysian Borneo, which is the most studied tropical karst area in the world. The park contains 17 vegetation zones, exhibiting some 3,500 species of vascular plants and 109 palm species. The park is dominated by Gunung Mulu, a 2,377m-high pinnacle karst, which is said to be the most cavernous mountain in the world. At least 295km of explored caves provide a spectacular sight and are home to millions of cave swiftlets and bats. The Sarawak Chamber is the largest known cave chamber in the world;
- The Central Suriname Nature Reserve in Surinam comprises 6,200 square miles (16 sq km) of primary tropical forest containing a high diversity of plant life with almost 6,000 vascular plant species collected to date. The Reserve’s animals include the jaguar, giant armadillo, giant river otter, tapir, sloths, eight species of primates and 400 bird species;
- The High Coast of Sweden, a Baltic Sea archipelago, which displays the highest evident glacial rebound known to man;
- The Drakensberg Park in South Africa which is a combined natural and cultural site with spectacular landscapes and contains many caves and rock-shelters with a wealth of paintings made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years.
UNESCO also announced that the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary in Senegal has been added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, guaranteeing extra protection. The sanctuary is a small wetland forming a vital but fragile sanctuary for 1.5 million birds, such as the white pelican, the purple heron, the African spoonbill, the great egret and the cormorant. Its survival is threatened by the invasion of a water plant, Salvinia molesta, which has crossed over the Senegal River and already invaded the Diawling National Park of Mauritania.