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Committee Decisions

34 COM 8B.4

Natural Properties - Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island (France)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-10/34.COM/8B and WHC-10/34.COM/INF 8B2,

2. Inscribes the Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island, France on the World Heritage List under natural criteria (vii) and (x);

3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

 Brief synthesis

The area of Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island coincides with the core zone of La Réunion National Park. The property covers more than 100,000 ha or 40 % of La Réunion, an island comprised of two adjoining volcanic massifs located in the south-west of the Indian Ocean. Dominated by two towering volcanic peaks, massive walls and three cliff-rimmed cirques, the property includes a great variety of rugged terrain and impressive escarpments, forested gorges and basins creating a visually striking landscape. The property harbours the most valuable natural habitats and the species assemblages they support remaining on the Mascarene Island group. It protects key parts of a recognized global centre of plant diversity and features a remarkably high level of endemism across many taxa. Thereby, Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island is the most significant and important contribution to the conservation of the terrestrial biodiversity of the Mascarene Islands.

Criterion (vii): The combination of volcanism, tectonic landslide events, heavy rainfall and stream erosion have formed a rugged and dramatic landscape of striking beauty, dominated by two towering volcanoes, the dormant Piton de Neiges and the highly active Piton de la Fournaise. Other major landscape features include "Remparts" - steep rock walls of varying geological age and character, and so-called "cirques", which can be described as massive natural amphitheatres with an imposing height and verticality.  There are deep, partly forested gorges and escarpments, with subtropical rainforests, cloud forests and heaths creating a remarkable and visually appealing mosaic of ecosystems and landscape features.

Criterion (x): The property is a global centre of plant diversity with a high degree of endemism. It contains the most significant remaining natural habitats for the conservation of the terrestrial biodiversity of the Mascarene Islands, including a range of rare forest types. Given the major and partly irreversible human impacts on the environment in the Mascarene archipelago, the property serves as the last refuge for the survival of a large number of endemic, threatened and endangered species.

Integrity

Building upon earlier forest and nature conservation efforts, La Réunion National Park was established in 2007. This status provides an adequate legal framework to ensure the protection of the property, whose boundaries coincide with that of the national park. The boundaries of the property encompass the exceptional features of the natural landscape, as well as almost the entire remaining natural or close-to natural ecosystems remaining on La Réunion and thus the key biodiversity values. 

The integrity of the property is subject to a range of threats. Despite ongoing management efforts, invasive alien species are a permanent management challenge posing a very real threat to the biodiversity values of the property. Evidence of past losses of many native species on La Réunion and on other islands of the Mascarene archipelago underlines the severity of this threat.

Protection and management requirements

The property benefits from effective legal protection through its designation as a National Park. Ensuring the Outstanding Universal Value of the property requires an effective and adaptive implementation of the evolving management plan for La Réunion National Park, and adequate long-term staffing and financial resources. The management of the national park draws on comprehensive consultation with governmental and civil society stakeholders and benefits from structured on science, research, socio-economics and cultural issues. Meaningful and effective consultation with all of the concerned stakeholders, including communities who live within its buffer zones and surrounding areas, is indispensable.

Actions are required in response to a number of specific threats, to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of the Outstanding Universal Value. Efforts to reduce invasions, permanent monitoring, and the implementation of a comprehensive strategy to control and eradicate invasive alien species are indispensible and will require long-term and continuing efforts and significant ongoing funding. While the rugged terrain provides a degree of natural protection against encroachment and human economic activities, such as agriculture, forestry, energy production and tourism; must be managed both in the property and its buffer zone in a way that is not in conflict with the integrity of the property. 

The development and effective implementation of a comprehensive tourism development strategy addressing the strong demand is also necessary. There is fine balance between positive economic and educational effects and destructive impacts from excessive numbers of tourists and inappropriate activities, and thus tourism strategies will clearly need to prioritise the protection of the values of the property, alongside economic goals.

4. Commends the State Party for the decision to abandon the project on geothermal energy, considering the need to maintain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

5. Also commends the State Party for the consultative process that has been put in place for preparing the management plan for the property and takes note, that although the property does not currently have a completed management plan in place, that the State Party will legally adopt the management plan for the property in 2011;

6. Requests the State Party to ensure that the future management plan addresses all of the integrity, protection and management requirements necessary to ensure the long-term conservation and enhancement of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and also requests that a copy of the management plan is provided to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, when finalized and entered into force. 

7. Further requests the State Party to ensure the effective implementation of the Action Plan for the Control and Eradication of invasive alien species, in full integration with the management plan for the property, considering the critical nature of this threat to the Outstanding Universal Value and furthermore requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2013, a report on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the Committee at its 37th session.

8. Requests moreover the State Party to ensure that sufficient human and financial resources continue to be provided for the effective implementation of the management plan for the property as well as for the implementation of actions for the control and eradication of invasive alien species.

9. Recommends the State Party to share lessons learned on eradication and management of alien species with other relevant States Parties, World Heritage properties and island protected areas facing similar challenges. 

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: France
Session: 34COM