Decision : 37 COM 8B.10
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Documents WHC-13/37.COM/8B and WHC-13/37.COM/INF.8B2;
2. Inscribes the Xinjiang Tianshan, China, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (vii) and (ix) ;
3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
Xinjiang Tianshan is a serial property consisting of four components totaling 606,833 hectares, with buffer zones totaling 491,103 hectares located in the People’s Republic of China in the Xinjiang Tianshan, the eastern portion of the Tianshan mountain range. The four components are located along the 1,760 kilometers of the Xinjiang Tianshan, a temperate arid zone surrounded by Central Asian deserts. The property was nominated under criterion (vii) for its outstanding beauty and superlative natural features and criterion (ix) for capturing a range of biological and ecological processes.
The property has outstanding scenic values and many superlative natural features – from red bed canyons to high peaks and glaciers to beautiful wetlands, meadows and steppe. The visual impact of these features is magnified by the stark contrasts between the mountain areas and vast Central Asian deserts, and between the dry south slopes and the much wetter north slope. Xinjiang Tianshan is also an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary process in a temperate arid zone. Altitudinal vegetation distributions, significant differences between north and south slopes, and diversity of flora, all illustrate the biological and ecological evolution of the Pamir-Tian Shan Highlands. Xinjiang Tianshan has outstanding biodiversity and is important habitat for relic species, and numerous rare and endangered species, as well as endemic species. It provides an excellent example of the gradual replacement of the original warm and wet flora by modern xeric Mediterranean flora.
Criterion (vii) : The Tianshan is a large mountain range in Central Asia stretching about 2,500 kilometers. It is the largest mountain chain in the world’s temperate arid region, and the largest isolated east-west mountain range globally. The Xinjiang portion of the Tianshan runs east-west for 1,760km and is a mountain range of outstanding natural beauty. The Xinjiang Tianshan is anchored in the west by the highest peak in the Tianshan, Tomur Peak at 7,443 meters, and in the east by Bogda Peak at 5,445 meters. The range lies between two Central Asian deserts, Junggar Desert in the north and the Tarim Desert in the south. The beauty of the Xinjiang Tianshan lies not only in its spectacular snow-capped mountains and glacier-capped peaks, beautiful forests and meadows, clear rivers and lakes and red bed canyons, but also in the combination and contrast between the mountain elements and the vast deserts. The stark difference of bare rocks on its south slope and luxuriant forest and meadow on the north creates a striking visual contrast of environments which are hot and cold, dry and wet, desolate and luxuriant – and of exceptional beauty.
Criterion (ix) : Xinjiang Tianshan is an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary process in a temperate arid zone. The landforms and ecosystems have been preserved since the Pliocene epoch because of the Tianshan’s position between two deserts and its Central Asian arid continental climate, which is unique among the world's mountain ecosystems. Xinjiang Tianshan has all the typical mountain altitudinal zones of a temperate arid zone, reflecting the moisture and heat variations at different altitudes, gradients and slopes. The property is an outstanding example for the study of biological community succession in mountain ecosystems in an arid zone undergoing global climate change. Xinjiang Tianshan is also an outstanding representative of biological and ecological evolution in the Pamir-Tian Shan Highlands. Altitudinal vegetation distributions, significant differences between north and south slopes, and diversity of flora, all illustrate the biological and ecological evolution of the Pamir-Tian Shan Highlands. The property is also an important habitat for relic species, and numerous rare and endangered species, as well as endemic species. It is representative of the process whereby the original warm and wet flora has gradually been replaced by modern xeric Mediterranean flora.
The property is a serial property consisting of four components totaling 606,833 hectares, with buffer zones totaling 515,592 hectares. The four components include: Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbuluke and Bogda. The four components follow the boundaries of existing protected areas, except in the case of the Kalajun-Kuerdening component, where two parks have been merged. The boundaries of the various components follow prominent natural features including ridgelines, rivers, vegetation zones, etc.
The property is representative of the many superlative features and ecological processes in the Xinjiang Tianshan. The property includes spectacular landscapes from red bed canyons to the highest peaks and largest glaciers in the entire range, to highly scenic and ecologically rich alpine meadows, to areas of rivers, lakes and wetlands. The property captures the full range of altitudinal zones of a temperate arid zone and the evolutionary processes of the Pamir-Tian Shan highlands.
The area benefits from a very low degree of threat. There are no permanent inhabitants in the property. Extractive industries and infrastructure development is limited in the region and does not exist within the property. There is no record of invasive species. The entire property is legally protected and all of the components have buffer zones.
Protection and management requirements
The components of the property range from IUCN Categories I-IV, though several of the units, including the largest component (Tomur) are managed as Category Ia. The property has been under conservation management for some time. The Tomur Peak National Nature Reserve in particular has been under conservation management since 1985. A broad range of environmental and natural resource use laws governs and the property therefore benefits from a high level of legal protection.
Each of the components has a management plan, and a management plan also exists for the property as a whole. A new management plan for the whole property will come into effect in 2014. The property has an adequate staff and is well funded. Extensive research has been conducted in the property giving park staff a strong knowledge base to work from.
Special attention needs to be given to ensuring effective management planning and coordination across the components of the property which are geographically well separated from each other. Future efforts should focus upon opportunities to extend or add to the property to increase its size and integrity given the overall very large scale of the Tianshan Mountain Range system. This should also consider initiatives with neighbouring countries to consider transnational opportunities to extend protection of the Tianshan system.
Attention should also be given to working with IUCN and other partners to better understand the implications of grazing on the natural ecosystems of Tianshan and to explore the potential of integrating local communities and in particular traditional herdsmen into the management of the property.
4. Requests the State Party to:
a) Complete a revised management plan for the entire property by 2014;
b) Complete gazettal and legal protection of the areas merging Kalajun and Kuerdening;
c) Consider progressive extensions and additions to the property noting the relative small size given the very large size of the Tianshan range;
d) Initiate collaboration with neighbouring countries to explore the potential for a transnational serial nomination;
e) Work with IUCN and other partners to explore the potential of integrating local communities and in particular traditional herdsmen into management of the property; and
f) Cooperate with neighbouring State Parties, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to undertake a regional comparative biodiversity and geodiversity study of Inner Asian high mountains and deserts and to conduct a regional expert workshop with a view to developing opportunities for future transnational potentially serial nominations.