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Committee Decisions

28 COM 14B.14

Nominations of Natural Properties to the World Heritage List (Natural System of

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Inscribes the Natural System of "Wrangel Island" Reserve, Russian Federation, on the World Heritage List on the basis of natural criteria (ii) and (iv):

Criterion (ii): The Wrangel Island Reserve is a self-contained island ecosystem and there is ample evidence that it has undergone a long evolutionary process uninterrupted by the glaciation that swept most other parts of the Arctic during the Quaternary period. The number and type of endemic plant species, the diversity within plant communities, the rapid succession and mosaic of tundra types, the presence of relatively recent mammoth tusks and skulls, the range of terrain types and geological formations in the small geographic space are all visible evidence of Wrangel’s rich natural history and its unique evolutionary status within the Arctic. Furthermore, the process is continuing as can be observed in, for example, the unusually high densities and distinct behaviours of the Wrangel lemming populations in comparison with other Arctic populations or in the physical adaptations of the Wrangel Island reindeers, where they may now have evolved into a separate population from their mainland cousins. Species interaction strategies are highly honed and on display throughout the island, especially near Snowy owl nests which act as protectorates for other species and beacons for migratory species and around fox dens.

Criterion (iv): The Wrangel Island Reserve has the highest level of biodiversity in the high Arctic. The island is the breeding habitat of Asia’s only Snow goose population, which is slowly making a recovery from catastrophically low levels. The marine environment is an increasingly important feeding ground for the Gray whale migrating from Mexico (some from another World Heritage site, the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino). The islands have the largest sea-bird colonies on the Chukchi Sea, are the northernmost nesting grounds for over 100 migratory bird species including several that are endangered such as the Peregrine falcon, have significant populations of resident tundra bird species interspersed with migratory Arctic and non-Arctic species and have the world’s highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. Wrangel Island boasts the largest population of Pacific walrus with up to 100,000 animals congregating at any given time at one of the island’s important coastal rookeries. Since Wrangel Island contains a high diversity of habitats and climates and conditions vary considerably from one location to another, total reproductive failure of a species in any given year is practically unheard of. Given the relatively small size of the area, this is very unusual in the high Arctic;

2. Requests that the State Party urgently prepare a management plan and implementation strategy, supported by adequate financial resources, that incorporates inter alia: technical and management communications; a tourism and visitor strategy; options for alternative energy supply; transportation; a monitoring and research programme; options to preserve the site’s cultural and palaeontological features; a human resources policy for the staff working at the site; and a plan to remove unwanted debris from Doubtful Village;

3. Encourages the State Party to submit an international technical assistance request to help undertake the actions proposed above;

4. Further requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to undertake a mission, in co-operation with the State Party, in 2006/2007 to report on the status of the management plan and to review its implementation;

5. Further encourages the State Party to consider the extension of the marine component of this property by a further 12 nautical miles as proposed in 1999 by the Government of the Chukot Autonomous Region. This extension would add significantly to the protection of the marine biodiversity of the Wrangel Island Reserve.