Lorentz National Park (2.35 million ha) is the largest protected area in South-East Asia. It is the only protected area in the world to incorporate a continuous, intact transect from snowcap to tropical marine environment, including extensive lowland wetlands. Located at the meeting-point of two colliding continental plates, the area has a complex geology with ongoing mountain formation as well as major sculpting by glaciation. The area also contains fossil sites which provide evidence of the evolution of life on New Guinea, a high level of endemism and the highest level of biodiversity in the region.
Justification for Inscription
The site is the largest protected area in Southeast Asia (2.35 mil. ha.) and the only protected area in the world which incorporates a continuous, intact transect from snow cap to tropical marine environment, including extensive lowland wetlands. Located at the meeting point of two colliding continental plates, the area has a complex geology with on-going mountain formation as well as major sculpting by glaciation and shoreline accretion which has formed much of the lowland areas. These processes have led to a high level of endemism and the area supports the highest level of biodiversity in the region. The area also contains fossil sites that record the evolution of life on New Guinea.
The park stretches for over 150 km, from Irian Jaya's central cordillera mountains in the north to the Arafura Sea in the south. The park can be divided into two very distinct zones: the swampy lowlands and the high mountain area of the central cordillera. The central cordillera itself can be subdivided in the eastern part and the western part on the basis of geology and vegetation types.
The central mountain ranges are the southern portion of two colliding continental plates, which are causing the mountain range to rise. The lowering and rising of the sea level during the glacial and interglacial periods of the Pleistocene epoch, along with continuous activity in the mobile belt which characterizes the contact zone of the two colliding lithospheric plates, has continued to promote the great biodiversity of the island of New Guinea in general, and in the Lorentz area in particular. Large tracts of the mountain range and especially the area formed by the traditional lands of the Amungme (or Amung) are rich in mineral deposits, especially gold and copper. The Carstenz/Puncak Jaya section of the Jayawijaya mountain range still retains small ice caps. It is one of only three equatorial of sufficiently high altitude to retain permanent ice. The main snowfields comprise five separate areas of ice on the outer margins of Mount Puncak Jaya. These include two small fields which feed the Meren and Carstenz glaciers and a small hanging glacier on the Carstenz Pyramid.
Based on physiographic types, five altitudinal vegetation zones have been identified within Lorentz National Park: lowland zone, montane zone, subalpine zone, alpine zone and nival zone; some of the zones are further divided into subzones.
The lowland zone comprises the beach subzone covered by vegetation ranging from pioneer herbaceous communities on the first beach ridge to tall mixed forest inland. The tidal swamp subzone comprises one land system, the Kajapah, consisting of intertidal swamps of mangrove and nipah palm. The montane altitudinal zone comprises the Kemum land system, steep-sided deeply dissected mountain ridges. This altitudinal zone is subdivided into lower montane subzone, mid-montane subzone and upper montane subzone. The subalpine zone occurs from 3,200 m to 4,170 m. All alpine zones are located above 4,170 m and consist of alpine peaks with bare rocks and residual ice caps. The lower subalpine forest is floristically poor. The alpine zone lies between 4,170 m and 4,585 m. The alpine vegetation includes all communities growing above the tall shrub limits. These are grassland, heath and tundra.
In the highlands of Lorentz National Park, six species are endemic to the Snow Mountains; 26 species are endemic to the central Papuan ranges Endemic Bird Area while three species are endemic to the south Papuan lowlands EBA. Globally threatened animal species were found in the lowlands. Vulnerable and threatened birds of the mountains include Salvadori's teal, the snow mountain robin, and Macgregor's bird of paradise. Mammals include two of the world's three monotremes; the short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus, a species shared with Australia, and the long-beaked echidna Zaglossus bruijinii, a New Guinea endemic. Mammals also include a range of marsupials including at least four species of cuscus, several species of tree kangaroo and one species of Dasyuridae, often referred to as the 'tiger cat'.
The indigenous human population comprises eight (and possibly nine) tribal groups. The region has been inhabited for over 24,000 years and has evolved some of the most distinctive and long isolated cultures in the world. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC