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Ring of cenotes of Chicxulub Crater, Yucatan

Date de soumission : 11/12/2012
Critères: (viii)
Catégorie : Naturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of Mexico to UNESCO
Etat, province ou région :
Yucatan
Coordonnées N20 20 - 21 20 W88 30 - 90 20
Ref.: 5784
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Description

The Chicxulub Impact Crater, is a geomorfological formation dating from the end of the Mesozoic era, specifically by the end of the Cretaceous at the limits with the Terciary, that was produced by the impact of a meteorite. 

As a result of the above, the Ring of Cenotes, took shape, making together with the results in the geomorphology of the north of Yucatan, from the impact crater, the foundation for the functioning of the geohydrologic features of the peninsula and are considered one of the four units in which is divided the Yucatán Peninsula based on its karstic characteristics and the main hydrological flows in the whole peninsula watershed.

This geological feature of Yucatan, represents not only a geographical region, but marks the vortex and epicenter of the point of impact of the meteorite that explains the extinction of dinosaurs, and a wide array of species related to this Era, it also modified drastically the way how trophic chains were built, previously, changing, the history of evolution and co evolution of many species, and shaping the living world we at present. 

Not only as particular geomorphologic feature but as a unique element of landscape, the Cenotes (sink holes), are linked to processes of dilution of the materials of the karst soils, and widely distributed along the entire so called Ring, a formation that for many is a source of fascination, is a local culture feature of every community in Yucatan, giving them a regional identity.

This particular space of commonality of different historic, natural, human, cultural, and economical features, share a unique and remarkable worldwide known and already proven origin that not only changed the story of the natural world, but the course of history and even of evolution, of nature and humankind.

As part of the several karst manifestations of the Peninsula of Yucatan (including caves, and caverns); the cenotes, cannot be explained by the traditional theory of the common karst manifestations. Hydrogeochemical analysis and sight inspections showed an existence of a carbon dioxide source at the bottom of each cenote, which promotes rock dissolution. Carbon dioxide production seems to be due to the organic activity from the cenotes, therefore besides the previous origin and collapse of the limestone they are on constant evolution and the processes of dilution are continuous, which make them part of an intricate system of holes alive, that are changing along a long time span, and containing peculiar and particular forms of life, related to conditions of humidity, darkness, and of the mineral chemical reactions of these sites.

The Ring of Cenotes geographically is identifiable by a semi regular belt of proximately 5 kilometers wide, extended inland into continental territory of the Yucatan from north west starting at the latitude of Celestun in the west coast, and continuing down south till around the middle part of the state, at the latitudes of the municipalities, of Tekit, Homún y Huhí, and going back north again, towards the north east, till reaching the latitudes of Dzilam Gonzalez, in the east coast. This forms a semi circular band that bends down in a shape of an hyperbola, having as the centre of its perimeter, the locality of Chicxulub Puerto, (in the Municipality of Progreso), where it is known to be located the centre of the well known the Chicxilub Impact Crater, not visible but recordable its existence, under gravimetric and seismological instruments, underlying the sedimentary layers of the karstic platform of the Yucatan.

This belt is lying on the south margins of the borders of the impact crater, having its semicircular shape a radial distance of 90 km (180 km of diameter; which is the approximately distance from Celestun to Dzilam de Bravo), extending the crater itself its margins into the continental sea, at the same distance north.

This zone enclosed by the semicircular belt, called the ring of cenotes, has shown to be a zone of high permeability, which underground flow of water moves from south east of the Peninsula of Yucatan to north west, playing therefore, its mere existence in that place, a key role in the processes of dilution, sanitation, filtration, infiltration, recharge and accumulation of water, in the hydrological watershed, and therefore, it becomes one of the main geomorphologic features of the Yucatan, related with the functioning and sustainability of the processes of the watershed and maintenance of clean water, and environmental services for the vast population settled in the north of the Yucatan, in the metropolitan zone of Merida and the coast.

The Government of Yucatan, recognized years ago already, the relevance of the cenotes, as part of the natural landscape and of the livelihoods of mayan population in the region, as well as the relevance that they have for history and the heritage of the Yucatan, due to evidence of archeological findings on them left through the rites of the mayans into them; and lately with new watershed and environmental services and water sanitation approaches, the cenotes as part of a watershed with filtration and permeability characteristics they have become the key stone, to think ahead on the maintenance of the quality and quantity of water in the watershed that moves towards the north of the state, and to diminish the processes of contamination of underground water by human activities.

Therefore, since 1995 the Government of Yucatan has carried out without stop a meticulous process of visit, registry and inventory through census, of the cenotes, caves and caverns of the state of Yucatán. To this date, there have been registered already 2,241 cenotes, which are estimated to be around only the 70 % of the whole universe of cenotes that exist on the Yucatan, that are to be known by locals. At least, 900 of these Cenotes, already known, are considered to be representative of the Ring of Cenotes.

As part of the interest of preserving biodiversity, and promote the conservation of ecosystems, the cenotes, have been recognized as well as important living habitats of fauna and flora, with characteristics that resemble the ones of wetlands, therefore since 2006, the Ring of Cenotes has been already approved and registered successfully in the list of Wetlands of International Importance, of the Ramsar Convention. To achieve that challenge, there were registered 99 representative cenotes, of the whole universe that this region embraces, considering their historical, cultural and natural relevance, as well as its location linked to their potential as touristic sites for landscape aesthetical leisure. The features and locations of those 99 cenotes are listed in the annex to this document, including criteria, such as: Latitude and Longitude Coordinates (UTM); Municipality, Common Name of the Site in Mayan or Spanish; type of land property or tenure; type of formation of the cenote; type of productive system predominant in the location; type of geomorphologic formation of the cenote; and type of land use predominant on the location.

Each one of the 99 specific cenote (or sink hole) of the Ring of Cenotes registered as representative of the Ramsar Site, includes the water body, the cave and karstic formation dug naturally in the karstic limestone, and a minimum delimited area surrounding the cenote, comprising a total of 891 hectares of surface of the Ramsar Site,  devoted to the implementation of good practices of sustainable management for wetlands conservation.

The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) is conducting the studies in order to determine the viability to declare Ring of Cenotes as a federal natural protected area.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle

The Chicxulub Impact Crater, is a geomorphological formation dating from the end of the Mesozoic era, specifically by the end of the Cretaceous at the limits with the Terciary, that was produced by the impact of a meteorite. 

This belt is lying on the south margins of the borders of the impact crater, having its semicircular shape a radial distance of 90 km (180 km of diameter; which is the approximately distance from Celestun to Dzilam de Bravo), extending the crater itself its margins into the continental sea, at the same distance north.

As a result of the impáct, the Ring of Cenotes, took shape, making together with the results in the geomorphology of the north of Yucatan, from the impact crater, the foundation for the functioning of the geohydrologic features of the peninsula of Yucatán. It is a unique event that left its mark within the karstic wide variety of limestone karstic process and formations, the water body, the flora and the fauna, the natural elements of the formations, and a complete geohydrologic manifestation of the stages of the sink holes known as cenotes. More than 900 cenotes formations only 99 of them may be proposed for inscription. 

This particular space of commonality of different historic, natural, human, cultural, and economical features, share a unique and remarkable worldwide known and already proven origin that not only changed the story of the natural world, but the course of history and even of evolution, of nature and humankind.  

Criterion (viii) The Chicxulub Impact Crater, is a geomorfological formation dating from the end of the Mesozoic era, specifically by the end of the Cretaceous at the limits with the Terciary, that was produced by the impact of a meteorite. 

This belt is lying on the south margins of the borders of the impact crater, having its semicircular shape a radial distance of 90 km (180 km of diameter; which is the approximately distance from Celestun to Dzilam de Bravo), extending the crater itself its margins into the continental sea, at the same distance north.

As a result of the impact, the Ring of Cenotes, took shape, making together with the results in the geomorphology of the north of Yucatan, from the impact crater, the foundation for the functioning of the geohydrologic features of the peninsula of Yucatán. It is a unique event that left its mark within the karstic wide variety of limestone karstic process and formations, the water body, the flora and the fauna, the natural elements of the formations, and a complete geohydrologic manifestation of the stages of the sink holes known as cenotes. More than 900 cenotes formations only 99 of them may be proposed for inscription. 

This particular space of commonality of different historic, natural, human, cultural, and economical features, share a unique and remarkable worldwide known and already proven origin that not only changed the story of the natural world, but the course of history and even of evolution, of nature and humankind.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

The wholeness and integrity of the site, with all elements present in the site, is explained widely in the description, and has to do with being part of a whole area integrated into an hydrological system that is functional, nowadays.

The size is adequate to represent all the features.

The Ring of Cenotes of Chicxulub Crater, Yucatan, has all the elements that keep their integrity, their connectedness to the hydrological watershed of Yucatan, the karstic wide variety of limestone karstic process and formations, the water body, the flora and the fauna, the natural elements of the formations, and a complete geohydrologic manifestation of the stages of the sink holes known as cenotes. More than 900 cenotes formations only 99 of them may be proposed for inscription. 

Several of the cenotes, do suffers from effects of development, and there is an urgent need for actions of protection, restoration and sanitation, of the water bodies and surroundings, and provide the cenotes in the area proposed, with the proper elements to improve the sustainable use, through projects that revalue the environmental services, besides the natural, cultural and recreational goods and services that they provide.

There exist enough serious and verifiable, scientific research published on international journals, and media worldwide regarding the sources and proves of the uniqueness of the site and the relation of the Ring of Cenotes, with the Chicxulub Crater Impact, and the relation with the dinosaurs extinction, as well as the importance of the cenotes within the hydrological system of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

The Ring of Cenotes of Chicxulub Crater, Yucatan, seems to be unique by its characteristics, not comparable with any other site in the world. Its uniqueness, regarding its origin as the evidence of the crater impact, on the Late Cretaceous, of the Mezosoic Era, event that has been related with the extinction of dinosaurs in the world, is an extraordinary and only one in the world.

Within the World Heritage List, we found only one property of the World Heritage List to compare with, the Vredefort Dome in South Africa, it was inscribed in 2005, under Criterion (viii), with a surface of 30,000 ha.

Vredefort Dome, located approximately 120 km south-west of Johannesburg, is a representative part of a larger meteorite impact structure, or astrobleme. Dating back 2,023 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme yet found on Earth. With a radius of 190 km, it is also the largest and the most deeply eroded. Vredefort Dome bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which had devastating global effects including, according to some scientists, major evolutionary changes. It provides critical evidence of the Earth’s geological history and is crucial to understanding the evolution of the planet. Despite the importance of impact sites to the planet’s history, geological activity on the Earth’s surface has led to the disappearance of evidence from most of them, and Vredefort is the only example to provide a full geological profile of an astrobleme below the crater floor.