Canadian fossil park, an Icelandic volcanic island and archipelago in Yemen among sites added to UNESCO World Heritage List
The World Heritage Committee, meeting for its 32nd session, inscribed 13 new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in the afternoon and evening of 7 July. The nomination of new sites for inscription on the World Heritage List will continue tomorrow morning, 8 July.
The new sites inscribed are:
Preah Vihear Temple (Cambodia). Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the buildings that make up the sanctuary are dedicated to Shiva. The Temple, composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis, dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well-preserved, mainly due to its remote location near Thailand. The complex is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, adapted to the natural environment and religious function of the temple, as well as of its carved stone ornamentation.
The Joggins Fossil Cliffs, (Canada), a 689 ha palaeontological site along the coast of Nova Scotia (eastern Canada), have been described as the “coal age Galápagos” due to their wealth of fossils from the Carboniferous period (354 to 290 million years ago). The rocks of this site are considered to be iconic for this period of the history of Earth and are the world’s thickest and most comprehensive record of the Pennsylvanian strata (dating back 318 to 303 million years) with the most complete known fossil record of terrestrial life from that time. These include the remains and tracks of very early animals and the rainforest in which they lived, left in situ, intact and undisturbed. With its 14.7 km of sea cliffs, low bluffs, rock platforms and beach, the site groups remains of three ecosystems: estuarine bay, floodplain rainforest and fire prone forested alluvial plain with freshwater pools. It offers the richest assemblage known of the fossil life in these three ecosystems with 96 genera and 148 species of fossils and 20 footprint groups. The site is listed as containing outstanding examples representing major stages in the history of Earth.
Mount Sanqingshan National Park (China), a 22,950 ha property located in the west of the Huyaiyu mountain range in the northeast of Jiangxi Province (in the east of central China) has been inscribed for its exceptional scenic quality, marked by the concentration of fantastically shaped pillars and peaks: 48 granite peaks and 89 granite pillars, many of which resemble human or animal silhouettes. The natural beauty of the 1,817 metre high Mount Huaiyu is further enhanced by the juxtaposition of granite features with the vegetation and particular meteorological conditions which make for an ever-changing and arresting landscape with bright halos on clouds and white rainbows. The area is subject to a combination of subtropical monsoonal and maritime influences and forms an island of temperate forest above the surrounding subtropical landscape. It also features forests and numerous waterfalls, some of them 60 metres in height, lakes and springs.
Historic Centre of Camagüey (Cuba). One of the first seven villages founded by the Spaniards in Cuba, Camagüey played a prominent role as the urban centre of an inland territory dedicated to cattle breeding and the sugar industry. Settled in its current location in 1528, the town developed on the basis of an irregular urban pattern that contains a system of large and minor squares, serpentine streets, alleys and irregular urban blocks, highly exceptional for Latin American colonial towns located in plain territories. The 54 ha Historic Centre of Camagüey constitutes an exceptional example of a traditional urban settlement relatively isolated from main trade routes. The Spanish colonizers followed medieval European influences in terms of urban layout and traditional construction techniques brought to the Americas by their masons and construction masters. The property reflects the influence of numerous styles through the ages: neoclassical, eclectic, Art Deco, Neo-colonial as well as some Art Nouveau and rationalism.
The Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France) comprise six marine clusters that represent the main diversity of coral reefs and associated ecosystems in the French Pacific Ocean archipelago of New Caledonia and one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world. The lagoons feature an exceptional diversity of coral and fish species and a continuum of habitats from mangroves to seagrasses with the world’s most diverse concentration of reef structures. The Lagoons of New Caledonia display intact ecosystems, with healthy populations of large predators, and a great number and diversity of big fish. They provide habitat to a number of threatened fish, turtles, and marine mammals, including the third largest population of dugongs in the world. These Lagoons are of exceptional natural beauty, and contain reefs of varying age from living reefs to ancient fossil reefs, providing an important source of information on the natural history of Oceania.
Surtsey (Iceland), a volcanic island approximately 32 km from the south coast of Iceland, is a new island formed by volcanic eruptions that took place from 1963 to 1967. It is all the more outstanding for having been protected since its birth, providing the world with a pristine natural laboratory. Free from human interference, Surtsey has been producing unique long-term information on the colonisation process of new land by plant and animal life. Since they began studying the island in 1964, scientists have observed the arrival of seeds carried by ocean currents, the appearance of moulds, bacteria and fungi, followed in 1965 by the first vascular plant, of which there were 10 species by the end of the first decade. By 2004, they numbered 60 together with 75 bryophytes, 71 lichens and 24 fungi. Eighty-nine species of birds have been recorded on Surtsey, 57 of which breed elsewhere in Iceland. The 141 ha island is also home to 335 species of invertebrates.
Saryarka - Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan) comprises two protected areas: Naurzum State Nature Reserve and Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve totalling 450,344 ha. It features wetlands of outstanding importance for migratory water birds, including globally threatened species, among them the extremely rare Siberian white crane, the Dalmatian pelican, Pallas’s fish eagle, to name but a few. These wetlands are key stopover points and crossroads on the Central Asian flyway of birds from Africa, Europe and South Asia to their breeding places in Western and Eastern Siberia. The 200,000 ha Central Asian steppe areas included in the property provide a valuable refuge for over half the species of the region’s steppe flora, a number of threatened bird species and the critically endangered Saiga antelope, formerly an abundant species much reduced by poaching. The property includes two groups of fresh and salt water lakes situated on a watershed between rivers flowing north to the Arctic and south into the Aral-Irtysh basin.
The Mijikenda Kaya Forests (Kenya) consist of 11 separate forest sites spread over some 200 km along the coast containing the remains of numerous fortified villages, known as kayas, of the Mijikenda people. The kayas, created as of the 16th century but abandoned by the 1940s, are now regarded as the abodes of ancestors and are revered as sacred sites and, as such, are maintained as by councils of elders. The site is inscribed as bearing unique testimony to a cultural tradition and for its direct link to a living tradition.
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (Mexico). The 56,259 ha biosphere lies within rugged forested mountains about 100 km northwest of Mexico City. Every autumn, millions, perhaps a billion, butterflies from wide areas of North America return to the site and cluster on small areas of the forest reserve, colouring its trees orange and literally bending their branches under their collective weight. In the spring, these butterflies begin an 8 month migration that takes them all the way to Eastern Canada and back, during which time four successive generations are born and die. How they find their way back to their overwintering site remains a mystery.
Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco (Mexico). The fortified town, first established in the 16th century to protect the Royal Route inland, reached its apogee in the 18th century when many of its outstanding religious and civic buildings were built in the style of the Mexican Baroque. Some of these buildings are masterpieces of the style that evolved in the transition from Baroque to neoclassical. Situated 14 km from the town, the Jesuit sanctuary, also dating from the 18th century, is one of the finest examples of Baroque art and architecture in the New Spain. It consists of a large church, and several smaller chapels, all decorated with oil paintings by Rodriguez Juárez and mural paintings by Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre. Because of its location, San Miguel de Allende acted as a melting pot where Spaniards, Creoles and Amerindians exchanged cultural influences while the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco constitutes an exceptional example of the exchange between European and Latin American cultures. Its architecture and interior decoration testify to the influence of Saint Ignacio de Loyola’s doctrine.
Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes (Switzerland / Italy) brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through two passes. Opened in 1904, the Albula line in the north western part of the property is 67 km long. It features an impressive set of structures including 42 tunnels and covered galleries and 144 viaducts and bridges. The 61 km Bernina pass line features 13 tunnels and galleries and 52 viaducts and bridges. The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass.
The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland) in the north-eastern part of the country covers a mountainous area of 32,850 ha which features seven peaks that rise above 3,000 m. The area displays an exceptional example of mountain building through continental collision and features .excellent geological sections through tectonic thrust, i.e. the process whereby older, deeper rocks are carried onto younger, shallower rocks. The site is distinguished by the clear three-dimensional exposure of the structures and processes that characterize this phenomenon and has been a key site for the geological sciences since the 18th century. The Glarus Alps are glaciated mountains rising dramatically above narrow river valleys and are the site of the largest post-glacial landslide in the Central Alpine region.
Socotra Archipelago (Yemen), in the northwest Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Aden, is 250 km long and comprises four islands and two rocky islets which appear as a prolongation of the Horn of Africa. The site is of universal importance because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna: 37% of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species do not occur anywhere else in the world. The site also supports globally significant populations of land and sea birds (192 bird species, 44 of which breed on the islands while 85 are regular migrants), including a number of threatened species. The marine life of Socotra is also very diverse, with 253 species of reef-building corals, 730 species of coastal fish and 300 species of crab, lobster and shrimp.
Extensions added onto properties already on the World Heritage List:
Seventeen decorated caves of the Paleolithic age were inscribed as an extension to the Altamira Cave, inscribed in 1985. The property will now appear on the List as Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain. The property represents the apogee of Paleolithic cave art that developed across Europe, from the Urals to the Iberian Peninusula, from 35,000 to 11,000 BC. Because of their deep galleries, isolated from external climatic influences, these caves are particularly well preserved. The caves are inscribed as masterpieces of creative genius and as the humanity’s earliest accomplished art. They are also inscribed as exceptional testimonies to a cultural tradition and as outstanding illustrations of a significant stage in human history.
The Antonine Wall (United Kingdom), a 60 km long fortification in Scotland has been inscribed as an extension of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire (Germany and the United Kingdom), a transboundary property inscribed in 1987 and extended in 2005. The Antonine Wall was started by Emperor Antonius Pius in 142 AD as a defence against the “barbarians” of the north, it constitutes the northwestern-most portion of the Roman Limes.
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