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The Andaman Sea Nature Reserves of Thailand

Date of Submission: 18/12/2021
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention
State, Province or Region:
Provinces of Ranong, Phang-nga and Phuket
Ref.: 6573
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Ecoregion

Province

The Andaman Sea Nature Reserves

Coordinates

Nominated Area (ha)

Buffer Zone (ha)

Total area (ha)

Mangroves and Inshore islands

Ranong, Phang-nga

Mu Ko Ranong NP

9°47'40"N

27,200

79,545

152,475

98°30'44"E

Laem Son NP

9°28'34"N

31,500

98°22'45"E

Ranong Mangrove

9°32'22"N

14,230

98°30'40"E

Offshore Islands

Phang-nga

Mu Ko Surin NP

9°25'07"N

14,125

53,800

81,925

97°51'56"E

Mu Ko Similan NP

8°34'41"N

14,000

97°38'10"E

Beach & Gallery Forests

Phang-nga, Phuket

Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang NP

8°27'33"N

7,200

41,500

56,400

98°18'38"E

Sirinat NP

8°07'27"N

7,700

98°16'44"E

Total

115,955

174,845

290,800


The nominated property that make up the Andaman Bioregion of Thailand are 6 national parks, Ranong Biosphere Reserve and mangrove conservation areas; 1) the Mangroves and Inshore Islands, 2) the Offshore Islands and 3) the Beaches and Coastal Gallery Forests.These ecoregions each display geological, characteristic, faunal and floral features that contribute to the overall narrative of Andaman biogeography; together, they combine to create a unique synergy of unparalleled beauty and natural history.

Mangrove and inshore Islands Ecoregion

The core area that represents this ecoregion is comprised of Mu Ko Ranong National Park, Laem Son National Park, Ranong Biosphere Reserve and mangrove conservation areas. 

Wells (1976) located the avifaunal transition between Indo-Chinese and Sundaic fauna in this area after finding that three times more species of lowland forest birds had their range limits near the Isthmus of Kra than at any other site along the 1600 km Thai-Malay peninsula. The area has also been identified as the northern limit of Malesian flora (the equatorial biota that characterizes the Indo-Malayan Archipelago) on the Indo-Chinese mainland. The influence of the Indo-Himalayan biota interacting with the dominant Indo-Chinese biota of northern Thailand can also be detected here. As such, this small area represents an unparalleled concentration of biogeographic complexity. 

Extensive mangrove forests within protected areas are contiguous with relatively undisturbed areas as well as those outside national park boundaries which are managed by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. The Ranong Biosphere Reserve incorporates a range of diversified natural and intact habitats including mangrove forests, tropical evergreen forests, open sea, seagrass beds and urban and agricultural land. However, mangroves are the most representative ecosystem within this biosphere reserve. This is probably the largest undisturbed area of old-growth mangrove remaining in the eastern Indian Ocean and supports commensurately rich biodiversity. The remaining coastal areas are dominated by low islands and Casuarina forests along sandy beaches. The geology of the mangrove ecoregion consists of granite outcrops adjacent to limestone in a complex topology. Within the nominated areas, a range of lifestyles and socio-economic industries exist, ranging from small-scale in-shore fisheries, shrimp farming, rubber plantations, and oil-palm plantations. Complex and intricate human and ecological interactions among all ecosystem types, transition zones, and socio-economic industries exist.

Mu Ko Ranong National Park

The total area of this park is around 35,670 ha. However, the nominated area is 27,200 ha. This property includes mangrove swamp, rainforest, islands, beaches and coral reefs with approximately 70% of the sea area. The coastal area is covered with pristine mangrove swamp forest result in high biodiversity in the area. Part of this old-growth mangrove forest is overlapping with the Ranong Biosphere Reserve. The national park includes 15 inshore islands covered by rainforest, mangrove swamp and sandy beach. Magnificent sea arches and sea caves are scattered in the area. Coral reefs are found around Mu Ko Chang and small islands. Mu Ko Ranong National Park supports at least 26 species of mammal. Example of those with conservation status are Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), Smooth otter (Lutrogale perspicillat), Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Banded Langur (Presbytis femoralis) and White-Handed gibbon (Hylobates lar). Bats are the most diverse group of mammal with 7 species found in this area, including a large colony (more than 1,000) of Island Flying Fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) on an inshore island. Common reptiles of the area include granular file snake (Acrochodus granulatus), dog-faced water snake (Cerberus rynchops) and Water Monitor (Varanus salvator). In addition, at least 63 species of birds have been recorded with mostly migratory shorebirds and mangrove forest birds. Example of those with conservation status are Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), Malesian Plover (Charadrius peronii) and Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa).

Laem Son National Park

The total area of this park is around 31,500 ha. It consists of approximately 60km of coastline extending inland about 2km, but in several places stretches no further than high water mark. The park area includes 2 groups of islands: Kam Yai archipelago and Kam Nui archipelago, and 8 inshore islands. These islands are unspoilt with no permanent habitation although they occasionally used as refuges for fishing boats during monsoon storms. The landscape of coastal area is rugged with numbers of small short streams from the upper inland flow out to the Andaman. Although more than 80% of the area is sea area, the park covers various coastal ecosystems ranging from estuary, mangrove swamp, beach forest, beach, seagrass bed to coral reefs.

Laem Son National Park presents an interconnection among various marine and coastal habitats and functions as a vital nursery grounds for offshored marine life. Two species of marine turtle (Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)) are found to use this area for their nesting grounds. In addition, the northern area is continued from Mu Ko Ranong National Park and connected to mangrove swamp of Ranong Biosphere Reserve, Laemson National Park, Khlong Kraper, Ranong province. This northern mangrove is right next to Klong Nagha Wildlife Sanctuary providing the connectivity of the mountain habitats down to the coastal habitats. Fishing cats has been recorded as one of those crossing between these ranges of habitats. Moreover, the park supports 29 species of mammal. Example of those with conservation status are Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina), Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides), Malayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Silver langur (Trachypithecus cristatus) and White-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar). Common reptiles of the area include mangrove pit vipers Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus), dog-faced water snake (Cerberus rynchops) and granular file snake (Acrochodus granulatus). At least 177 species of bird are recorded in the area with most are resident. The examples of threated bird were Malesian Plover (Charadrius peronii), Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata) and Orange-breasted Pigeon (Treron bicincta).

Ranong Mangroves

The Ranong mangroves compose of Ranong Biosphere Reserve, declared in 1997 under the designation of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program and the mangroves outside national parks managed by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. The total area is around 14,230 ha. These mangroves are managed for conservation and sustainable uses of mangrove resources under the agreement with local communities. The Ranong Biosphere Reserve exists as a good example of the success of reforestation efforts, and looks to continue improving its management schemes in a comprehensive manner. Through lesson sharing and dissemination of knowledge, the Ranong MAB looks to provide advice to, and learn from, other mangrove reserves globally. The MAB program management schemes primarily work through three functions: (1) the conservation function (2) the development function, and (3) the research and education function. By striving to address all three functions, conservation of biodiversity, sustainable socio-economic development of local communities, and promotion of scientific research and education are furthered.

The reserve is partitioned into three zones (core, buffer and transition zones). The core zone is designed to promote conservation activities and limits human disturbance within the encompassed area. The buffer zone subsequently "buffers" the core zone from heavy human influence, with small scale human activities in the area being allowed. Finally, the transition zone is designed as a region in which local communities can sustainably use the natural environments to promote their livelihoods. In the case of Ranong MAB, these activities primarily include in-shore fisheries, shrimp farming, rubber palm plantations, and ecotourism.

Offshore Islands Ecoregion

The core area that represents this ecoregion is comprised of Mu Ko Surin National Park and Mu Ko Similan National Park. The offshore islands in this northernmost region in Andaman Thailand are affiliated with the southern portion of the Mergui Archipelago, a string of high granite islands extending from the rocky spine of mountains that forms the border of northwest Thailand and Burma out to the continental shelf of the Andaman Sea.This ecoregion lies at the confluence of the southern marine influence of two oceans: The South China Sea and the northern Bay of Bengal/Andaman Sea biota that is more purely representative of historical Indian Ocean fauna than those of the western coasts of Australia or Indonesia. Persistent currents flowing clockwise around the Bay of Bengal interact with seasonal water masses passing through the Straits of Malacca, resulting in a complex intermingling of biotas. This natural intermingling of tropical ocean biotas occurs nowhere else in the world. 

The Surin and Similan Islands therefore are the most ecologically diverse coral reefs in Thailand, and an enormous diversity of marine fishes resulting from the mixing of the influences of two oceans. This area supports more than 700 species of marine fishes, 140 species of marine crustaceans and 160 species of hard corals. Marine macrofauna, including giant manta rays, several types of whales and dolphins as well as whale sharks frequent the waters between the islands. These islands are also an important nesting area for sea turtles. The islands support both dipterocarp rainforest and beach scrub. More than 90 species of birds, including many rare species are found here as well as 16 species of bats. Many of the species found here are affiliated with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the west, rather than the mainland to the east.

Mu Ko Surin National Park

The total area of this park is around 14,125 ha. Surin archipelago is situated offshore in the Andaman sea. Its geological structure is granite rock. Upwelling around the area provides nutrients for planktons which are food for fish and marine life. The islands surround with large continuing fringing reefs which are considered to be the most developed reefs in Thailand. This is due to the Blue hole found in Mae Yai Bay and Chong Khad Bay that is not found anywhere else in Thailand. The area is internationally well-known for its beautiful dive sites. Moreover, the beach of Ko Ree and Ko Kai (Torinla) are marine turtle nesting area. 

Vegetation found on the islands are tropical rain forest (dry-evergreen forest), beach forest and mangrove swamp forest. Southern Surin Island has high mountains covered with dense evergreen forest and has a waterfall in the north. At least 28 species of mammals have been recorded on the islands. The most diverse group is bat (18 species) including a new species of hipposiderid bat (Hipposideros sp.). In addition, 105 species of bird have been recorded in this area. Those with important conservation status are such as Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), Beach Thick-knee (Esacus magnirostris), Great Crested Tern (Sterna bergii), Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica), Rufous-chested Flycatcher (Ficedula dumetoria), Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea), Orange-breasted Pigeon (Treron bicincta), White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) and Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus).

Mo Ko Similan National Park

The total area of this park is around 14,000 ha. Mu Ko Similan National Park is situated offshore, comprising of numerous islands with steep granite mountain, beaches and rock formation of many shapes. The shoreline of each island is of curves due to strong wave impact of offshore area. The highest hill is 244 meters above mean sea level. Beneath the sea at Mu Ko Similan National Park lies the most diverse reef of Thailand. The coral reefs are classified as deep water reefs as they cover the seafloor down to ~30m. Some coral species only found on these Similan and Surin offshored archipelago are Seriatopora hystrix and Stylopora pistillata. The surrounding sea support high diversity of marine life including rare marine fauna, such as manta ray (Manta birostris), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), killer whale (Orcinus orca), false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens), spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba). Nevertheless, the park is an important nesting ground for green turtle with most nests found on the beach of Ko Hu Yong (no.1), Ko Payang (no.2) and Ko Payan (no.3).

Vegetation types that could be found in Mu Ko Similan are dry-evergreen forest, beach forest and plant communities on granite rock outcrops. Some rare and interesting plant species of Mu Ko Similan National Park are among those species e.g. Argusia argentia (L. f.) Heine; Cordia subcordata Lam. – Boraginaceae, these two species are in the red data plants of Thailand. These terrestrial habitats give refuge to at least 35 species of mammals, 22 species of reptiles and 73 species of birds. Mammals found includes a typical island mammal such as island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) with the largest known colony, island rat (Rattus andamanensis) and the same new species of hipposiderid bat as found on Surin Islands. The bird with important conservation status are Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana), Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Great Crested Tern (Sterna bergii), Mugimaki Flycatcher (Ficedula mugimaki), Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea), White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Malayan Night-Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) and Oriental Hobby (Falco severus). There is another interesting animal known as “Pu-kai” (hen crab) or “Pu-khon” (hairy crab) due to there is a lot of hair on the legs. This hairy leg mountain crab (Cardiosoma carnifex) can be found around its hole near fresh water resource.

Beaches and Coastal Gallery Forest Ecoregion

The core area that represents this ecoregion is comprised of Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park and Sirinat National Park.The geomorphology of the central beaches and gallery forests ecoregion is predominantly sand dune, broken by rocky outcrops. A fringing coral reef lying half a kilometer offshore extends to the island of Phuket in the south; effectively it functions as barrier reef, blocking the full force of the Indian Ocean swells, and the shelter it provides allows the accumulation of the coastal dunes that characterized this landscape. 

Thai Mueang Beach is a unique example of undisturbed Holocene beach and gallery forest in Southeast Asia. The broad, sandy landscape and long continuous beaches are dominated by coastal vegetation and gallery forests that occupy the seaward margins of the landscape, alternating with lowland vine thickets and heath forest along dune contours. The existence of these relatively undisturbed forest ecosystems imparts important biogeographic information about the encroachment of Gondwanan flora into Asia via Sundaland during the ice ages of the Pleistocene. Some rare plants species of different phytogeographical regions could be seen in such area as the area falls in the rage of the famous "Kra ecotone" where the elements of different biogeographical regions, i.e. Malesian phytogeographical region, e.g. Styphelia malayana (Jack) Spring could be found. This plant species has a northernmost limit of distribution in the world in this area.

The dune spring discharged from slacks between coastal dunes in the rainy season is the source of a different kind of coastal wetland vegetation, i.e., a peat swamp forest and a coast bog vegetation. In such habitat, various kinds of carnivorous plants occurred, e.g. Nepenthes spp., Drosera spp. and Utricularia spp. These plant species will disappear from the environment along the Tropic coast in no time due to the depletion of such habitats. However, the tropical bog's understanding is scarce as the coastal bog outside the tropic's reservation areas disappears. This coastal bog vegetation might be compared with the highland peat bog and/or the temperate wetland bog. However, the study of such bog in coastal tropical lands is essential as it is the critical water source of the coastal ecosystem which provides ecosystem services to human communities. Moreover, the coastal dune system is the crucial side of the ancient civilization in south-east Asia. However, most of them were already destroyed; only some had been left in the Peninsular Thailand reservation areas in these proposed areas of world heritage.

This area is the only remaining nesting area on the eastern continental margin of the Indian Ocean, and probably the last regularly-used nesting beach in mainland Southeast Asia for endangered leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea).

Khao Lampi – Hat Thai Mueang National Park

The total area of this park is around 7,200 ha. The park consists of 2 areas: (1) Hat Thai Mueang and coastal area, covered by beach forest, peat swamp forest and mangrove swamp forest; (2) Khao Lampi, complex granite mountains covered by evergreen forest with the highest peak approximately 622 m from mean sea level and many waterfalls. The long sandy beach at Hat Thai Mueang provides a vital nesting ground for 4 species of marine turtles (leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)). It is probably the last nesting beach for endangered leatherback turtles on the mainland of the north-eastern Indian Ocean, and may be the last beach in mainland Southeast Asia that is still available to them.

One of the most valuable nature of Hat Thai Mueang is due to its most unspoiled beach vegetation of Thailand. This natural beach forest might be the last undisturbed patch left on the mainland Southeast Asia. Plant communities present a clear natural zonation of coastal sandbar communities as foredune and dune grassland community, dune scrub community, and dune woodland community. Characteristics of coastal sandbar vegetation includes the shape of scrubs and tree storey, ground cover of bryophytes (moss and liverwort) and a lot of epiphytes (orchids and ferns) grows on the ground or next to trees apart from on the top storey as normal. Some rare plants have been found in every zone, i.e. Hydrophylax maritima L. f.- Rubiaceae at the first community on the sandy habitat next to the tidal zone and Styphelia malayana (Jack) Spring – Epacridaceae at the dune scrub community. This Styphelia sp. is normally found on the mountain that is higher than 1,000m. It is an example of species that has central diversity in Malesian region and has the northern limit of its dispersal at Hat Thai Mueang.

Sirinat National Park

The nominated area of this park is around 7,700 ha. The nominated area inside Sirinat National Park is the whole sandy beach area and the sea area of the park. The coastal area consists of natural Casuarina forest and a long continuing sandy beach at the northwest corner of Phuket. The sea area includes inshore fringing reefs of 1.2 km in width with total area of 101 ha, situated at Hat Mai Khao approximately 500-700 m from the shore and at Hat Nai Yang around Ko Ta to Hat Nai Torn and Ko Weao. More than 52 species of hard corals have been recorded from these reefs. Moreover, seagrass bed was found around Leam Sai Kru, Ta Chatchai and Pak Khlong Ta Yid. Total of 5 species were found (Enhalus acoroides, Thalassia hempricii, Cymodocea rotundata, Halophila ovalis and Halophila sp.). This seagrass community is the mixture between species growing on sandy floor and ones growing next to mangrove area.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Currently, there is a relatively small number of World Heritage Sites (WHS) that has been inscribed for their outstanding marine values, and these marine WHS represent predominantly tropical ecosystems as opposed to temperate and polar ecosystems. In order to fulfill the World Heritage Committee’s Global Strategy of developing a representative, balanced and credible World Heritage List, States Parties are encouraged to increase efforts, with the support of IUCN, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and regional and global marine scientists and conservationists, to identify and nominate marine sites of potential OUV, especially in biogeographic regions that are not yet represented, or underrepresented, on the World Heritage List. The thematic study by IUCN (2013) addresses the gaps in biogeographic representation of marine World Heritage Sites and identified priorities and developed nominations of appropriate sites that also meet the rigorous integrity and protection and management requirements of the Convention. The Andaman Sea was list in the “Gap Provinces” without marine World Heritage sites. The areas, which are rich in ocean and nearshore biodiversity, has a potential for designation of marine World Heritage in nearshore and offshore waters.

In combination, the three ecoregions of the Andaman Bioregion of Thailand form one of the most impressive natural wonders of the world. Individually, these ecoregions are peerless examples of natural beauty in the processes of biogeography that create the ecosystems that shape how the present earth came to be. Together, they synergistically combine to create a unique natural history classroom and reference book, bounded in a single country. The Andaman Sea Nature Reserves are unique combination of landform and geographical position that creates an unparalleled complexity and diversity of landscapes that form a mosaic of barriers and corridors for species and ecotypes, and a unique confluence of biotic and biogeographic narratives. The nomination of the Northern Andaman coast of Thailand will lead to the nomination of other marine national parks in the southern Andaman coast of Thailand. 

Criterion (vii): The Andaman Sea Nature Reserves comprises a diverse coastal and marine landscape, ranging from rainforest-clad Karst inselbergs, to drowned karst landscape, rivermouth with mangrove and seagrass meadows, to high granite islands fringed by crystal clear oceanic waters and coral reefs of unparalleled beauty. The ecoregions that form the Andaman Bioregion illustrate the amalgamation of spectacular tropical natural features and ecosystems from rainforests, coastal wetlands, sandy beaches and islands along the entire coast of Andaman. The national parks and mangrove habitats that form the core elements of this serial property capture the diverse beauty of the most stunning coastal formations and areas in South East Asia.

Spectacularly vertical karst mountains are covered in equatorial rainforests; wet and dry monsoon forests, punctuated by precipitous waterfalls, subterranean rivers and geothermal pools drop down to vast coastal wetlands. Granite headlands punctuating long, sandy beaches made of smooth carbonate or dazzling white quartz sand, fringed by rainforest, surrounded by clear seas; islands surrounded by jewel-like lagoons and fringing coral reefs; cool, dark rainforests populated by rare and unusual species all provide a magnetic attraction for visitors from around the world.

The Andaman Sea Nature Reserve protects some of the most exceptional areas of natural beauty and aesthetic importance in all of SEA. Scenic underwater world and white sand alternating with granite rocks between headlands are famous characteristics of Surin National Park and Similan National Park as well as the white sandy beaches of Maikhao and Hat Thai Mueang.

Criterion (ix): The three ecoregions of the Andaman Bioregion offer unique insights into biogeographical processes that have shaped Indo-China and the Indo-Malay archipelagos. The offshore islands capture the mixing of the Indonesian marine biota with the Indian Ocean biota in a way found nowhere else in the world. Indian Ocean water, circulating in the Andaman Gyre, meets waters flowing through the narrow Straits of Malacca, creating a natural zone of overlapping marine biota that is unique in tropical world.

Complex geological and climatic gradients between the north and south of the Kra Isthmus create a mosaic of barriers to biotic migrations and refugia from climate changes. Important biogeographic faunal and floral boundaries lie across this mosaic, providing insight into the development of current phytological and zoological species and distribution patterns. The narrowness of the Thai Peninsula means that latitudinal limits of flora and fauna are clearly defined. The highly compressed landscape and historical role as connection between northern and southern biotas makes peninsula Thailand one of the critical vicariance points in Asia. 

Subspecies of fauna and flora on coastal islands isolated by eustatic sea level change from the mainland offer profound insights into mechanisms and rates of speciation in tropical ecosystems. Together, they synergistically combine to create a unique natural history classroom and reference book.

Criterion (x): Complex geology is overlain by rapid transitions in climate over a short latitudinal gradient, creating a landscape mosaic of habitats, endemic species and relictual species from past ages. The protected areas of the Andaman coast provide vital refuges ranging from rainforests, limestone outcrop, estuary, mangrove forest, wetland and the sea for organisms that are elsewhere under enormous pressure. The area is home to many endangered species with significant conservation status. Example of those with conservation status are Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), White-Handed gibbon (Hylobates lar), Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Banded Langur (Presbytis femoralis), Silver langur (Trachypithecus cristatus), White-Handed gibbon (Hylobates lar), Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina), Malayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura), and Smooth otter (Lutrogale perspicillat).

The bird with important conservation status are Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), Malesian Plover (Charadrius peronii), Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata), Orange-breasted Pigeon (Treron bicincta). Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana), Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Great Crested Tern (Sterna bergii), Mugimaki Flycatcher (Ficedula mugimaki), Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea), White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Malayan Night-Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) and Oriental Hobby (Falco severus). 

The surrounding sea supports high diversity of marine life including rare marine fauna, such as manta ray (Manta birostris), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), killer whale (Orcinus orca), false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens), spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and dugong (Dugong dugon).

Vegetation types that could be found in Mu Ko Similan are dry-evergreen forest, beach forest and plant communities on granite rock outcrops. Some rare and interesting plant species of Mu Ko Similan National Park are among those species e.g. Argusia argentia (L. f.) Heine; Cordia subcordata Lam. – Boraginaceae, these two species are in the Red List Plants of Thailand. Some rare plants have been found in Thai Mueang beach, i.e. Hydrophylax maritima L. f.- Rubiaceae at the first community on the sandy habitat next to the tidal zone and Styphelia malayana (Jack) Spring – Epacridaceae at the dune scrub community

The long sandy beach at Hat Thai Mueang provides a vital nesting ground for 4 species of marine turtles; leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). It is probably the last nesting beach for endangered leatherback turtles on the mainland of the north-eastern Indian Ocean, and may be the last beach in mainland Southeast Asia that is still available to them.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The combined glory of the ecoregions of the Andaman Sea Nature Reserves of Thailand forms one of the most impressive natural wonders of the world. Its integrity is the wholeness and intactness of the natural heritage and its attributes. Examining the conditions of integrity through the assessing the extent of the property found that the area includes all elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value. The property is also of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the tropical marine ecosystems and processes which convey the property’s significance. Without proper management at the highest standard of conservation measures, it shall be eventually degraded from adverse effect of development.

The Andaman Bioregion extends along coastal Thailand the Republic of the Union of the Myanmar border in the north to Phuket in the south. The designated region also includes terrestrial components. The core regions of the North Andaman Bioregion of Thailand are the marine and coastal protected areas of the Andaman Sea Nature Reserves Network. The nominated areas composed of 6 marine national parks managed by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and a series of mangrove conservation areas managed by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. These areas are currently administered by national agencies according to federal practices and legislation that are comparable to international standards.

The Isthmus of Kra that forms peninsular Thailand is one of only two regions in the world where equatorial biomes are linked with the northern tropics. It is the only place in the world where so many biogeographical transitions occur within a single country. It is perhaps not surprising that so many faunal and floral boundaries exist in peninsular Thailand. 

The Ranong Fault Zone (RFZ) is an active fault region that lies close to the northern biogeographic boundaries of the Andaman Sea Nature Reserves. A similar active fault zone, the Khlong Marui Fault Zone (KMFZ) lies 2° South of the RFZ, and cuts across the peninsula between Phuket and Surat-Thani. North of these fault zones, the geology of peninsula Thailand changes abruptly. The mosaic of habitats and the complexity of the terrain of peninsula Thailand create enormous scope for regionalization within a small linear distance. Even without the historical links between Sundaland and Indo-China, the Thai peninsula presents an intensely interesting biogeographic study. Coupled with its role over many millions of years as a stable link between temperate and equatorial biomes, however, the Thai isthmus is an irreplaceable component of the biological and geological history of the earth. The marine environment of the Andaman Coast is one of the most interesting biogeographic provinces on earth. The Andaman Coast of Thailand marks the point of confluence of the Bay of Bengal gyre and the Indonesian through-flow via the Straits of Malacca. It is the only place in the world where biotas from two tropical oceans mix naturally. 

South of Thailand, the biota of the eastern Indian Ocean (western coasts of Australia and Indonesia) is dominated by the Western Pacific assemblage. To the Andaman sea of Thailand, the environment is separated from the South China Sea influence by the barrier of peninsular Thailand. Persistent currents flowing clockwise around the Andaman Sea interact with seasonal water masses passing through the Straits of Malacca. The Andaman Sea of Thailand is thus the contact point for the southern marine influence of the Pacific biota and the Andaman Sea biota; the result is a complex intermingling of biotas. Such narrow contact points are extremely rare in marine biogeography, and unknown elsewhere in the tropics. The Andaman coast of Thailand is thus uniquely positioned to provide insights into marine dispersal and biogeography.

Protection and Management

Under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the core area of the proposed WHA contains components of the 6 protected areas administrated by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and mangrove conservation areas within the Andaman Sea Nature Reserve Network administrated by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. Several laws and regulations have been enforced to protect the core areas for example, National Park Act, 2019, Wildlife Conservation Act, 2019, and Promotion of Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act, 2015. Additionally, there are numerous “Coastal Protection Zones”, Non-Hunting or wildlife preservation areas, fisheries management areas and community managed conservation areas juxtaposed with the core areas. The remainder of these already-gazette protected areas and management areas administered by agencies other than the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will comprise either “Special Management Zones” or anchor the protection of the proposed buffer zones. Proposed buffer zones and management areas that surround the core areas over land and sea. Buffer zones outside of designated core protected areas are already subject to National-legislated development restrictions and strong legislation prohibiting any form of environmental degradation; this legislation is evolving continually to provide “best practice” coastal zone management support to assist local and provincial governments.

Extant agricultural, industrial and tourist developments encroach on all sides of the core areas, however; mitigation and restriction of the expansion of these activities is a priority management target for the Andaman Coast. Development in tourist areas is now subject to stringent environmental impact assessment and further development can only occur if it can be demonstrated to have no measurable impact on the protected areas already set aside. Limitations exist on the scale and number of developments in localities adjacent to environmentally sensitive areas as well as on the type and nature of such developments. Federal legislation has recently been enacted to restrict undesirable activities that potentially endanger marine life along the entire Andaman coast of Thailand. 

Further process in developing the nomination document will include development of management strategies and plan targeted at enhanced protection of World Heritage Values within the Andaman Sea Nature Reserve. The management plan for each of national park are enforced under the new National Park Acts 2019. In addition, the mangrove management plan will be prepared by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. Designation of areas as Special Management Zones (SMZ) that include areas already developed or degraded beyond restoration by nearby development will be used to quarantine development away from ecologically more sensitive areas. Within SMZ’s, tourism and associated economic infrastructure development is allowed in ways that do not affect the adjacent WHA. The buffer areas outside the national parks and mangrove conservation areas will be managed under the other conservation acts including the Promotion of Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act 2015, the Promotion and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act 1992, the Emergency Decree on Fisheries 2015. Coastal development in buffer zones adjoining core WH protected areas will not be allowed, except according to stringent environmental controls to ensure that WH values are protected. Because the Andaman Sea Nature Reserve is primarily a marine province, exceptional care will need to be taken to ensure that effluent from coastal development, marine traffic and tourism does not migrate outside the SMZ.

Comparison with other similar properties

Much of the uniqueness of the Isthmus of Kra that forms peninsula Thailand lies in the fact that it is one of only two regions in the world where equatorial biomes are linked with the northern tropics via a narrow land bridge. The other is the Isthmus of Panama. The Thai Isthmus, however, is the only place where such a linkage occurs within a single country, providing continuity of management and protection. Like the Isthmus of Panama, the Isthmus of Kra is a narrow linkage between two disparate biotic provinces. Unlike the Isthmus of Panama, the peninsula Thailand has been geologically stable throughout the age of dinosaurs and the age of mammals; the landscape stores geological records of biogeographic changes from past ages that form an important reservoir of data. The Darien and Coiba WHA’s of Panama capture some of the processes exampled in the Andaman Sea Nature Reserve, but on a much smaller geographic scale. Similarly, the Islands of the Gulf of California in Mexico present patterns of island endemism that can be seen also in the Andaman Sea Nature Reserve. However, the mixing of the Andaman/Indian and Indonesian biotas in a natural context in the Northern Offshore Islands ecoregion of the Andaman Sea Nature Reserve is unique in the world. 

The narrow Kra Isthmus is moreover compressed into a multitude of biogeographic transition zones by the interplay of the orogeny associated with the docking of India with the Asian continent and the latitudinal gradient in climate.

Coral reefs adjacent to rain-forested islands and mangrove/seagrass ecosystems are not uncommon in tropical latitudes; however, few locations offer the scope and variety of habitats as the Andaman Bioregion of Thailand. Sian Ka’an Biosphere in Mexico, and Coiba National Park in Panama offer similar variety and natural beauty, but on a smaller scale than the Andaman coast. Compared to the Great Barrier Reef, Commonwealth of Australia, which is one of the most beautiful and highly marine biodiversity in the Pacific Ocean, the beauty of coral reefs of the Similan Islands and the Surin Island ranked among the world famous dive sites. The number of tourists visiting the Similan and Surin reefs was not less than those of the Great Barrier Reef. There is also a unique marine biodiversity of living organisms in the Indian Ocean, where no other World Heritage containing coral reefs in this region. The area is also an important nesting beach for endangered leatherback turtles on the mainland of the north-eastern Indian Ocean.

Sundarbans National Park in India captures a large mangrove wetland system, but does not contain the offshore features seen here, or the high islands surrounded by fringing reefs. Unlike the enormous Sundarbans Wetlands of India and Bangladesh, which are dominated by Sundri (Heritiera sp.) trees, the Andaman Bioregion are home to extensive old-growth Avicennia-Sonneratia mangrove communities and mixed Rhizophora-Bruguiera-Xylocarpus mangrove communities. Simangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa contains a similarly magnificent variety of landforms and habitats, but is in temperate latitude, thus does not contain the richness or diversity of tropical marine biota evident in the Andaman Bioregion. 

The Andaman Bioregion represents a mostly undisturbed collection of unique ecological processes and ecotypes that are substantially lost elsewhere. Nowhere else in Asia (or in the world) does such a concentration of historical influences and current biogeography overlap as in Peninsular Thailand. It is the only place where such a linkage occurs within a single country, providing continuity of management and protection. As such, there are no directly comparable world heritage areas that encompass the same scope of biogeographic and geological processes as the Andaman Bioregion. The Thai isthmus is an irreplaceable component of the biological and geological history of the earth and forms a key component of the biogeographic narrative of Asia.

Summary of the comparison with other similar properties

Outstanding Features

Criterion addressed

Location (Ecoregion)

Comparative WH listed properties

Spectacular beauty of coral reef

VII

Offshore Islands

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Biogeographic transition zones

- Terrestrial distribution boundaries: Indo-Sundaic biotas.

- Continental South-east Asian v.s. Malesian region

IX

Northern Mangroves;

 

Darien & Coiba NP, Panama

Coastal dune and gallery forests

The best example of undisturbed Holocene beach and gallery forests in Southeast Asia; unique Melaleuca/ Casuarina community & very high diversity of orchids

IX

Central Beach & Gallery forests;

 

None found

Marine animal refugia/ breeding grounds

The last nesting beach of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) on the eastern continental margin of the Indian Ocean.

X

Central Beach & Gallery forests;

 

Coiba NP, Panama

GBR, Australia