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Decision 43 COM 8B.10
Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity (Brazil)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/19/43.COM/8B, WHC/19/43.COM/INF.8B1 and WHC/19/43.COM/INF.8B2,
  2. Inscribes Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity, Brazil, on the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape on the basis of criteria (v) and (x);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The property, Paraty and Ilha Grande - Culture and Biodiversity, is a serial property comprising six component parts, including four protected areas: Serra da Bocaina National Park, Environmental Protected Area of Cairuçu, Ilha Grande State Park, and Praia do Sul Biological Reserve, plus the Paraty Historic Centre and the Morro da Vila Velha.  The mixed serial property comprises 204,634 ha, surrounded by a single buffer zone, including many small islands, beaches, and coves. It is located in the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and nestled in the majestic Serra do Mar, known locally as Serra da Bocaina, which dominates the landscape of the region due to its rugged relief reaching over 2,000 m altitude. The property and its buffer zone present a natural amphitheatre of Atlantic Rainforest dropping down to Ilha Grande Bay. Two of the protected areas, Praia do Sul Biological Reserve and Ilha Grande State Park which cover most of the largest island within the Bay, also contain cultural assets that testify to the occupation of the area by indigenous inhabitants and, from the 16th century onwards, by European settlers and enslaved Africans. The main cultural components are the historic centre of Paraty, one of the best preserved colonial coastal towns in Brazil; Morro da Vila Velha, where the archaeological remains of Defensor Perpétuo Fort are found; a portion of the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Route) located within the boundaries of Serra da Bocaina National Park; and several archaeological sites that testify to the long occupation of the region by indigenous populations. The property also houses traditional Quilombola, Guarani and Caiçara communities that maintain the ways of life and the production systems of their ancestors, as well as most of their relationships, rites and festivals, whose tangible and intangible elements contribute to the cultural system.

    The forest formations exhibit four distinct classifications according to altitude. This property represents the greatest concentration of endemism for vascular plants within the Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot, and also features 57% of the total of endemic bird species of this hotspot. The property’s systems of fluvial sedimentation support stands of mangrove and restinga which are found on the coastal plains and function as important ecosystems for the transition between terrestrial and marine environments. The forests, mangroves, restinga, reefs and islands of the property shelter hundreds of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, many endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest and threatened with extinction. 

    The geographical conditions of the area, a coastal plain abundant in food and natural shelter surrounded by the sea and mountains covered by forests, –have supported its occupation by indigenous populations since prehistoric times, first by hunter-gatherers, followed by the Guaranis.

    Europeans arrived in the region in the 16th century and chose this location because it was a safe refuge for ships and was one of the main points of entry into the interior of the continent. The discovery of gold at Minas Gerais resulted in the consolidation of the Gold Route to link this mining region with the town of Paraty, where the gold, together with agricultural products, were shipped to Europe. Paraty was also the entrance point for enslaved Africans. A defence system was designed and constructed to protect the rich port and town. The historic centre of Paraty has preserved its 18th century urban layout and much of the colonial architecture of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The relationship between the town and its spectacular natural setting has also been preserved.

    Criterion (v): The Cultural Landscape of Paraty is an outstanding testimony of human interaction with the environment. Since prehistoric times, human groups have lived in interaction with the landscape and have exploited the natural land and water resources that characterize the region and frame the built territory, producing settlements and giving cultural significance to natural features, evolving but keeping the most important natural elements. The Tupi-Guarani language communities have a close relationship with the Atlantic Forest which implies a high level of management and deep knowledge and mastery of the different ecosystems and Forest formations. The traditional communities of Paraty based their cultures on activities related to the use of the land and the sea; traditional fishing activity is still intense, especially in the Caiçara communities and around the historic centre of Paraty. The Quilombolas groups, the descendants of the Africans enslaved during the Colonial period, have created their own cultural patterns in the context of the Atlantic Forest’s landscape. Global climate change and the recurrence and severity of natural disasters make Paraty cultural landscape an area of high vulnerability.

    Criterion (x): The property Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity is located in the Atlantic Forest hotspot, one of five leading global biodiversity hotspots and the property is known for its high richness in endemic species.  The remarkably high biodiversity of this area is due to a unique diversity of landscapes with a set of high mountains and strong altitudinal variation, and ecosystems that occupy areas from sea level to about 2,000 metres in elevation. The property is noteworthy for the occurrence of at least 11 Key Biodiversity Areas. This section of the Atlantic Forest represents the greatest richness of endemism for vascular plants within the hotspot with some 36 species of rare plants, 29 of which are endemic to the site.  Among the rare plants of the site are species of herbaceous plants, epiphytes, shrubs and trees, which occupy specific habitats of forest environments and sandbanks, as well as along water courses.  With records of 450 species, birds represent 60% of the endangered species of vertebrate fauna identified for the property.  Paraty and Ilha Grande -  Culture and Biodiversity is home to 45% of all the Atlantic Forest’s avifauna including 57% of the total of endemic bird species for the hotspot. The property boasts impressive species richness across almost all taxa: 125 species of anurans (frogs and toads) have been recorded representing 34% of the species known from the Atlantic Forest and some 27 species of reptile are known from the site.  150 species of mammals are found within the property including several globally significant primates such as the Southern Muriqui which is considered a flagship species for the site.  The larger components of the property are also important for large range species such as jaguar, cougar, white-lipped peccary and primate species. The property also supports a similarly high diversity of marine biodiversity and endemism.


    With regard to the cultural elements of the mixed serial property, the historic centre of Paraty and the Morro da Vila Velha constitute the main components; their boundaries include the necessary attributes to convey their contribution to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and they are adequately protected. Other cultural elements, such as the archaeological site of Paraty-Mirim, the portion of the Gold Route located in Serra da Bocaina National Park, archaeological sites testifying to different stages of occupation of the region, and traditional indigenous, Caiçara and Quilombola communities, are included within the boundaries of the four primarily natural components. The cultural attributes necessary to convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are included and are adequately protected.

    With regard to the natural elements, the property coincides with areas of high forest cover within the formerly extensive Atlantic Forest, with most of the site included in protected areas of the National System of Nature Protected Areas (SNUC), contributing to the maintenance of the environmental integrity of the landscape. The integrity of this landscape is evidenced by the presence of species that require large, intact swaths of habitat. Further study on the estimated population of jaguars within the inscribed area, as well as information on their movements would provide confirmation of the ecological integrity of the property.  From the marine perspective, as the bay itself is included within the buffer zone, it is critical that the strategies and recommendations made under the “Integrated Management Project of the Ecosystem of the Ilha Grande Bay” are effectively implemented to adequately protect the ecosystem health of Ilha Grande Bay itself.

    The combined component areas and their overall size, including the buffer zone are adequate to ensure integrity, but the connectivity between them must be preserved to maintain ecological functionality across the overall size. Any loss of connectivity and / or reduction of functional size of any part of the property would be damaging to its integrity.  The management of the buffer zone is hence critical to the overall health of the property’s values.

    In the southern portion of the site, in the overlap between the Serra do Mar State Park in Sao Paulo State and the Bocaina National Park, is the only location on the Atlantic Coast where the full altitudinal gradient between the coastline and the top of the mountain range is totally included within protected areas. Ilha Grande Bay demonstrates one of the highest levels of connectivity between the forest ecosystems of the Atlantic Forest and coastal shore ecosystems, contributing to the representation and preservation of its natural attributes.


    The historic centre of Paraty and the Morro da Vila Velha preserve a high degree of authenticity. The historic centre of Paraty has kept its original layout and exhibits a high degree of authenticity of form, design, materials and substance. Although the town has experienced expansion over time, the authenticity of its setting can also be considered acceptable, especially in relation to the sea and the surrounding mountainous landscape. The authenticity of functions is also acceptable since it continues to be the ‘living centre’ for local communities, although some buildings currently have tourism-related uses. Other cultural assets, such as the Defensor Perpétuo Fort and the portion of the Gold Route, also have a high degree of authenticity of form, design, materials, substance and setting; the current use of the fort as a museum is logical, since its original function has long since disappeared. The authenticity of the traditional communities’ settlements is quite remarkable, where indigenous, Caiçara and Quilombola groups maintain their traditional practices and ways of life. Tourism could have an impact that would require appropriate control through protection and management mechanisms.

    Management and protection requirements

    The cultural components of the mixed property are protected by a set of legal instruments from the three levels of government. The first legal protection for the historic centre of Paraty was State Law-Decree 1.450 (1945), which designated Paraty a Historic Monument of the State of Rio de Janeiro. The decree placed the traditional urban and architectonic ensemble of Paraty under the supervision of the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN). Since then, a large number of legal instruments has strengthened the protection of the historic centre as well as other cultural elements within the serial property. The state of conservation of the historic centre of Paraty and other cultural elements is good, and active conservation measures are carried out by or under the supervision of IPHAN.

    Concerning natural values, all of the components of the serial property are protected by municipal, state and federal legislation. Serra da Bocaina National Park is managed by ICMBio, the federal agency of the Brazilian Ministry of Environment for protected areas. The Ilha Grande State Park, Praia do Sul Biological Reserve and Environmental Protected Area of Cairuçu are managed by the Rio de Janeiro Sate Environment Institute (INEA). ICMBio, INEA and the Ministry of Environment, as well as IPHAN and the Ministry of Citizenship provide adequate long term institutional protection and management to the property’s components and buffer zone. All protected areas have their own annual budget to ensure the implementation of research, training, protection and conservation actions.

    Each of the components of the serial property has its own management plan; the primary organization responsible for the conservation and management of the cultural components of the series is IPHAN, which has a local office in Paraty. An overall management plan, in process of elaboration, has adequate objectives, mission, vision and management structure proposed; different steps to complete the plan have been undertaken, together with the ‘Management Plan and Responsibilities Matrix’.

    Tourism and surrounding development pressures stem from the property’s location between the two major cities of São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. Although public use is included amongst the envisaged sectorial plans, a specific tourism strategy oriented to conserving the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value, authenticity and integrity of the property, while ensuring its sustainability, and taking into account the areas of ecological and cultural sensitivities, should be elaborated and implemented. Risk preparedness management in particular should also be incorporated.

    The context of the property is important to understand and manage given the presence of nuclear energy facilities in one portion of the buffer zone, as well as existing impacts from the oil industry. The threats of thermal pollution, chemical pollution, impacts from vessel traffic, and more are very serious and could compromise much of the aesthetic and ecological value of the coastal sections of the proposed site. Effective planning and response mechanisms are therefore critical to have in place.

    Although traditional communities have participated in the elaboration of the nomination and the management processes, their role must be strengthened in order to ensure that inscription of the property on the World Heritage List will be a source of sustainable development within the framework of preserving their traditional ways of life and their relationships with the natural environment.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Carefully analysing the potential impact that the assignment of new uses for the current airfield in Paraty could have in case the land is released,
    2. Completing the elaboration and implementation of the overall management plan by harmonising the many protected area and environmental protection area management plans that overlap around the property, and submitting the final version to the World Heritage Centre when available,
    3. Including specific provisions for visitor management and risk management in the management plan, in particular by ensuring the monitoring of tourism use and impacts to forecast and plan for increasing tourism pressure on the property, especially in areas of ecological and cultural sensitivity,
    4. Ensure the maintenance of ecological connectivity between the property’s component parts with particular attention on the regulation and management of buffer zone uses and practices,
    5. Strengthening participatory governance mechanisms to enshrine the principles of free prior and informed consent, and strengthen the participation of the local communities in the management process, as well as ensuring that inscription of the property on the World Heritage List contributes to their sustainable development while preserving their traditional ways of life and their relationships with the natural environment,
    6. Finalize and implement plans to upgrade sewerage systems in light of increased tourism, and further mitigate impacts of insufficiently treated wastewater;
  5. Encourages the State Party to consider the progressive addition of further suitable lower altitude forest areas to the inscribed property in order to further improve the representation of ecosystems and habitats across the property’s altitude gradient;
  6. Expresses its appreciation to the State Party for its decision to add the wider Cairuçu Environmental Protected Area to the property, thereby including the entire natural amphitheatre of the Ilha Grande Bay.
Decision Code
43 COM 8B.10
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee (Baku, 2019)
Context of Decision