Key habitats among new World Heritage sites

Discover the natural wonders that have been inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2017, four of them following IUCN’s advice

Four outstanding natural areas recommended for inscription by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are among the new sites added to the World Heritage List. These include crucial habitats for iconic plant and animal species, many of them threatened. The inscriptions were approved at the 41st World Heritage Committee meeting in Kraków, Poland.

IUCN is the official advisory body on nature to the World Heritage Committee. It is responsible for evaluating all candidate sites proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List for their natural values. It also recommends necessary action to support listed natural sites facing threats.

Los Alerces National Park

Photos: © IUCN / Tilman Jaeger

Located in Patagonia, in the southern tip of South America, Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park boasts forests which include the second longest-living tree species on Earth – the Endangered alerce or Patagonian cypress.

The site’s oldest recorded tree is a 2,600-year-old, 60-metre-high alerce. The area contains some 7,000 hectares of old-growth alerce stands, which amount to over a third of all alerce forests remaining in Argentina.

Los Alerces National Park is located within a larger forest region, which is recognised as a global conservation priority. IUCN has encouraged Argentina and neighbouring Chile to consider future extensions to the new World Heritage site.

Discover more photos of Los Alerces National Park

Qinghai Hoh Xil

Photos: © IUCN / Chimed Ochir Bazarsad

Covering an area of 3.7 million hectares in the world’s largest, highest and youngest plateau, Qinghai Hoh Xil hosts many species found nowhere else on Earth. It supports the life cycle of Tibetan antelopes, which give birth in the site after a long migration.

Qinghai Hoh Xil is sometimes referred to as the world’s “third pole”, due to its frigid climatic extremes. The plateau’s many glaciers, rivers, streams and lakes feed one of the most important sources of freshwater on the planet.

The traditional use of the site by nomadic herders has co-existed with nature for millenia. The World Heritage listing unequivocally supports the rights of the Tibetan pastoralists in the area.

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Landscapes of Dauria
Mongolia and Russia

Photos: © IUCN / Maja Vasilisevic and Wendy Strahm

Located in Mongolia and Russia, the Landscapes of Dauria act as a stopover point for more than 3 million migrating birds within the East Asia-Australasian flyway, including 16 globally endangered bird species.

Composed of four parts stretching over nearly 1 million hectares of the much larger ecoregion, which extends from eastern Mongolia to Russian Siberia and into north-eastern China, the site is one of the best preserved examples of Daurian Steppe Ecoregion.

Nomadic communities have been dwelling in the Dauria region for nearly 3,000 years. Traditional grazing continues to shape the ecology of these landscapes.

Discover more photos of the Landscapes of Dauria

W-Arly-Pendjari Complex
Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger

Photos: © IUCN / Thierry Lefebvre

The W-Arly-Pendjari Complex has become a new site on the World Heritage List, following a 1.5-million-hectare extension to Niger’s W National Park, which acquired World Heritage status in 1996. In total, the area now covers more than 1,700,000 ha.

The W-Arly-Pendjari Complex is home to 70 species of mammals. These include 10 species of antelopes, such as the kobs. It is also home to 8,900 elephants and is the last area in West Africa to have a significant population of lions.

It also hosts four of Africa’s “Big Five” game species: the lion, the elephant and the leopard - which are all listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ - and the buffalo.

See more photos of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine

The World Heritage Committee also approved a proposal by 10 countries in Europe to inscribe 63 areas of beech forests as an extension to an existing World Heritage site in Germany, Slovakia and Ukraine.

The expanded site is now listed as the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe. The addition will protect a range of important and threatened forests.

However IUCN pointed out that not all of its components met the standards for a World Heritage inscription, and a series of improvements are now needed to ensure its full compliance with the World Heritage Convention’s requirements.

Photo: © IUCN / Elena Osipova

Natural World Heritage sites are globally recognised as the world’s most significant protected areas and include iconic places such as the Galápagos Islands, Yellowstone, Ha Long Bay and the Serengeti.

At the centre of the World Heritage Convention lies the idea that some places are so valuable to humanity, it is our collective responsibility to protect and pass them on to future generations.

Following this year's World Heritage Committee meeting, the World Heritage List includes 243 sites with natural values.