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.
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.
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.
Mongolia and Russia
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.
Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger
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.
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.