Monday, 25 August 2008

8 Natural Wonders Added to UN Heritage

The island of Surtsey - Found 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the southern coast of Iceland, was formed by volcanic eruptions during the 1960s.

Named this week as a new World Heritage site, the island provides scientists with a unique laboratory to study the process of colonization by plant and animal life. Borne by ocean currents, the first seeds arrived in 1964. Molds, bacteria, and fungi arrived the following year. Plants and invertebrates are now relatively abundant, as are bird species—89 and counting.

Chosen by a committee of the UN's Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Heritage sites denote natural and cultural areas recognized for their universal value to humanity. This week officials added 27 new sites to the UNESCO list of 878 areas (679 cultural, 174 natural) worthy of preservation and protection.

Socotra Archipelago - Yemen Dragon's blood trees grow in the archipelago, which consists of four islands and two rocky islets that trail for 150 miles (250 kilometers) off the Horn of Africa.

"The site is of universal importance because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna: 37 percent of Socotra's 825 plant species, 90 percent of its reptile species, and 95 percent of its land snail species do not occur anywhere else in the world," the UNESCO World Heritage Committee said in a press statement on July 8, 2008.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs - Canada Full of ancient fossils dating as far back as 354 million years ago, this 9-mile (14.7-kilometer) tract of coastal cliffs in Nova Scotia is among eight new natural wonders added in July 2008 to the United Nations list of World Heritage sites.

Once a rain forest teeming with life, the cliffs hold fossils from 148 ancient species and 20 groups of fossil footprints.

Lagoons of New Caledonia (France), Pacific Ocean - Part of a French-controlled island cluster located about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) east of Australia, the lagoons of New Caledonia -including those around the islet pictured above - make up the third largest coral reef structure in the world.

The healthy, intact marine ecosystems are home to threatened fish species, turtles, and the world's third largest population of dugongs, large vegetarian mammals related to manatees.

The lagoons were named a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico - Every year millions, if not billions, of monarch butterflies—such as the ones seen above - winter in densely forested mountains 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Mexico City.
"In the spring these butterflies begin an eight-month migration that takes them all the way to Eastern Canada and back, during which time four successive generations are born and die," the World Heritage Committee said in a written statement upon announcing new sites in July 2008.

Mount Sanqingshan National Park, China - Ribboned with forests, waterfalls, white rainbows, and fantastically shaped granite peaks and pillars that resemble animal and human silhouettes, this 56,710-acre (22,950 hectare) national park straddles the Huaiyu mountain range in China's Jiangxi Province.

The park was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008.

Saryarka Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan - Split between the Naurzum and Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserves, the wetlands that grace this 1.1 million acre (450,344 hectare) region provide a key stopover on the Central Asia flyway for migratory water birds from Africa, Europe, and South Asia.

The steppe and lakes in this mostly dry region were named to the United Nation's list of natural World Heritage sites in July 2008.

Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, Switzerland - A textbook example of mountain building through continental collision, this mountainous area in northeast Switzerland has been studied by geologists since the 1700s.

The area was named a UNESCO World Heritage site on July 8, 2008.

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