Two new natural wonders on World Heritage List

26 June 2009 | International news release

The Wadden Sea, on the coast of Germany and the Netherlands, and the Dolomites mountains in Northern Italy have been inscribed on the World Heritage List, following IUCN’s recommendations.

The Tubbataha Reefs National Park, an existing World Heritage Site in the Philippines, has been significantly extended.

After over a year of rigorous evaluations of the this year'sa nominations, IUCN, which is the independent advisory body on nature to UNESCO, presented the findings of its expert missions to the World Heritage Committee, currently meeting in Seville, Spain. With the new additions, the number of natural and mixed sites is now 201.

The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of inter-tidal sand and mud flats in the world. It is one of the most important areas for migratory birds, with up to 6.1 million birds present at any one time and more than 400,000 breeding pairs and an average of 10-12 million birds which pass through every year.

“Coastal wetlands are not always the richest sites in terms of the fauna found there, but that is not the case for the Wadden Sea,” says Pedro Rosabal, of IUCN’s Protected Areas Programme. “The number of fish, shellfish and birds the system supports is simply staggering. Biodiversity on a worldwide scale is reliant on this special ecosystem.”

The Dolomites in Italy have been inscribed on the World Heritage List due to their outstanding natural beauty and the geological significance of their limestone formations. Some of the rock cliff rise more than 1500 meters and are among the highest vertical limestone walls in the world. The fossil record of the Dolomites provides an insight into the recovery of marine life after near extinction more than 200 million years ago.

“This highly distinctive mountain range is exceptionally beautiful,” says Tim Badman, IUCN’s Special Advisor on World Heritage. “Spectacular pinnacles, spires and towers of limestone rise abruptly from gentle foothills. They are widely recognized as one of the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world.”

The Tubbataha Reef Marine Park in the Philippines, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993, has been significantly extended following IUCN’s recommendation. The National Park is home to pristine reefs with a high diversity of marine life, including whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles. The extended World Heritage site is three times bigger than the original, increasing from 33,000 to 97,000 hectares. Its reefs harbour more than 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish.

“Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, composed of two atolls and one reef, is home to a number of threatened and endangered species, such as the iconic Napoleon wrasse” says Josephine Langley, IUCN’s World Heritage Monitoring Officer. “It’s in a unique position in the middle of the Sulu Sea and is the perfect site to study the response of a natural reef system to the impacts of climate change.”

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