UNESCO Committee Inscribes Five Natural World Heritage Sites
2 July 2012: During its 36th session, the World Heritage Committee of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed five natural World Heritage Sites: Lakes of Ounianga (Chad); Sangha Trinational (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo); Chengjiang Fossil Site (China); Western Ghats (India); and Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russian Federation). In addition, Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site.
The site Lakes of Ounianga (Chad) includes 18 interconnected lakes in the hyper-arid Ennedi region of the Sahara Desert, covering an area of 62,808 hectares. The saline, hyper-saline and freshwater lakes are supplied by groundwater, and are found in two groups 40 kilometres apart. With their high quality freshwater, some of these lakes are home to aquatic fauna, particularly fish.
The site Sangha Trinational (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo) is situated in the north-western Congo Basin, where Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic meet. It encompasses three contiguous national parks totalling more than 750,000 hectares, which hosts a wide range of humid tropical forest ecosystems with rich flora and fauna. The site's environment has preserved the continuation of ecological and evolutionary processes on a large scale and great biodiversity, including many endangered animal species.
The site Chengjiang Fossil Site (China) is a hilly 512-hectare site in Yunnan Province. Its fossils represent the most complete record of an early Cambrian marine community, with exceptionally preserved biota that record the early establishment of a complex marine ecosystem.
The site Western Ghats (India) is a mountain chain that represents geomorphic features of great importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes. It is recognized as one of the world's eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity. The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests in the world, and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
The site Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russian Federation) is marked by rock pillars that reach a height of approximately 100 metres along the banks of the Lena River in the central part of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). The site contains a wealth of Cambrian fossil remains of numerous species, some of them unique.
The site Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) covers 100,200 hectares and 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin. It hosts a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species and different types of habitat. They sustain a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least 13 shark species. The site harbors the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere, isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers.
The session took place from 24 June-6 July 2012, in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation. [36th Session Website] [UNESCO Press Release, 2 July 2012] [UNESCO Press Release, 1 July 2012] [UNESCO Press Release, 29 June 2012]