Friday, June 26, 2009

Wadden Sea in Germany and the Netherlands, Italy's Dolomite mountains are new World Heritage sites

The tidal flats and wetlands of the Wadden Sea in Germany and the Netherlands, and Italy's Dolomite mountains have been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List, it was announced Friday.
Photo:Wadden sea in Germany and the Netherlands
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also revealed that the Tubbataha Reefs National Park, an existing World Heritage Site in the Philippines and which includes a number of endangered species, has been "significantly extended." The announcements were made on the fifth day of a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain.
Photo:Dolomite mountains Italy
The committee, which is meeting until June 30, is deciding which of 27 sites deserve to be added to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's heritage list.
The two new additions, which were based on the recommendations of the IUCN, bring the total number of to 201. The IUCN described the Wadden Sea as "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, more than 400,000 breeding pairs and an average of 10-12 million birds which pass through every year," it said in a statement.
Pedro Rosabal of the IUCN's Protected Areas Programme added that: "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."
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the decision "a great day for the protection of nature in Germany", and said the government now had an "obligation to make protection of the site a priority."
A Dutch environmental organisation, Bund, described it as "a great responsibility" for both countries, which must support "tourism that is sustainable and respectful of nature."
The Dolomites in northern Italy were chosen "due to their outstanding natural beauty and the geological significance of their limestone formations," the IUCN statement said.
"Some of the rock cliff rise more than 1,500 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," it said.
The IUCN statement said the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993, is now "three times bigger than the original, increasing from 33,000 to 97,000 hectares" in line with IUCN recommendations.
Josephine Langley, the IUCN?s World Heritage Monitoring Officer, added that the park, "composed of two atolls and one reef, is home to a number of threatened and endangered species, such as the iconic Napoleon wrasse."
"It is 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," she said.
UNESCO announced it had removed Dresden's Elbe Valley from its World Heritage List because the eastern German city had gone ahead with the building of a road bridge "in the heart of the cultural landscape."
It is only the second site ever to have been removed from the list, after Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was dropped in 2007.

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