Fiji and Qatar get first-ever designation; Mt. Fuji, Mt. Etna also added
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — The fact that the world’s cultural and natural heritage transcends national boundaries is perhaps best reflected each year when UNESCO designates new World Heritage sites, and this year was no exception.
At its recent meeting in Cambodia, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added volcanoes in Asia and Europe, historic forts in Ukraine and Qatar and a Basque whaling station in Canada.
There was one new area added in North America — El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, with its distinctive dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 meters.
The Gran Altar dunes emerge like islands from the sea of sand and harbor distinct and highly diverse plant and wildlife communities, including endemic freshwater fish species and the endemic Sonoran Pronghorn, which is only to be found in northwestern Sonora and in southwestern Arizona.
Ten enormous, deep and almost perfectly circular craters, believed to have been formed by a combination of eruptions and collapses, also contribute to the dramatic beauty of the site whose exceptional combination of features are of great scientific interest. The site is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
In Japan, iconic Fujisan was added for its value as a sacred place and for its artistic inspiration. dating back to the 11th century. According to the World Heritage Committee, 19th century wood block prints have made Fujisan an internationally recognized icon of Japan and have had a deep impact on the development of Western art.
On the upper 1,500-metre tier of the 3,776m mountain, pilgrim routes and crater shrines have been inscribed alongside sites around the base of the mountain including Sengen-jinja shrines, Oshi lodging houses, and natural volcanic features such as lava tree moulds, lakes, springs and waterfalls, which are revered as sacred.
In Europe, Mount Etna was designated in large part for its scientific signifcance. The Sicilian mountain is the highest Mediterranean island mountain and the most active stratovolcano in the world.
The eruptive history of the volcano can be traced back 500,000 years and at least 2,700 years of this activity has been documented. The almost continuous eruptive activity of Mount Etna continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other Earth science disciplines. Mt. Etna is a natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes.
The volcano also supports important terrestrial ecosystems including endemic flora and fauna and its activity makes it a natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes.
The full list of new World Heritage sites:
- Al Zubarah Archaeological Site
- Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora
- Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
- Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
- Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration
- Golestan Palace
- Hill Forts of Rajasthan
- Historic Centre of Agadez
- Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong
- Levuka Historical Port Town
- Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany
- Red Bay Basque Whaling Station
- University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia
- Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine
- El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve
- Mount Etna
- Namib Sand Sea
- Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs)
- Xinjiang Tianshan
- Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines
- Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest
- Maloti-Drakensberg Park