Comprehensive Regional Assessment World Heritage Sub-theme

Attachment 1 World Heritage Convention: Criteria and Operational Guidelines (natural properties)

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Attachment 1 World Heritage Convention: Criteria and Operational Guidelines (natural properties)

D. Criteria for the inclusion of natural properties in the World Heritage List
43. In accordance with Article 2 of the Convention, the following is considered as "natural heritage":
"natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view;
geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation;
natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty."
44. A natural heritage property - as defined above - which is submitted for inclusion in the World Heritage List will be considered to be of outstanding universal value for the purposes of the Convention when the Committee finds that it meets one or more of the following criteria and fulfils the conditions of integrity set out below. Sites nominated should therefore:
(a) (i) be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of land forms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; or
(ii) be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals; or
(iii) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; or
(iv) contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation;


(b) also fulfil the following conditions of integrity:

(i) The sites described in 44(a)(i) should contain all or most of the key interrelated and interdependent elements in their natural relationships; for example, an "ice age" area should include the snow field, the glacier itself and samples of cutting patterns, deposition and colonization (e.g. striations, moraines, pioneer stages of plant succession, etc.); in the case of volcanoes, the magmatic series should be complete and all or most of the varieties of effusive rocks and types of eruptions be represented.
(ii) The sites described in 44(a)(ii) should have sufficient size and contain the necessary elements to demonstrate the key aspects of processes that are essential for the long-term conservation of the ecosystems and the biological diversity they contain; for example, an area of tropical rain forest should include a certain amount of variation in elevation above sea-level, changes in topography and soil types, patch systems and naturally regenerating patches; similarly a coral reef should include, for example, seagrass, mangrove or other adjacent ecosystems that regulate nutrient and sediment inputs into the reef.
(iii) The sites described in 44(a)(iii) should be of outstanding aesthetic value and include areas that are essential for maintaining the beauty of the site; for example, a site whose scenic values depend on a waterfall, should include adjacent catchment and downstream areas that are integrally linked to the maintenance of the aesthetic qualities of the site.
(iv) The sites described in paragraph 44(a)(iv) should contain habitats for maintaining the most diverse fauna and flora characteristic of the biogeographic province and ecosystems under consideration; for example, a tropical savannah should include a complete assemblage of co-evolved herbivores and plants; an island ecosystem should include habitats for maintaining endemic biota; a site containing wide-ranging species should be large enough to include the most critical habitats essential to ensure the survival of viable populations of those species; for an area containing migratory species, seasonal breeding and nesting sites, and migratory routes, wherever they are located, should be adequately protected; international conventions, e.g. the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention), for ensuring the protection of habitats of migratory species of waterfowl, and other multi- and bilateral agreements could provide this assurance.
(v) The sites described in paragraph 44(a) should have a management plan. When a site does not have a management plan at the time when it is nominated for the consideration of the World Heritage Committee, the State Party concerned should indicate when such a plan will become available and how it proposes to mobilize the resources required for the preparation and implementation of the plan. The State Party should also provide other document(s) (e.g. operational plans) which will guide the management of the site until such time when a management plan is finalized.
(vi) A site described in paragraph 44(a) should have adequate long-term legislative, regulatory, institutional or traditional protection. The boundaries of that site should reflect the spatial requirements of habitats, species, processes or phenomena that provide the basis for its nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List. The boundaries should include sufficient areas immediately adjacent to the area of outstanding universal value in order to protect the site's heritage values from direct effects of human encroachment and impacts of resource use outside of the nominated area. The boundaries of the nominated site may coincide with one or more existing or proposed protected areas, such as national parks or biosphere reserves. While an existing or proposed protected area may contain several management zones, only some of those zones may satisfy criteria described in paragraph 44(a); other zones, although they may not meet the criteria set out in paragraph 44(a), may be essential for the management to ensure the integrity of the nominated site; for example, in the case of a biosphere reserve, only the core zone may meet the criteria and the conditions of integrity, although other zones, i.e. buffer and transitional zones, would be important for the conservation of the biosphere reserve in its totality.
(vii) Sites described in paragraph 44(a) should be the most important sites for the conservation of biological diversity. Biological diversity, according to the new global Convention on Biological Diversity, means the variability among living organisms in terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part and includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems. Only those sites which are the most biologically diverse are likely to meet criterion (iv) of paragraph 44 (a).
45. In principle, a site could be inscribed on the World Heritage List as long as it satisfies one of the four criteria and the relevant conditions of integrity. However, most inscribed sites have met two or more criteria. Nomination dossiers, IUCN evaluations and the final recommendations of the Committee on each inscribed site are available for consultation by States Parties which may wish to use such information as guides for identifying and elaborating nomination of sites within their own territories.
(UNESCO (1999) Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, pp. 10-12).

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