Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sri Lanka, Hawaii sites get world heritage status

Sri Lanka's central highlands and a protected marine area in Hawaii, the only habitats of several endangered plant and animal species, have been added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites, the U.N. body said on Saturday.

Sri Lanka's central highlands were deemed of prime importance because of the pristine forests that are home to the Sri Lanka leopard and other rare animal and plant life.

Sri Lanka’s highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. The  property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest.  These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 meters above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot.

Papahānaumokuākea, the Hawaiian marine site, is a vast and isolated linear cluster of small, low lying islands and atolls, with their surrounding ocean, roughly 250 km to the northwest of the main Hawaiian Archipelago and extending over some 1931 km. The area has deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture, as an ancestral environment, as an embodiment of the Hawaiian concept of kinship between people and the natural world, and as the place where it is believed that life originates and to where the spirits return after death.

On two of the islands, Nihoa and Makumanamana, there are archaeological remains  relating to pre-European settlement and use. Much of the monument is made up of pelagic and deepwater habitats, with notable features such as seamounts and submerged banks, extensive coral reefs and lagoons.  It is the habitat of the endangered Hawaiian Monk seal (left)and rare birds. The site encompasses about 140,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. Its isolated reef ecosystems are dominated by top predators like sharks. It is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world.

"This feature has been lost from most other island environments due to human activity," said Tim Badman, a top adviser at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  Badman's group is the advisory body to UNESCO's World Heritage Committee and makes recommendations to the committee based on its field research at the sites.

Reuters, "Sri Lanka, Hawaii sites get world heritage status", accessed August 2, 2010
Votum Solvit, "Two new sites inscribed on World Heritage List", accessed August 2, 2010

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