UNESCO have just released their list of newly-awarded world heritage sites, including these extraordinary sites of natural importance
Situated 125 km north of Port Sudan, Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island are home to a highly diverse system of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, beaches and islets.
Dugong in the Red Sea (Dreamstime)
The area is a vibrant habitat for populations of seabirds, marine mammals, fish, sharks, turtles and manta rays. Dungonab Bay, with its rich seagrass beds, boasts a globally significant population of dugongs, enormous marine mammals, sometimes known as 'sea-cows' yet also the inspiration for the myths about mermaids.
It’s all about the fossils at this site on the south-eastern tip of the island of Newfoundland, in eastern Canada. The narrow, 17 km-long strip of rugged coastal cliffs here date to the Edicarean Period (580-560 million years ago), representing the oldest known assemblages of large fossils anywhere.
Rocky Newfoundland coast (Dreamstime)
Largely of marine origin, these fossils illustrate a watershed in the history of life on earth, marking the appearance of large, biologically complex organisms, after almost three billion years of micro-dominated evolution.
Tucked away in the heart of the Himalaya, the Khangchendzonga National Park is a uniquely diverse landscapes of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains. Here you will find both ancient forests and the world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga.
Mount Khangchendzonga (Dreamstime)
It is also a mythical land where natural elements such as caves, rivers and lakes are worshipped by the indigenous people of Sikkim. The sacred meanings of these stories and practices have been integrated with Buddhist beliefs and constitute the basis for Sikkimese identity.
Located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, this archipelago is made up of four remote islands and their surrounding waters: San Benedicto, Socorro, Roca Partida and Clarión. They are part of a submerged mountain range, with each of the four islands representing the peaks of volcanoes emerging above sea level.
Manta Ray and scuba diver (Dreamstime)
However, it is the local wildlife that are the stars of this heritage site. The islands are a critical habitat for seabirds. And the surrounding waters have a remarkable abundance of large pelagic species, such as manta rays, whales, dolphins and sharks.
Located in Hubei Province, in central-eastern China, Hubei Shennongjia has the largest primary forest remaining in Central China and provides habitat for many rare animal species, such as the Chinese giant salamander, the golden or snub-nosed Monkey, the clouded leopard, common leopard and the Asian black bear.
Clouded leopard (Dreamstime)
Hubei Shennongjia is one of only three centres of biodiversity in China and features prominently in the history of botanical research. Indeed, it was one of the most popular destinations for plant collecting expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Main image: Manta Ray (Dreamstime)