World Natural Heritage
Geirangerfjord in Norway, Lake Baikal in Russia, the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania – these are just four out of a total of 197 World Natural Heritage properties currently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Not all sites are as famous as those mentioned above. Among the World Natural Heritage sites are also natural treasures such as the Bwindi Nationalpark in Uganda known for its mountain gorillas, the caves from Skocjan in Slovenia or the Rainforests of Atsinanana in Madagascar.
Article 2 of the World Heritage Convention defines "natural heritage" as follows:
- 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.
Outstanding universal value denotes a natural significance which is so outstanding that it transcends national borders. It means that a property needs to be preserved for present and future generations, as part of a common universal heritage. The criteria to be applied to assess outstanding universal value are established by the World Heritage Committee (Article 49 of the Operational Guidelines).