FOR 30 years, the United Nations organisation UNESCO has been augmenting its World Heritage List with sites of particular importance for biodiversity, geology and evolution. There are currently 206 of them, with a further eight nominations due to be considered this June. From bizarre geological formations and singular habitats to fascinating fossil beds, here is our selection of the best of the best of Earth’s natural heritage.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia


Michael Szonyi / imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Covering an area of almost 350,000 square kilometres off Australia’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 400 types of coral, and thousands of species of fish and molluscs. However, it is suffering multiple threats – from “bleaching” due to warming seas to runoff from forest clearance in the neighbouring state of Queensland. According to the most pessimistic predictions, even if current trends can be reversed, the reef will not recover for generations.

Mistaken Point, Canada


Barrett & MacKay/All Canada Photos / Alamy

Added to the UNESCO list in 2016, Mistaken Point at the south-easternmost tip of Newfoundland is so called because sailors often mistook it for the neighbouring Cape Race, guiding their ships onto dangerous rocks. Its scientific interest lies in its unrivalled collection of Ediacaran fossils. These strange forms document one of the most important and enigmatic turns in Earth’s history – the first explosion of multicellular life onto the scene starting around 575 million years ago.

Ennedi Massif, Chad


The Sahara’s reputation as an inhospitable, windswept expanse of barren sand

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

New Scientist – Earth