I propose the Lower Congo River be included in the list, for It's unique geology, importance to icthiology and overall Showcase of the evolutionary process in extreme conditions.
It certainly seems an interesting (multiple) ecosystem which has not previously been identified in our discussions (and a worthwhile addition to them!) – or, as far as I can discover, elsewhere. Reading the report, it could be that just not enough research has yet been done to support a nomination - which of course needs to be preceded by establishment of proper protection etc etc?? I have had a quick "Google" to see if anything has previously been suggested/planned for the area. UNESCO/IUCN is definitely aware of the need for more protection in the Congo Basin - of both existing protected areas and for additional ones but I get the feeling that "Rain forests" and iconic Mammals etc figure more in their sights than fish - not justified of course if that were to be true. Ichthyologists of the World unite – your specialism isn't being adequately recognised!
I did find these reports
a. "Natural World Heritage In Africa"
. This looks at existing sites and proposes some important "gaps" - but the Lower Congo doesn't figure in the latter.
b. "Congo Basin, a neglected world heritage"
which confirms both the area's importance and how little we know.
c. "World Heritage in the Congo Basin"
- Downloadable here
. It too suggests several possible additional sites (mainly different from those in the first report!) - but not the Lower Congo "canyon" area. Page 39 starts a section on possible new sites but it is all very "Forest based" and being pursued by "The Central African World Heritage Forest Initiative (CAWHFI)
This got me thinking abut the place of "fish" on the current WH list – not that prominent and even significantly "under water and out of sight"!? Whales and Dolphins often get a "look in" as "iconic" marine mammals but "fish" seem less prominent despite their spread across the world in both fresh and saltwater!! Perhaps we should we make a "Connection" for WHS whose Natural OUV is "significantly" based on "Fish". We currently only have one - related to Sharks. To avoid including sites which merely mention "Fish" generically (E.g The Wadden See supports "large numbers of Fish") I would suggest something along the lines of "Fish - WHS whose OUV/Criterion statements include Fish "speciation" or endemism"
The following would be enough to set up such a Connection - no doubt further thought and searches could identify more – I will leave that "pleasure" to others!
a. Lake Malawi
- Crit x "up to c.1000 species of fish, half occurring within the property: estimated as the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. Endemism is very high: of particular significance are the cichlid fish, of which all but 5 of over 350 species are endemic. The lake contains 30% of all known cichlids species in the world
b. Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region
- Crit vii - "Lake Ohrid provides a unique refuge for numerous endemic and relict freshwater species of flora and fauna. Its oligotrophic waters contain over 200 endemic species with high levels of endemism for benthic species in particular....and 17 endemic species of fish"
c. Central Amazon Complex
- Crit x "The "pirarucu" (Arapaima gigas), the largest freshwater fish in South America......... In addition, 64 species of electric fish, which is the strongest known diversity for this group unique in the world, with a circulation range and an adaptation rate comparable to those of cichlids in the African Rift Valley, have been identified in the property"
d. Colchic Rainforests
- Crit x "The property also harbors sturgeon species, including the Colchic Sturgeon
Unfortunately the iSimangaliso WHS documentation doesn't mention the Coelacanth which live there, so it wouldn't meet my proposed "Connection definition". See here
. The Comoros do have a T List entry for the "Ecosystèmes Marins de l'Archipel des Comores
" whose first "element" is intended to be the "Parc marin des Coelacanthes".
The proposed very strict Connection definition will also exclude sites like Lake Baikal where the OUV and Criteira are not well described and the description just generally refers to "endemic flora and fauna" (another example that "Fish" generally aren't regarded as very "exciting" when descriptions are being drawn up!) and we don't even have a Nomination File. The book "Endemic fishes of Lake Baikal
" states - "Lake Baikal is unique among the Great Lakes of the world in that there is fish life from its surface to a depth of over 1600 metres, its greatest depth, nearly all of which are endemic. Lake Baikal's great habitable depth range, combined with its great age, make it a unique natural laboratory for the study of adaptation to deepwater conditions. The present ichthyofauna of Lake Baikal includes 61 species and subspecies of fishes belonging to 32 genera and 15 families."
We could extend the definition to allow other reputable references to Fish speciation/endemism within a WHS??