World Heritage criteria

Natural Criteria

To qualify for inscription on the World Heritage List, nominated properties must have values that are outstanding and universal. The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention provide guidance to the World Heritage Committee in deciding which nominations should be included on the List. These guidelines state that nominations should be based on cultural, natural and/or mixed cultural and natural criteria.

Article 2 of the World Heritage Convention, defines natural heritage:

(i) "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;

(ii) 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;

(iii) natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty."

For a property to be included on the World Heritage list as natural heritage, the World Heritage Committee must find that it meets one or more of the following criteria and fulfils the conditions of integrity. Sites nominated should therefore:

i. be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; or

ii. be outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals; or

iii. contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; or

iv. contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

The World Heritage Committee approved the extension of the High Coast, Sweden, to include the Kvarken Archipelago, Finland, on the basis of natural criterion (i):

The Kvarken Archipelago with its 5,600 islands and surrounding sea is of exceptional geological value for two main reasons. First, it is an area of rapid glacio-isostatic uplift with rates that are among the highest in the world. The uplift is ongoing and is associated with major changes in the water bodies in post glacial times.

The Kvarken, along with the existing High Coast, its Swedish equivalent on the west coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, are key areas for the understanding of the processes of crustal response to the melting of the continental ice sheet. Second, the Kvarken area possesses a distinctive array of glacial depositional landforms, such as De Greer moraines, which add to the variety of glacial landscapes features in the region and reinforce the previous validity of the High Coast inscription.

Notes that the property thus becomes a serial transboundary property of both Finland and Sweden with the new name of Kvarken Archipelago / High Coast, Finland and Sweden. The total size of the transboundary serial property will be 336,900 hectares.