| GEO Amazing and Interesting|
| China, Mexico, Pacific sites get World Heritage status|
| Updated at: 0843 PST, Monday, August 02, 2010|
BRASILIA: Six sites located in Brazil, China, Mexico, France's Reunion Island and the South Pacific nation of Kiribati won World Heritage status from a UNESCO panel meeting in Brazil.
Four existing World Heritage sites were also expanded to include nearby natural or cultural treasures in Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Spain, the UN cultural agency said in a statement.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, in a 10-day meeting in Brasilia that will wrap up Tuesday, has already added or extended 17 other sites to its list, bringing the total number of sites around the world with the prestigious stamp to 910.
The latest additions comprised three culturally important sites and three environmentally unique ones.
Sao Francisco Square in the northeastern town of Sao Cristovao was designated a World Heritage site because of a church and convent there, and a palace and associated houses, all from the 18th and 19th centuries that "creates an urban landscape which reflects the history of the town since its origin."
China's Danxia, or rugged red landscapes that emerged from river silt deposits in southwest China, were added because of their role in preserving subtropical forests and hosting flora and fauna, including 400 considered rare or threatened.
Mexico had two sites inscribed.
The first, the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or the Royal Inland Road, which was a route that runs from north of Mexico City into the United States, was used to transport silver from mines for 300 years from the 16th century. UNESCO noted it "fostered the creation of social, cultural and religious links in particular between Spanish and Amerindian cultures."
The second was a complex of prehistoric caves in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, some of which bear "archeological and rock-art evidence for the progress of nomadic hunter-gathers to incipient farmers." One of the caves contained seeds and corn cob fragments dating back thousands of years that are thought to be the earliest evidence of domesticated plants on the continent.
France's Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean, gained its first World Heritage site within its national park. The area, dominated by volcanic peaks and cliffs, comprises "subtropical rainforests, cloud forests and heaths creating a remarkable and visually appealing mosaic of ecosystems and landscape features," UNESCO said in its statement.
Kiribati's Phoenix Islands, a zone that is the largest marine protected area in the world, also won heritage endorsement. The island group "conserves one of the world's largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, together with 14 known underwater sea mounts" thought to be extinct volcanoes, complete with a staggering variety of marine species.
Existing sites expanded by the World Heritage Committee included ones that now take in an Austrian castle, a Bulgarian national park, a monastery in Romania and prehistoric rock art in Spain.
The 17th castle in Austria, the Schloss Eggenberg, is located three kilometers (two miles) from the historic center of the city of Graz, which was granted World Heritage status in 1999. It is an "exceptionally well-preserved example which bears witness... to the influence of the late Italian Renaissance and the Baroque period," UNESCO said.
Bulgaria's Pirin National Park listing, given in 1983, was expanded to include the Pirin Mountains, except for two areas set aside for skiers.
In Romania, a site including seven churches in Moldavia built in the 15th and 16th centuries that gained World Heritage prestige in 1993 was expanded to include The Church of the Sucevita Monastery -- an edifice decorated with late 16th century paintings.
And the inclusion of 645 prehistoric engravings on a cliff in Siega Verde, in Spain's Castilla y Leon, extended the World Heritage site of Portugal's ancient rock art in the Coa Valley.
Saturday, the UNESCO committee announced heritage labels for an imperial palace in Vietnam, temples in China, an Australian penal colony, a historic bazaar in Iran, 14th-century villages in South Korea, an 18th-century astronomical observatory in India, Sri Lanka's Central Highlands region, and the United States' Papahanaumokuakea archipelago.
Earlier, the committee also added Florida's Everglades and Madagascar's tropical forest to a special list of 31 World Heritage sites considered to be in danger.