Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve

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Located well above the Arctic Circle, the site includes the mountainous Wrangel Island (7,608 km2), Herald Island (11 km2) and surrounding waters. Wrangel was not glaciated during the Quaternary Ice Age, resulting in exceptionally high levels of biodiversity for this region. The island boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific walrus and the highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. It is a major feeding ground for the grey whale migrating from Mexico and the northernmost nesting ground for 100 migratory bird species, many endangered. Currently, 417 species and subspecies of vascular plants have been identified on the island, double that of any other Arctic tundra territory of comparable size and more than any other Arctic island. Some species are derivative of widespread continental forms, others are the result of recent hybridization, and 23 are endemic.

Justification:

Criterion (ix): The Wrangel Island Reserve is a self-contained island ecosystem and there is ample evidence that it has undergone a long evolutionary process uninterrupted by the glaciation that swept most other parts of the Arctic during the Quaternary period. The number and type of endemic plant species, the diversity within plant communities, the rapid succession and mosaic of tundra types, the presence of relatively recent mammoth tusks and skulls, the range of terrain types and geological formations in the small geographic space are all visible evidence of Wrangel’s rich natural history and its unique evolutionary status within the Arctic. Furthermore, the process is continuing as can be observed in, for example, the unusually high densities and distinct behaviours of the Wrangel lemming populations in comparison with other Arctic populations or in the physical adaptations of the Wrangel Island reindeers, where they may now have evolved into a separate population from their mainland cousins. Species interaction strategies are highly-honed and on display throughout the island, especially near Snowy owl nests which act as protectorates for other species and beacons for migratory species and around fox dens.

Criterion (x): The Wrangel Island Reserve has the highest level of biodiversity in the high Arctic. The island is the breeding habitat of Asia’s only Snow goose population which is slowly making a recovery from catastrophically low levels. The marine environment is an increasingly important feeding ground for the Gray whale migrating from Mexico (some from another World Heritage site, the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino). The islands have the largest sea-bird colonies on the Chukchi Sea, are the northernmost nesting grounds for over 100 migratory bird species including several that are endangered such as the Peregrine falcon, have significant populations of resident tundra bird species interspersed with migratory Arctic and non-Arctic species and have the world’s highest density of ancestral polar bear dens. Wrangel Island boasts the largest population of Pacific walrus with up to 100,000 animals congregating at any given time at one of the island’s important coastal rookeries. Since Wrangel Island contains a high diversity of habitats and climates and conditions vary considerably from one location to another, total reproductive failure of a species in any given year is practically unheard of. Given the relatively small size of the area, this is very unusual in the high Arctic.

Year of Inscription: 2004

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Located well above the Arctic Circle, the site includes the mountainous Wrangel Island (7,608 km2), Herald Island (11 km2) and surrounding waters. Wrangel was not glaciated during the Quaternary Ice Age, resulting in exceptionally high levels of biodiversity for this region. The island boasts the world’s largest population of...

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  • •New Year´s Day – 1 January •Epiphany Eve – 6th January •Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday – March/April •Walpurgus Night – April 30 •Labour Day – 1st May Swedish National Day – 6th June •Whit Monday, Midsummer´s Eve – June •All Saint’s Eve – October/November •Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - December 24 – 25 •New Year´s Eve – December 31
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  • No holidays other then the winters when the sea cannot be traveled
  • Nigel Molesworth
  • Harriet M Welsch
  • Oskar Schell
  • Elinor Dashwood

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