SAO PAULO (AP).- The Bikini Atoll and a silver trade route in Mexico were among 21 new places added to the list of World Heritage sites at the annual meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, which concluded Aug. 2 in Brazil.
The additions bring to 911 the total number of sites on the list, which include natural attractions like the Grand Canyon as well as manmade and cultural sites like the Acropolis.
The committee also designated four sites as endangered, including Everglades National Park in Florida. The Everglades, home to 20 endangered species, was previously on the list from 1993 to 2007 because large amounts of water were being diverted to cities. UNESCO said in a statement the park was added again for the same reason.
Other places newly added to the endangered list were the Atsinanana rain forests of Madagascar, where illegal logging and poaching are a threat to rare lemurs; the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery in Georgia, and the tombs of Buganda Kings in Uganda. The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador were removed from the endangered list.
Being on the endangered list allows the agency to allocate immediate assistance from the World Heritage Fund.
In a statement, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands was designated a World Heritage Site because it symbolizes the "dawn of the nuclear age." Nuclear bomb tests conducted there in the 1940s and '50s also had "major consequences" on the geology and environment of the atoll, UNESCO said.
Also designated a World Heritage site was the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a trade route from Mexico north to the U.S. that was used from the 16th to 19th centuries for transporting silver.
Other cultural attractions designated as World Heritage sites during the UNESCO committee meeting were the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long-Hanoi in Vietnam, built in the 11th century; historic monuments of Dengfeng in China; the archaeological site Sarazm in Tajikistan; the Episcopal city of Albi in France; a 17th-century canal ring in Amsterdam; Sao Francisco Square in Sao Cristovao, Brazil, which dates to the 16th century; the prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla in Oaxaca, Mexico; the Turaif District in Saudi Arabia; the Australian Convict penal sites; the Jantar Mantar astronomical observation site in India; a shrine complex in Ardabil in Iran; the Tabriz historic bazaar complex, also in Iran; and historic villages of Hahoe and Yangdong in South Korea.
Five natural sites added to the list were Sri Lanka's biodiverse highlands, which UNESCO described as being home to "an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species"; China Danxia, in China, where UNESCO said that red cliffs, waterfalls and forests are home to 400 rare or threatened speicals of plants and animals; the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, in the South Pacific, one of the world's largest coral archipelago ecosystems; Reunion Island, comprised of two volcanic peaks and rugged terrain in the Indian Ocean; and the Putorana Plateau in Russian, north of the Arctic Circle in Siberia.
Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument a pristine haven for coral and other marine life, and a treasured site of ancient Hawaiian shrines was added to the World Heritage list as both a cultural and a natural site.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.