The World Heritage List

The printed article by Professor Brian Morton refers to The World Heritage List, and selection criteria for inclusion on the list.

Today, in 2013, The World Heritage List includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 759 cultural, 193 natural and 29 mixed properties in 160 States Parties. As of September 2012, 190 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention. There are only two World Heritage Sites in the Azores, plus two tentative sites, as follows:

  1. The 15th century central zone of Angra do Heroismo in Terceira (designated, 1983).
  2. The 15th century vineyard landscape and culture of Pico (designated, 2004).
  3. Algar do Carvão, Terceira (tentative, 1996).
  4. Furna do Enxofre, Graciosa (tentative, 1996).

This author and paper proposes that application be made for the Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã de Santo Cristo, São Jorge, to be designated as World Heritage Sites by the Autonomous Regional Government of the Azores and, in advocatorial practice by the office of the Island Governor of São Jorge.

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool for World Heritage Site designation. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself. Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, only one set of ten criteria exists.

Of the present ten World Heritage Convention Selection Criteria, it is suggested that the following are the most important with regard to the designation of Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã de Santo Cristo, São Jorge, Azores, as a World Heritage Site.

  • (v), To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. 
  • (vii), To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  • (viii), To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
  • (ix), To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
  • (x), To 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 [either] science or conservation [or both].

The full list of World Heritage List selection criteria can be seen at

Further reading:

Agostinho, J. 1935. Tectónica, Sismicidade e Vulcanismo das ilhas dos Acores. Açoreana 1: 86-98.

Anon. 1967. Final Report. Chelsea College Azores Expedition, 1965. London: The University of London.

Forjaz, V.H. & Fernandes, N.S.M. 1975. Carta Geológica de Portugal na escala de 1/50,000. Notcia explicative das folhas A e B da Ilha de S. Jorge (Açores), 32 pp. Lisboa: Serviços Geológicos de Portugal.

Fonseca, L.C., G. Menezes, J. Gonçalves & F. Porteiro, 1995. Environmental characterisation of “Sto. Cristo” coastal lagoon (S. Jorge, Azores). Boletim do Museu Municipal do Funchal, Supplemento 4: 219-232.

Gonçalves, J.M. & H.R. Martins, 1991. Relatório preliminar de execução do projecto de investigação “Estudo pontual das condiçoes fisicoquímicas e biológicas, com especial incidência na populaçãoção de amêijoas (Ruditapes decussatus), na Lagoa de Sto. Cristo”. Relatórios Internos do Departmento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Açores, Horta, Açores. 1-7.

Jorge, F. & A. Valdemar, 1998. Azores from the sky. Lisboa, Portugal, Argumentum.

Morton, B. 2014. The conservation of important lagoonal, wetand, habitats in the Açores. And a proposal for World Heritage Site designation for Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã de Santo Cristo, São Jorge. Boletim do Nucleo Cultural da Horta 23: 115-134.

Morton, B., Britton, J.C. & Frias Martins, A.M. 1995. Fajã dos Cubres, São Jorge: a case for coastal conservation and the first record of Ruppia maritima Linnaeus (Monocotyledones: Ruppiacea) from the Açores. Açoreana 8: 11-30.

Morton, B., Britton, J.C. & Frias-Martins, A.M. de 1998. Coastal Ecology of the Açores. Sociedade Afonso Chaves, Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Açores, Portugal. pp. i-x + 249.

Morton, B. & Tristão da Cunha, R. 1993. The Fajã de Santo Cristo, São Jorge, re-visited and a case for Azorean coastal conservation. Açoreana 1993: 539-553.

Morton, B. & Tristão da Cunha, R.M.P.T. 2014. The history of an invasion: chance consequences of chance events. The first and last voyage of the Spindrift and introduction of Venerupis decussata (Bivalvia) into the Fajã de Santo Cristo, São Jorge, Açores. Açoreana (In press).

Morton, B., Tristão da Cunha, R. M. P. T. and de Frias Martins A. M. (2013). Species richness, relative abundance and dwarfism in Azorean bivalves: consequences of latitude, isolation or productivity? Or all three? Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 94: 567–578.

Santos, R.S. 1985. Observaçoes sobre as condiçoes ecológicas da Lagoa de Santo Cristo, Ilha de São Jorge. Relat. Intern. Depart. Ocean. Pescas, Universidade dos Açores, Horta, Açores. 1-7.

Santos, R.S. & H.R. Martins, 1987. Estudoes sobre as condiçoes ecoldgicas da Lagoa de Santo Cristo (Ilha de S. Jorge), em especial das suas ameijoas. pp. 159-174.

Santos, R.S., E. Goulart & L.R. Monteiro, 1989. Abundância e crescimento da ameijoa Tapes decussatus na Lagoa do Santo Cristo: aspectos da sua conservação e exploração. Communição proferida na 6a Semana das Pescas, Horta. In: Relatdrio da V11 Semana das Pescas, Universidade dos Aores, Horta, Açores.

Santos, R.S., L.R. Monteiro, M. Alves, E.J. Isidro, H.R. Martins & S.J. Hawkins. 1994. A review of marine research in relation to conservation in the Azores. Relatórios Internos do Departmento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Açores, Horta, Açores 1, 58 pp + 2 plates.


Brian Morton