Natural sites including rain forests in Madagascar and volcanoes and volcanic caves in South Korea have been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List of protected sites, the heritage committee announced on Wednesday.
South China's Karst region of stone forests also was inscribed on the world conservation list -- the three areas joining some 830 other natural, cultural and landmark sites round the globe at a meeting of the UN world heritage body in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch.
The committee said the rain forests of the Atsinanana, six national parks distributed on the eastern part of Madagascar, are "critically important" for the survival of the island's unique biodiversity -- evolved in isolation over 60 million years and including many rare species.
It noted that 78 of the 123 non-flying mammals in Madagascar occur in the forests, including 72 that are on the International Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species.
South China's Karst region covering 500,000 square kilometres in Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi Provinces "represents one of the world's most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes," the committee said.
The area includes the Naigu stone forest, the Suyishan stone forest arising from a lake, and the stone forests of Shilin.
"The cone and tower karsts of Libo ... Form a distinctive and beautiful landscape. Wulong Karst has been inscribed for its giant dolines, natural bridges and caves," said the committee, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.