World Heritage Sites are places of ‘outstanding universal value' selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Sites can be selected because they contain important cultural or natural features.
Worldwide there are 890 World Heritage Sites (WHS) and there are 17 in England (in 2006)
Most WHS in England have been selected for their cultural identity; these include Stonehenge and Durham Cathedral and Castle.
Only one WHS in England (the Dorset and East Devon Coast) has been selected for its natural features.
However, the cultural WHS Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape also has strong links with the natural environment, in particular geodiversity and landscape.
This site, also known as the Jurassic Coast was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2001 for its outstanding geology and geomorphology. The site covers 95 miles of coastline, containing rocks from the Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Quaternary Periods, recording 185 million years of the Earth's history.
It includes 13 geological SSSIs, two National Nature Reserves and several important biological SSSIs (including Special Areas of Conservation). It also overlaps with two AONBs and the newly established Lyme Bay Marine Protection Area. The Dorset coast, particularly between Charmouth and Lyme Regis, is one of the most famous fossil collecting localities in the world.
A management plan has been agreed for this WHS which is partly based upon the established management objectives and plans for the range of designated sites it includes. The plan sets out proposals for conservation, access, education and science. It also identifies ways in which World Heritage status can help sustainable development in the wider area of Dorset and East Devon.