Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top 10 Wonders of the Natural World

1. The Amazon Rainforest

Superlatives overflow when it comes to the Amazon rainforest. Despite being cut down at an alarming rate, it still covers 2.7 million square miles. Growing across nine different countries, it represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests, making it the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world. The forest is fed by the Amazon river, the largest river in the world by volume, which also has the biggest drainage basin on the planet.

2. The Maldives

The Maldives deserve to be one of the greatest wonders of the natural world because they are among some of the most beautiful but low lying islands in the world. With the sea level rise associated with climate change, they could well not be here in a couple of generation’s time. The Maldives are composed of 1,192 small islands with stunning coral reefs strung out like pearls across the Indian Ocean, 435 miles south-west of Sri Lanka. Two hundred of the islands are inhabited and over 90% of the islands' GDP comes from tourism.

3. The Great Barrier Reef

The Aussies are justifiably proud of the largest coral reef on earth – the Great Barrier Reef. It can be seen from space and is believed to be the world’s biggest single structure made from living organisms. Composed of some 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands, it stretches for 1,616 miles and is strung out over 133,000 square miles of the Coral Sea in Queensland, north east Australia. Already a World Heritage site, it generates $1 billion a year in tourism revenue.

4. The Table Mountain

The only natural site on the planet to have a constellation of stars named after it: Mensa ( "Table" in Latin ). Table Mountain is a South African icon. The flat-topped mountain has withstood six million years of erosion and hosts the richest, yet smallest floral kingdom on earth with over 1,470 plant species. It is the most recognized site in Cape Town and is known as the gateway to Africa, owing to its unique flat-topped peaks that reach 1,086 metres above sea level.

5. The Galapagos Islands

Famed as being the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, the Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator, 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. They are famed for their vast number of endemic species and are already a World Heritage Site. Tourism today is strictly controlled on the islands, having risen from just over 41,000 people visiting in 1991 to over 180,000 today. The islands are apparently a favourite haunt of Andrew Marr.

6. The Grand Canyon

The playground of Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, who liked to hunt there, the Grand Canyon was created by the Colorado River over a period of 6 million years. It is 277 miles long, ranges in width from 3.7 to 18 miles and has a depth of more than 1 mile. The area was first inhabited by Native Americans, who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves.

7. The Mount Vesuvius

With a temperament similar to that of Italy’s soon-to-be-former PM Silvio Berlusconi, Mount Vesuvius is a volcano east of Naples. It is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, but is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.

8. The Sundarbans

The largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sundarbans, meaning “beautiful forest” in Bengali, has never got the recognition it deserves. A delta at the mouth of the river Ganges, the Sundarbans spread across parts of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. They feature a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The area supports a wide range of fauna, the most famous of which is the Royal Bengal tiger.

9. The Dead Sea

The lowest point on the surface of the Earth, tourists come from around the world to float in the Dead Sea, a lake lying between the countries of Israel and Jordan. At 418 m (1,371 ft) below sea level, it is almost nine times as salty as the ocean, which makes it impossible for most life to exist in it. However, it is not completely dead – some types of bacteria are able to live in the water.

10. The Jade Mountain - Yushan

Yushan, meaning “Jade Mountain”, is a central mountain range in Taiwan. It is also the name of the highest point of the range, 3,952 m above sea level and is part of Yushan National Park, known for its diverse wildlife and ecology. The environment around Yushan ranges from sub-tropical forests at its base to alpine conditions at its peak.

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