The Lut Desert, or Dasht-e-Lut, is located in the south-east of the country. Between June and October, this arid subtropical area is swept by strong winds, which transport sediment and cause aeolian erosion on a colossal scale. Consequently, the site presents some of the most spectacular examples of aeolian yardang landforms (massive corrugated ridges). It also contains extensive stony deserts and dune fields. The property represents an exceptional example of ongoing geological processes. © UNESCO
2017 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
Superlative examples of yardangs
Nebkha dunes are best developed at the margins of the desert where there is more moisture and shrubby plants can grow, about which dune sands accumulate. Large nebkhas are an identified special feature of the WH property, but most in this settled area appear to have been impacted by grazing, wood gathering and vehicles. Thus increased development pressure is unlikely to permit the rehabilitation of the nebkha field and, quite the contrary, could lead to its further deterioration.
Desert environments are very fragile, especially where the substrate comprises soft-rock and sediment rather than hard bedrock. Vehicle tracks can persist for a long time, because natural processes can take decades to efface them. The temptation for tourists to turn off road must be restrained and managed by providing view-point access sites.
One of the landform types of particular interest in the Lut Desert is nebkhas. These are sand dunes that have accumulated in the lee of desert scrub, sometimes to 12 m high. Nebkhas are characteristic of the margins of the desert where there is a little more water available for plant growth, and hence more scattered bushes around which blown sands can accumulate. Such environments also provide the opportunity for human habitation, but the ecosystem is fragile and at its margin: too much harvesting of plants by stock and people may exceed its capacity to regenerate. Desertification inevitably ensues. This has already occurred around the more populated western margin of the Lut Desert in the vicinity of settlements around Shahdad. As population and tourist pressure increases, special care must be taken to maintain the natural vegetation. Nebkhas in the area are already in a degenerated state.
Provision must be made to receive tourists by facilitating access by road and air, by providing overnight accommodation, and by providing corridors and access points to view and appreciate the natural values of the Lut Desert. A difficult balance has to be achieved that enables visitors to view the landforms of the property at close range, yet contains and manages impacts associated with roading, parking, toilets, and foot trail construction. Off-trail access is justified but, in fragile environments such as areas of kaluts and salt flats, must be a minimum impact undertaking by licensed operators.
Further, the Lut Desert is the first natural WH property in Iran, so there is no previous experience in managing the special requirements of UNESCO natural sites. Consequently, there is much to be achieved in staff training and development. How well this is being met at present is not clear.
|№||Organization/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|1||University of Tehran, Dept of Physical Geography||
|Investigation of the physical environment of the region, including climatic processes and landscape development.|
|№||Site need title||Brief description of potential site needs||Support needed for following years|
|1||Ecosystem of the Lut Desert||Lists of flora and fauna found in and around the Lut Desert are available, but little is known about the nature and operation of its ecosystem. Considering that this ecosystem operates in one of the hottest (Mildrexler et al., 2011) and driest places on Earth, it is likely to have some unusual and scientifically interesting characteristics, conceivably of outstanding universal value. As an integral and almost unexplored part of a WH property, the biota merit further serious investigation.||
|2||Kaluts: their age and origin||Yardangs/kaluts are the signature features of the property (Goudie, 2007, Goudie and Seely, 2001). Yet we know almost nothing about their age and origin, and about the way in which they responded to the climatic changes of the Quaternary. How are they likely to change in the future and what will be the key drivers of change? These are fundamental issues, key to the interpretation of the site, and important for its management.||
|3||Sustainable tourism||International tourists will feel disappointed if they cannot get well into the yardang country. It's what they will be coming to see. So it's no good just taking them to the periphery and looking in. So roads suitable for minibuses will have to be constructed for kilometres into the yardang field, plus turning circles, parking areas (with toilets), and walk-about sites. Importantly, there must be foot access to the tops of high yardangs, so that active visitors can obtain distant views across the yardang field and come to appreciate its impressive dimensions. This will give the 'wow' factor expected of a WH site, and visitors will leave satisfied with their experience. But clearly this physical development will impact the very thing that visitors are coming to see. So huge care is required to balance access with conservation and to allow damage to heal by means of unrestrained operation of natural desert processes. Different access routes will be required so that some can be closed off and 'rested' while others are used. Park managers, therefore, need to acquire knowledge about how this can be achieved and what practical management techniques and regimes are required. Thus research that is directed towards landscape management is needed that aims at achieving a sustainable balance between tourist access and landscape conservation/rehabilitation.||
|1||Amrikazemi, Alireza (2013). Geoheritage Atlas of Iran. Ministry of Industry and Mines, Geological Survey of Iran|
|2||Goudie, A. S. (2007). Mega-yardangs: a global analysis. Geography Compass 1/1, 65-81.|
|3||Goudie, A. and Seely, M. (2001). World Heritage Desert Landscapes: Potential Priorities for the Recognition of Desert Landscapes and Geomorphological Sites on the World Heritage List. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 44pp|
|4||Government of Iran, 2015. Nomination dossier for Lut Desert.|
|5||IUCN, 2016. IUCN Evaluations of nominations of natural and mixed properties to the World Heritage List. Gland, 2016.|
|6||Mildrexler, D.J., Zhao, M., Running, S.W. (2011). Satellite finds highest land skin temperatures on Earth. Bulletin American Meteorological Society, 855-860. DOI:10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1|