The French Austral Lands and Seas comprise the largest of the rare emerged landmasses in the southern Indian Ocean: the Crozet Archipelago, the Kerguelen Islands, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands as well as 60 small sub-Antarctic islands. This ‘oasis’ in the middle of the Southern Ocean covers an area of more than 67 million ha and supports one of the highest concentrations of birds and marine mammals in the world. In particular, it has the largest population of King Penguins and Yellow-nosed albatrosses in the world. The remoteness of these islands from centres of human activity makes them extremely well-preserved showcases of biological evolution and a unique terrain for scientific research.
Criterion (vii) : The French Austral Lands and Seas, with their pristine natural heritage, are one of the last wilderness areas on the planet. They feature a unique concentration of marine birds and mammals in the sub-Antarctic region, with enormous colonies where an abundance of species, sounds, colours and scents blend harmoniously. Grandiose volcanic landscapes teeming with life reinforce the exceptional character of the site.
Criterion (ix) : The site is vast and includes one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. Because of this, it features a high representation of the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean and the ecological processes that occur in it. It protects all the key areas to support the life cycles of species in the territory, thus ensuring the maintenance of high concentrations of marine birds and mammals. The importance of these primary productive areas and their role in the regulation of the carbon cycle make an essential contribution to the health of oceans.
Criterion (x) : The French Austral Lands and Seas are an exceptional site for the conservation of the world’s birds. They are home to over 50 million birds of up to 47 species. Close to half of the global population of 16 of these species breeds on these islands. For example, they feature the largest population of King Penguin and Yellow-nosed Albatross in the world, as well as 8 endemic species such as the Amsterdam Albatross, a flagship species and one of the world’s rarest birds. They also host large populations of Pinnipeds, including the second largest colony of Southern Elephant Seals and the third largest colony of sub-Antarctic Fur Seals in the world, and also cetaceans such as Commerson’s Dolphin, an endemic subspecies occurring in Kerguelen. The species richness and diversity of the French Austral Lands and Seas, which is unique in the Southern Ocean, gives the site an Outstanding Universal Value.