Why is the Dolomites a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
The nine UNESCO Dolomite Systems make up a complex asset that has an extraordinary internal diversity. The incredible morphology of the Dolomites was formed from the Mycene, when the rock layers began to emerge from the sea where they had settled, to slowly become mountains, thus subjected to the attack of erosive phenomena.
In 2009 UNESCO listed Dolomites as World Heritage Site, here are some of the reasons why:
"The nine components of The Dolomites World Heritage Site protect a series of highly distinctive mountain landscapes that are of exceptional natural beauty. Their dramatic vertical and pale coloured peaks in a variety of distinctive sculptural forms is extraordinary in a global context. This property also contains an internationally important combination of earth science values. The quantity and concentration of highly varied limestone formations is extraordinary in a global context, whilst the superbly exposed geology provides an insight into the recovery of marine life in the Triassic period, after the greatest extinction event recorded in the history of life on Earth. The sublime, monumental and colourful landscapes of the Dolomites have also long attracted hosts of travellers and a history of scientific and artistic interpretations of its values."
(UNESCO, World Heritage Committee - Seville, 26 June 2009)
"The Dolomites are of international significance for geomorphology, as the classic site for the development of mountains in dolomitic limestone. The area presents a wide range of landforms related to erosion, tectonism and glaciation. The quantity and concentration of extremely varied limestone formations is extraordinary in a global context, including peaks, towers, pinnacles and some of the highest vertical rock walls in the world. The geological values are also of international significance, notably the evidence of Mesozoic carbonate platforms, or "fossilized atolls", particularly in terms of the evidence they provide of the evolution of the bio-constructors after the Permian/Triassic boundary, and the preservation of the relationships between the reefs they constructed and their surrounding basins. The Dolomites also include several internationally important type sections for the stratigraphy of the Triassic Period. The scientific values of the property are also supported by the evidence of a long history of study and recognition at the international level. Taken together, the combination of geomorphological and geological values creates a property of global significance".
(UNESCO, Declaration of outstanding universal value, criterion VIII: to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features)
"The nine component parts that make up the property include all areas that are essential for maintaining the beauty of the property and all or most of the key interrelated and interdependent earth science elements in their natural relationships. The property comprises parts of a national park, several provincial nature parks and Natura 2000 sites, and a natural monument. Buffer zones have been defined for each component part to help to protect it from threats from outside its boundaries. The natural landscapes and processes that are essential to maintaining the property's values and integrity are in a good state of conservation and largely unaffected by development".
(UNESCO, Declaration of outstanding universal value, Integrity)
How did the Dolomites form?
The formation of the Dolomites can be traced back to about 280 million years ago, when an ancient mountain chain collapsed into the sea of Tetide and sediments began accumulating over. The depth of the sea changed several times, and from about 240 million years ago a large number of marine organisms began to form sea cliffs, which gave birth to atolls with internal lagoons, separated by sea branches even more than a thousand meters deep. What is today in front of our eyes is largely a fossil archipelago. But not only that, another important feature of the area was volcanic activity: during the Ladin period, major eruptions filled the spaces between the cliffs or even bury them, then the volcanoes were eroded and the materials were deposited in the surrounding areas. After these events another generation of sea cliffs began to form, until the accumulation of sediments significantly lowered the depth of the sea. Then a tidal flat was formed, subjected to subduction, upon which more than a thousand meters of layered carbonate sediments were deposited. On these planks, the dinosaurs were moving, whose footprints are found in different areas of the Dolomites. In the Jurassic, the whole platform subsided, and deep sea sediments were deposited. It is only at the end of the cretaceous that Africa and Europe clashed, raising the alpine chain, but the tectonic movements have preserved the geological structure that we can still observe today.
What does Dolomites means?
The Dolomites are named after a mineral, dolomite, which in turn has its name for the geologist Déodat de Dolomieu, the scientist who discovered it. Dolomite, along with limestone, is one of the main rocks that make up these mountains, although we also find other types of sedimentary rocks and entire sections of volcanic origin.
What is "enrosadira"? Why are the Dolomites pink?
Enrosadira is a unique natural phenomenon due to the specific structure and composition of dolomite mineral. The dolomite walls react differently to light during the day, appearing as pale mountains during the sunniest hours, and turning instead to the orange, red and violet tones in the crepuscular hours.