The Hyrcanian Forests in Iran, which cover 850km along the coast of the Caspian Sea, have just been granted UNESCO World Heritage status. The aim is to protect the forests’ biological diversity and halt deforestation. The forests, which date back 25 to 50 million years, have suffered fragmentation from land-use changes for agriculture and housing, overgrazing and wood smuggling. Recent data shows that over the last 40 years, the area of the northern forests of Iran have halved. Settlements such as the village of Masuleh (click picture below for a larger view), have occupied the land for thousands of years.