The Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in northwestern Mexico was designated Friday as a natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to inscribe this reserve on the list during a session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

UNESCO noted in a statement that the 2,750 sq.-mile site comprises two distinct sections: dormant volcanic black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east and the Gran Altar Desert with sand dunes stretching as high as 200 meters to the west.

"Ten enormous, deep and almost perfectly circular craters, believed to have been formed by a combination of eruptions and collapses, also contribute to the dramatic beauty of the site whose exceptional combination of features are of great scientific interest," the U.N. agency said.

It added that the site is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Mexico's Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat said last week after securing the biosphere reserve's inclusion on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that the protected natural area in the northwestern state of Sonora "provides habitat for more than 1,000 species of flora and fauna."

The area is home to 40 species of mammals, 200 of birds, 40 of reptiles, a number of amphibians and two native species of freshwater fish, "as well as fragile ecosystems typical of desert areas, with vegetation on drifting and stabilized sand dunes that sustains a vast amount of wildlife," the department added.

Four other Mexican natural areas had earlier been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (inscribed in 1987), the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino (1993), Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (2005), and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (2008). EFE