1.         Białowieża Forest (Belarus,Poland) (N 33ter)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

1999; March 2004: UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission; October 2008: World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

In 2006, the World Heritage Committee noted with concern that little progress had been made in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2004 joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, and the need for clarification of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone (Decision 30 COM 7B.20). These concerns were repeated by the World Heritage Committee in 2007 (Decision 31 COM 7B.30). In 2008, the World Heritage Committee noted with concern that part of the property within Belarus had not been managed in a way compatible with its World Heritage status thus potentially affecting the integrity of the property. A further World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission was requested to assess the state of conservation of the property. This mission took place from 20 to 26 October 2008 and met with national and site based authorities on both sides of the international border. The mission report (available athttp://whc.unesco.org/en/list/33/documents/) provides detailed conclusions and recommendations.

The World Heritage Centre received the state of conservation report from the State Party of Belarus on 21 February 2009, followed by an additional report on progress achieved after the reactive monitoring mission, received on 3 March 2009. The reports indicate that a management plan for the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is to be approved in early 2009, which will consider the issues raised in the mission report, such as the improvement of the hydrological flows and control of the invasive red oak. The State Party also submitted the text of the 2006 cooperation agreement between the two national park authorities, as requested by the World Heritage Committee (31 COM 7B.30). The State Party indicated that a study was underway on the need for wildlife corridors, as part of a larger effort to reach an agreement at the national level for the opening up of some portions of the contiguous fence that separates the Polish and Belarus portions of the property. Opening up portions of the fence would reduce fragmentation within the large mammal populations of the property.

The State Party of Poland submitted a separate state of conservation report to the World Heritage Centre, received on 5 February 2009. The report indicates that a task force was currently drafting management principles for the Białowieża forest (which includes and surrounds the existing property) in order to encourage the transition from current forest management practices to an approach which would have a greater nature conservation focus. The results of this task force would form the basis of a possible extension of the property to include areas outside the National Park. The report also refers to a draft high level agreement between the two national governments which would provide the framework for an international body focusing on the property. The report refers to the 2006 cooperation agreement and further emphasizes the efforts to date in ensuring effective cooperation at the site management level, focussing particularly on measures to facilitate the movement of park staff between the two countries.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the property is only inscribed under criterion (vii) and that the States Parties of Belarus and Poland are preparing a re-nomination and extension, which would seek to clarify the boundaries and consider the application of criteria (ix) and (x). The intention is to submit the re-nomination dossier to the World Heritage Centre by 30 September 2009 for a preliminary review.

The mission noted several issues warranting particular attention. The issues of concern include fragmentation of the property by the fencing in Belarus (of particular concern for movement and genetics of large mammal populations) and several networks of vehicular trails, the presence of invasive red oak, and overgrazing of flora by deer and bison. In addition, an area of 82,371 ha within the boundaries of the property in Belarus is not managed in a way compatible with its World Heritage status.

The IUCN Evaluation report of 1979 noted the size of the nominated property in Belarus as approximately 87,600 ha. The area of the inscribed property is noted in the IUCN Evaluation report on the extension of the property of 1992 as 92,923 ha including 5,316 ha in Poland and 87,607 ha in Belarus. The correct figures for the size of the property have been clarified to be 87,606 ha in Belarus and 5,069 ha in Poland during the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission. Thus the accurate total area of the property is established as 92,675 ha.

Within the Belarus portion of the property, the mission confirmed that the State Party has been managing the property under the assumption that only a 5,235 ha area, adjacent to the international boundary had been inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992. Logging activities, which are incompatible with maintaining the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and integrity, had been permitted to take place within parts of the actual inscribed boundaries of the property. These logging activities largely ceased in 2004 and most of the property in Belarus has been managed as a strict protection zone since this time. However, it is anticipated that these issues will be considered further within the overall proposed re-nomination and extension of the property.

The mission noted the widespread presence of the alien red oak (Quercus rubra) which could pose a displacement risk to the native pedunculate or English oak (Quercus robur), though the Belarus State Party report indicates that this issue will be dealt with in the management plan to be adopted. The mission confirmed that the contiguous border fence lies entirely in the control of Belarus authorities. It presents an insurmountable barrier to the movement of larger mammals (bison, wolf and deer). Though it is not considered an urgent threat to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, the mission considers it important to ensure the transboundary movement of fauna over the longer term to ensure the integrity of its wildlife populations. A fairly dense network of forest vehicular access trails was observed, posing a potential barrier to the movement of flora and fauna, or as a means for introduction and/or dispersal of alien species. The mission was informed of overgrazing pressures resulting from a number of grazing animals (bison, deer) in excess of the property’s natural carrying capacity despite on-going control efforts. Winter feeding stations are installed to offset these pressures.

The Polish portion of the property, consisting of 5,069 ha within a larger 10,500 ha Polish national park, is in a good state of conservation and appears effectively managed. Tourism is well regulated and presents no risk to the property. The remaining lands of the national park have been under strict conservation regime since 2004 and are currently being considered as part of the re-nomination that is under preparation. The mission considered these lands as having the potential for inclusion into the current property. The national park rests within a much larger forest which is managed by the State Forest Enterprise. However, there is a patchwork approach to conservation in this area, which includes logging, tourism activities and aggressive control measures regarding the naturally occurring spruce beetle. This management does not take into consideration the larger ecosystem processes of the forest. In addition, a lack of coordination between the State Forest Enterprise and the management objectives of the property increases the longer term risk to its integrity, particularly in light of the potential impacts of climate change. A cooperation agreement between the two national park authorities was signed in 2006, though is limited in scope due to the lack of a larger transboundary cooperation agreement at the ministerial level. The Polish State Party reports progress in developing a bi-national framework.

The mission report recommends the States Parties to jointly:

1. Prepare a joint re-nomination focusing on natural criteria (ix) and/or (x) to ensure a review of existing boundaries and inclusion of strict nature reserves to enhance the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property;

2. Develop a joint management framework for the property to define common overall conservation vision and objectives, joint management activities (such as monitoring, research, communications, including strategies to address those issues raised by the World Heritage Committee), and a work plan;

3. Develop and implement an integrated management strategy for the whole forest complex within which the property is located, ensuring connectivity with neighbouring, related ecosystem components;

4. Ensure the participation of National Park Management in Landscape Level Management Processes to ensure the maintenance of the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property;

5. Reduce, though a clear time-bound plan, the total length of the network of forest roads and trails and encourage cooperation between the Polish and Belarusian components of the property to achieve this;

6. Restore natural processes in drained marshes and bogs such as encouraging the role of resident beavers as well as human-based support by direct management activities; and

7. Facilitate transboundary movement of wildlife, particularly large ungulates, across the fence separating both sides of the property to support the establishment of property-wide populations of various ungulate species.

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7B.24

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.20, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Notes the report of the 2008 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission, and notes with concern that an area of 82,371 ha within the property in Belarus has not been managed in a way compatible with its Outstanding Universal Value;

4. Also notes that there are a number of threats to the property including fragmentation resulting from fencing of the border and vehicular trails, impacts of invasive red oak, and overgrazing of flora by deer and bison ;

5. Welcomes the expressed intent on behalf of both States Parties to jointly prepare a re-nomination for the transboundary property in accordance with Paragraph 166 of the Operational Guidelines;

6. Requests the States Parties to implement the recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission, and to:

a) Develop a joint management framework for the property to define a common overall conservation vision and objectives, joint management activities (such as monitoring, research, communications and strategies to address the issues raised by the World Heritage Committee), and a work plan,

b) Develop and implement an integrated management strategy for the whole forest complex within which the property is located, ensuring connectivity with neighbouring, related ecosystem components,

c) Ensure the participation of National Park management authorities in landscape level management processes to ensure the maintenance of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property,

d) Reduce, though a clear time-bound plan, the total length of the network of forest roads and trails and encourage cooperation between the Polish and Belarusian components of the property to achieve this,

e) Restore natural processes in drained marshes and bogs such as encouraging the role of resident beavers as well as human-based support by direct management activities,

f) Facilitate trans-boundary movement of wildlife, particularly large ungulates, across the fence separating both sides of the property to support the establishment of property-wide populations of various ungulate species,

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the progress made in addressing the above mentioned issues.

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 8D

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/8D,

2. Recalling Decisions 30 COM 11A.2, 31 COM 11A.2 and 32 COM 8D, adopted at its 30th (Vilnius, 2006), 31st (Christchurch, 2007) and 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions respectively,

3. Recalls that, as decided at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) by Decision 31 COM 11A.2, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will not be able to examine proposals for minor or significant modifications to boundaries of World Heritage properties whenever the delimitation of such properties as inscribed is unclear;

4. Congratulates States Parties in the Europe Region and the State Party of Algeria on the excellent work accomplished in the clarification of the delimitation of their World Heritage properties and thanks them for their efforts to improve the credibility of the World Heritage List;

5. Takes note of the clarifications of property boundaries and sizes provided by the following States Parties in the European and Arab Regions in response to the Retrospective Inventory, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-09/33.COM/8D:

- Algeria: Tipasa;

- Austria: Semmering Railway;

- Belarus/Poland: Belovezhskaya Pushcha/Białowieża Forest;

- Bulgaria: Madara Rider; Rila Monastery;

- Croatia: Old City of Dubrovnik; Historic City of Trogir;

- Czech Republic: Holašovice Historical Village Reservation;

- France: Chartres Cathedral;

- Germany: St. Mary's Cathedral and St. Michael's Church in Hildesheim; Pilgrimage Church of Wies; Hanseatic City of Lübeck;

- Greece: Archaeological Site of Delphi; Acropolis, Athens; Meteora; Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus; Archaeological Site of Olympia; Monastery of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios;

- Holy See/Italy: Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura;

- Italy: Castel del Monte; 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli and the San Leucio Complex; Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena; Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata; Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archaeological sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula;

- Montenegro: Durmitor National Park;

- Turkey: Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği; Hattusha: the Hittite Capital; Nemrut Dağ; Xanthos-Letoon; Archaeological Site of Troy.

6. Requests the European and Arab States Parties which have not yet answered the questions raised in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 within the framework of the Retrospective Inventory to provide all requested clarifications and documentation as soon as possible and by 1 December 2009 at the latest.