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Extension to the Joint World Heritage Property “Primeval Beech forests of the Carpathians (Slovak Republic and Ukraine) and the Ancient Beech forests of Germany (Germany)”

Date of Submission: 28/01/2015
Criteria: (ix)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia
State, Province or Region:
Croatia, Ličko-Senjska County, Velebit Mountain and Ličko-Senjska County, Velebit Mountain
Coordinates:
Ref.: 6017
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

"The future nomination, which is subject of this Tentative List entry, represents an extension to the World Heritage property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine, WHC ref-no 1133bis). This property was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee first in 2007 as “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, Slovakia and Ukraine” and extended in 2011 by the component parts “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (Germany) to the present serial transnational site. The future nomination (its name will be decided at a later stage of the process) is of serial, transnational character and consists of 33 components parts in 12 State Parties. The component parts represent an outstanding example of undisturbed, complex temperate forests, its postglacial expansion process and exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European Beech across a variety of environmental conditions. They contain an invaluable genetic reservoir of Beech and many species associated and dependent on these forest habitats."

Name(s) of the component part(s)

1.c       Name(s) of the national component part(s):

Paklenica National Park
Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict Reserve, Northern Velebit National Park

1.d       State, Province or Region:

Paklenica National Park: Croatia, Ličko-Senjska County, Velebit Mountain
Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict Reserve: Croatia, Ličko-Senjska County, Velebit Mountain

1.e       Latitude and Longitude or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates:

Paklenica National Park: East 05000 North  41.1000
Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict Reserve North 44.764827° East 14.991955°  (44°45'53.4"N 14°59'31.0"E)

Description of the component part(s)

Velebit Mountain

Both national components, Paklenica NP and Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict Reserve within Northern Velebit NP are located on Mt. Velebit. Velebit belongs to the mountain chain of Dinarides and is situated on the eastern coast of Adriatic Sea. It is the largest mountain in Croatia and the total area is protected in a category of nature park. The Velebit Mountain is also proclaimed as UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 1978. The overall length of Velebit is 145 km, while its width varies from 10 to 30 km. The elevation of this mountain ranges from 0 to 1,757 m, with the highest peak - Vaganski vrh (1,757 masl). Due to the geographical position, relief, carbonate bedrock with narrow outcrops of clastits and sandstone, it is under influence of three climate types: the Mediterranean, Continental and Alpine.

In contrast with Central European, Dinaric beech forests are richer in number of plant species growing in them and these forests represent important centre of biological diversity.

Paklenica National Park

Paklenica NP is a south part of Mt Velebit, proclaimed as a national park in 1949, and   extends over an area of 95 km2. The Park has extraordinary geomorphology of Velika and Mala Paklenica canyons. Three climate types meet here: the Mediterranean, Continental and Alpine, which makes this area specific from the climatic and biodiversity point of view. Paklenica contains the largest preserved forest complex in Dalmatia of 2000 ha which is proposed as a component part of the extended World Heritage site. About 55% of the National Park area is covered with vegetation and 45% is bare rock formed by karst relief. The covered area consists largely of forests of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) (52%), black pine (Pinus nigra J.F.Arnold) (20%), mixed forests of European beech and black pine (8%), downy oak (Quercus pubescens Willd.), eastern hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis Mill.), and European hop hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia Scop.) (9 %). The upper tree-limit is marked by a belt of mountain pine (Pinus mugo Turra) (4%). Other important habitats are upland meadows and pastures (7%).

Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict reserve

The reserve is located within the Northern Velebit National Park. Although the surrounding National park has been in place only since 1999, the strict reserve is under protection since 1969. It encompasses two craggy massifs connected with a mountain pass. The primary natural characteristics of the Reserve are geomorphological and speleological uniqueness as well as almost untouched wilderness. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful karst terrains in the world and has a very high concentration of vertical speleological objects with special features such as one of the deepest pits and the longest inner vertical in the world. On this rugged and diverse landscape of peaks, ledges and sinkholes grow subalpine beech, subalpine spruce and dwarf pine forests that have virtually been undisturbed due to the inaccessibility of the terrain as well as low economic value of the wood itself. The surface area of the Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict reserve is 1.220 ha, while the surface of the whole National park is 11.100 ha. The top of Velebit Mountain has an interesting and harsh climate, formed by the clash of the Mediterranean and continental climate. The climate is characterized by low temperature, high precipitation, temperature inversions, long and deep snow cover, short vegetation period and strong winds (especially the bora wind).

The beech forests growing in the Reserve are of the Illyrian type, with a lot of specific Illyrian species in their composition, making them very species-rich and interesting from the floristic point of view. Some of the species making up the forest communities are exclusive to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Velebit in general is one of Croatian centres of endemism.

Also, the characteristic terrain of the area facilitates the soil accumulation between the rocks, forming deep organic-mineral soils. This diverse soil composition, as well as microclimatic diversity, is a basis for great diversity in microecological conditions. The extreme climate makes the tree growth and decomposition very slow, slowing down the entire dynamic of the ecosystem. There is a combination of generative and vegetative regeneration of the stands, which is a rarity on the European level.

As the Reserve encompasses the top area of the mountain, the subalpine beech forests here are high-altitude types developing between 1.200 and 1.500 masl, shaped by rough weather conditions. The main types of beech forest in the reserve are Ranunculo platanifolii-Fagetum and Polysticho lonchitis-Fagetum. They are both characterised by interesting shaping of the trees, the first one having pipe-shaped trees due to the pressure of snow on the young trees, and the second one having dwarf, krummholz trees.

Although old, the beech specimens are not massive, as the extreme weather and rough terrain has worked a kind of “natural bonsai” on the trees, which grow very slowly, and can be dwarfed and twisted. These forms, combined with the craggy rocks of the massive they grow on and stunning views of the seaside, create a unique, very peculiar and fantastic landscape of great aesthetic value.

The wider area is part of the beech glacial refuge, and these forests are genetically very interesting and invaluable for phylogenetic studies. The mountain biotope is vulnerable to various negative influences, especially in a karst area like this. The vast underground system collects copious amounts of rain- and snowfall, delivering it to the surrounding lowland and sea, after passing through the cave system. The forest cover and its ecosystem therefore have a huge role in maintaining the quality of water in the wider area, as well as protecting the fragile and unique underground ecosystem with its lifeforms.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (the title of a finite European nomination will be decided at a later stage of the process) are indispensable to understanding the history and evolution of the genus Fagus, which, given its wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere and its ecological importance, is globally significant. These undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European Beech across a variety of environmental conditions, such as climatic and geological conditions, throughout all European Beech Forest Regions. They comprise all altitudinal zones from the coast up to the forest line in the mountains and further include the best remaining examples of the outer boundaries of the European Beech forest range. Beech is one of the most important elements of forests in the Temperate Broadleaf Forest Biome and represents an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities after the last ice age. The continuing northern and westward expansion of Beech from its original glacial refuge areas in the eastern and southern parts of Europe can be tracked along the natural corridors and stepping stones spanning the continent. More recent changes in the distribution pattern of this species relate to direct influences of human disturbance and the more complex effects of anthropogenic climate change. Both historical and present serial patterns of distribution represent natural evolutionary strategies for adapting and surviving environmental change. The dominance by Beech across extensive areas of Europe is testament to the tree’s genetic adaptability.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The selected Beech forest sites not only represent the full serial diversity found across Europe but are also of sufficient size to maintain the natural processes necessary for the long-term ecological viability of the wider ecosystem. Buffer zones including surrounding protected areas (nature parks, biosphere reserves) will be managed sympathetically to ensure the long-term conservation of the particular character of the designated Beech forest together with its inherent attributes. Other than the extent of forest area and presence of an effective buffer zone key characteristics used in the site selection process included the average age of forest stand and the period of lapse since it was last managed or actively disturbed. The evaluation criteria used in the selection process help to describe the degree of naturalness of a forest, but also provide some indication of the inherent functional capacity of the ecosystem. Finally, where appropriate, special importance was given to connectivity between Beech forests and the surrounding complementary habitats as a perceived prerequisite for ecosystem functioning and adaptation to environmental change.

Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole

In the selection process of suitable primeval and ancient Beech forests in Europe, a classification system defining Beech Forest Regions (BFR) in Europe has been developed. Each BFR is characterised by its specific climatic and floristic situation and showing an individual history of postglacial Beech forest development differing in time of first Beech arrival and the different genetic ecotypes of Beech, as Beech was re-colonising Europe after the last ice-age from different refuge areas.

It is considered that a finite serial transnational European nomination will include candidates from all BFR. Therefore, the best suitable Beech forest sites in each BFR have been selected to represent the different ecotypes and postglacial development processes in a most representative way. Each component part within one BFR brings specific aspects and significantly adds additional value to the series as a whole. These specific aspects are shown in the following:

Paklenica National Park

The old-growth beech forests in Paklenica National Park represents the largest and the oldest dominantly beech forest complex on east Adriatic coast and this part of south-east Mediterranean basin. From ecological and biological aspect this forest stands are unique habitats under influence of three climate types: the Mediterranean, Continental and Alpine, rich with endemic and rare plants and animals’ species.  

Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi Strict reserve

The beech forests in the Reserve represent old and preserved forests in a very specific karst biotope, having unusual tree shapes and rich species composition. They are also very important as a shield and filter for the massive freshwater reserves located deep in the richly developed underground.

Comparison with other similar properties

The occurrence of deciduous forests with trees from the genius Fagus is limited to the Holarctic of Earth’s northern hemisphere. They are found throughout the nemoral zones for climatic reasons and are limited to certain conditions. The genus of beech (Fagus) is a typical element of deciduous forests. It comprises of 14 species that exist under humid climate conditions in the three major Holarctic regions of deciduous forest: in the east of North America, in Europe/West Asia, and in East Asia. It’s counterpart in the southern hemisphere is the cognate Nothofagus genus (Fagaceae) native to the Neotropical, Australian and Antarctic floristic realm. Forests with Nothofagus are already represented in World Heritage Sites of Los Glaciares National Park (Argentine), Lorentz National Park (Indonesia) and Gondwana Rainforest of Australia. Forests with trees from genus Fagus are found outside of Europe in the World Heritage sites of Shirakami-Sanchi (Japan).

In Europe beech forests are represented (beside the existing site of “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”, which is concern of this extension) in the World Heritage site of Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia), Durmitor National Park (Montenegro) and Pirin National Park (Bulgaria). In the National Park of Plitvice Lakes, the outstanding universal value chosen is the lake-system built by travertine barriers (criterion vii, viii and x). The Dumitor National Park was nominated for the outstanding Canyon (criterion vii, viii and ix). In Pirin National Park the outstanding universal value is the natural coniferous forest and its functioning ecosystem as well as the glacial geomorphology of the region (criterion vii, viii and ix). In all three sites, beech forests are covered, but they are not core part of the nomination. The Plitvice Lakes National Park includes the Corkova uvala primeval forest, compost of beech, silver fir and spruce forest. This forest is of high scientific and natural value. The proposed new sites are more important for representation of on-going ecological processes, climatic adaptation of Fagus sylvatica and diversity of site conditions and geo-morphological characteristics of beech forest communities. They meet the sufficient size of minimum 100 ha needed to ensure integrity of the site, while Corkova Uvala primeval forest within Plitvice Lakes National Park has a size of 75 ha. Therefore, values of this primeval forest will be additionally emphasised in the future management of the existing world heritage site and presented as complementary to the Ancient Beech Forests serial site.

All in all this extension is of crucial importance for the long term conservation of European beech ecosystems. The size of the component parts as well as their spatial distribution cover a variety of environmental conditions and the genetic diversity of beech. No other already existing World Heritage Site unites these features, which makes the extension to a unique project in terms of conservation of the ancient beech forests of Europe.