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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)” (Poland)

Date of Submission: 29/01/2015
Criteria: (ix)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Poland to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Subcarpathian Voivodeship
Coordinates: E 49 06 22 39
Ref.: 6018
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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):

The forest of the primeval character in the Bieszczady National Park

1.d       State, Province or Region:

Subcarpathian Voivodeship    

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

49 º06; 22º39’ E

Description of the component part(s)

The forest of the primeval character in the Bieszczady National Park

The proposed component - part of the Bieszczady National Park is situated in the Western Bieszczady Mountains, the most western range of the Eastern Carpathians, in South-East Poland. The Western Bieszczady Mountains have a medium altitude and their highest elevation is the Tarnica Mountain with 1,348 meters above sea level (Jaworski et al. 2004).

The component part is encompassed in the correspondent Bieszczady National Park and it consists of four major complexes: the Tworylczyk Stream Valley in the most Northern part of the Park, the Hylaty Stream Valley in the North-West, the Pasmo Graniczne and the Górna Solinka Valley in the South-Western area of the park, and the Wołosatka Stream Valley in the South-East (Kucharzyk 2014).

The altitude in the component part ranges from 700 – 1.260 meters above sea level (MATRIX).

The component part and the Bieszczady National Park are located in a moderately cold climatic zone. The average annual temperature in the area of the park is between +4°C to +6°C (in lower parts of the park, the average temperature is between +6°C to +8°C and in higher elevation between +3°C to +4°C). The average annual precipitation in the park also differs from the different altitudes and ranges from 900 mm in lower elevations to 1,200-1,300 mm in higher altitudes (Jaworski et al. 2002).

The bedrock in the Bieszczady National Park principally consists of Krosno sandstones and menilite layers. The back of the mountains are mostly composed out of sandstones; in the valleys, schists are predominant (Jaworski et al. 2002).

The dominant soil type in the National Park is brown soils whereby acid brown soils are prevailing over typical and leached brown soils (Skiba et al. 1998 in Jaworski et al. 2002).

In the component part, the following habitat types are occurring (according to the EU-Habitats Directive): 9130 Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests, 9110 Luzulo-Fagetum beech forests, 9140 Medio-European subalpine beech woods and 9180 Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines (MATRIX).

The forests stands provide habitat to the following predators: European brown bear (Ursus arctos), Gray wolf (Canis lupus), Lynx (Lynx lynx) and wildcat (Felis sylvestris) as well as to the following large herbivorous mammals: deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and wisent (Bison bonasus) (Kucharzyk 2014).

The forests in the whole Bieszczady Mts have been significantly influenced by humans regarding their area coverage, structure and species composition since the Middle Age. Despite that fact, it is generally accepted that major areas of the forests still remain either in their natural or even virgin condition (Zarzycki 1963, Michalik & Kurzyński 1990, Jaworski & al 1991, 1995, 2002, Jaworski & Kołodziej 2002, 2004, Kucharzyk 2008).

The degree of naturalness in the forests of the Bieszczady National Park depends mainly from the accessibility the ranges and their historic condition. The forests, which determinate present as primeval, were not utilized at least from bicentenary (Augustyn 2006). Because in the earlier period the settlement network on this ranges was weakly developed, can assume that the natural developmental processes rule the structure and the species composition this forests from the last glacial.

In 1958, the preservation of the left-over primeval forests started with the designation of the first nature reserves ‘U źródeł Solinki' and 'Wetlina'. In 1973, the Bieszczady National Park was established. In 1980, the reserve 'Puszcza Bukowa nad Sanem' as established that was included in the park in 1991 when the park was enlarged in order to include the most important areas of primeval forests of the Bieszczady Mountains (Kosina 1907, Rygiel 1989, Augustyn 1993, 1997, 2006 in Kucharzyk & Predki w.d.).

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.

The forest of the primeval character in the Bieszczady National Park

The forests in the component part are characterized by a high degree of naturalness, in some parts they can even be described as ‘virgin’ forest (Zarzycki 1963, Michalik & Kurzyński 1990, Jaworski et al 1991, 1995, 2002, Jaworski & Kołodziej 2002, 2004, Kucharzyk 2008 in Kucharzyk & Predki, w.d.).

The size of about 2.100 ha the proposed primeval beech forests is relatively large compared to other beech forests in Europe. Further, they provide an example of a regenerative process (at the moment 80 years) of beech forests after a large disturbance (extremely cold winter in 1928/29) (Kucharzyk 1999). So called gap dynamics are the main mechanism of regeneration in European beech forests, with large-scale natural disturbances being uncommon. The forests also provide valuable examples of different vegetative reproduction types at the upper beech forest limit (Kucharzyk 2006, 2014).

The forest stands of the component part belong to the best preserved beech forests in Poland (Jaworski 1997, Jaworski & al. 2002). They are characterized by large, un-fragmented areas and a high diversity forest communities and species, especially mushrooms, mosses and animals (Michalik &Szary 1997, Gierczyk & al. 2009 , Kucharzyk & Predki 2011, Kościelniak 2013, Żarnowiec & Stebel 2014 ).

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:

Primeval Beech Forests of the Bieszczady National Park is located in the Carpathian BFR and is representing the western, north exposed forest types in this BFR.

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.