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Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (Serbia)

Date of Submission: 28/02/2018
Criteria: (ix)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Serbia to UNESCO
Ref.: 6324
Transnational
Other States Parties participating
Switzerland
Montenegro
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The nomination, which is the subject of this submission, represents an extension of the World Heritage property of the “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” (Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine - Ref. No. 1133ter). This property has been inscribed by the World Heritage Committee in three stages. Firstly, the property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, Slovakia and Ukraine” was inscribed in 2007, and then extended in 2011 to include the property of the “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”. The new nomination for extension was approved in 2017, with the aim of creating a serial transboundary heritage site comprising 77 components from 12 State Parties. The latest nomination aims to extend the aforementioned property by including 11 sites from the territory of Serbia.

The entity comprising 11 component parts from Serbia represents an exceptional example of an ecological-vegetation series of primeval beech forest associations occurring from 40 to 1800 m, that is, from the lowland to the subalpine belt. These forests are the representatives of a complex forest vegetation of the Balkan Peninsula and its diversification to a number of different forest associations adapted to different geographical areas, altitudes and habitats. This is a reflection of the specific origin and historical development of flora and vegetation in this part of Europe in which numerous species and their cenotic groups have been preserved from the Pliocene to date. A large number of relict associations in which beech is the dominant species represent the best evidence of this specific continuous history of our flora and vegetation, where beech plays one of the most important roles.

Name(s) of the component part(s)

Name(s) of the national component part(s):

  1. Nature Reserve “Vinatovača”, total area of 37.43 ha
  2. Strict Nature Reserve “Busovata”, total area of 15.86 ha
  3. Strict Nature Reserve “Felješana”, total area of 15.28 ha
  4. Strict Nature Reserve “Kukavica”, total area of 75.76 ha
  5. Strict Nature Reserve “Golema reka”, total area of 34.60 ha
  6. Nature Reserve “Danilova kosa”, total area of 6.73 ha
  7. Strict Nature Reserve “Iznad Tatalije”, total area of 0.80 ha
  8. Strict Nature Reserve “Zelenika”, total area of 0.45 ha
  9. Strict Nature Reserve “Zeleničje”, total area of 41.70 ha
  10. Special Nature Reserve “Mala Jasenova Glava”, total area of 6.30 ha
  11. Strict Nature Reserve “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka”, total area of 19.68 ha.

Total area of all primeval beech forest reserves in Serbia is 254.59 ha.

State, Province or Region:

  1. Nature Reserve “Vinatovača”, Serbia, East Serbia, Municipality of Despotovac
  2. Strict Nature Reserve “Busovata”, Serbia, East Serbia, Municipality of Žagubica
  3. Strict Nature Reserve “Felješana”, Serbia, East Serbia, Municipality of Majdanpek
  4. Strict Nature Reserve “Kukavica”, Serbia, Souteas Serbia, Municipality of Vladičin han
  5. Strict Nature Reserve “Golema reka”, Serbia, South Serbia, Municipality of Knjaževac
  6. Nature Reserve “Danilova kosa”, Serbia, West Serbia, Municipality of Krupanj
  7. Strict Nature Reserve “Iznad Tatalije”, Serbia, West Serbia, Municipality of Bajina Bašta
  8. Strict Nature Reserve “Zelenika”, Serbia, West Serbia, City of Užice
  9. Strict Nature Reserve “Zeleničje”, Serbia, Souteas Serbia, Municipality of Leskovac and Crna trava
  10. Special Nature Reserve “Mala Jasenova Glava”, Serbia, East Serbia, Municipality of Boljevac
  11. Strict Nature Reserve “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka”, Serbia, Central Serbia, Municipality of Aleksandrovac.

Coordinates:
1. Nature Reserve “Vinatovača”, E 21°,761901 N 44°,064619; Y 561018,49 X 4879332,17
2. Strict Nature Reserve “Busovata”, E 21°,748638 N 44°,122750; Y 559897,55 X 4885779,04
3. Strict Nature Reserve “Felješana”, E 21°,883034 N 44°,330990; Y 570401,81 X 4909015,39
4. Strict Nature Reserve “Kukavica”, E 21°,989398 N 42°,787707; Y 580921,59 X 4737715,08
5. Strict Nature Reserve “Golema reka”, E 22°,648058 N 43°,408412; Y  633438,39   X 4807488,92
6. Nature Reserve “Danilova kosa”, E 19°,278105 N 44°,371453; Y 362812,30 X 4914572,50
7. Strict Nature Reserve “Iznad Tatalije”, E 19°,789010 N 43°,952397; Y 402832,11 X 4867298,44
8. Strict Nature Reserve “Zelenika”, E 19°,785645 N 43°,920921; Y 402510,68 X 4863806,49
9. Strict Nature Reserve “Zeleničje”, E 22°,221356 N 42°,887777; Y 599732,28 X 4749076,23
10. Special Nature Reserve “Mala Jasenova Glava”, E 21°,691909 N 43°,791897; Y 555666,75  X 4848992,33
11. Strict Nature Reserve “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka”, E 20°,805632 N 43°,474131; Y 484279,77  X 4813486,76

Description of the component part(s)

Basic natural values and forest stand state in 6 Strict Nature Reserves of primeval character:

  1. Strict Nature Reserve “Vinatovača” is located in East Serbia, in the area of Gornja Resava, in the upper catchment of the Resava River, in the valley of the Vinatovac stream, its left tributary. It represents a pure primeval beech stand (Fagetum moesiacae montanum serbicum) located at an extremely favourable site for a beech stand. Individual trees are up to 46 m high, with strong diameters at breast height above 1 m and aged about 200 years. The Reserve is at the altitude from 630 to 870 m, of north-east aspect, with the total area of 37.43 ha. The conditions for beech development are optimal here so beech, by increasing the tree numbers and crown coverage, as well as by the development of the root system and by a significant share in the formation of the thick layer of undergrowth, has suppressed gradually all other species, forming pure stands. The most representative part of the forests developed into primeval stands, and was protected and designated as a Strict Nature Reserve in 1957. Thanks to its exceptionality and good conservation, the Reserve “Vinatovača” was evaluated by the IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations) members in 1986 as a representative example, and is a rarity for Europe as well.
  2. The stand of beech forest (Fagus moesiaca) protected as a Strict Nature Reserve under the name “Busovata” is located on the Beljanica Mountain, at the settlement called “Busovata”. The protected area covers 15.86 ha. At the time of the designation, the area of the Reserve was the best-conserved and the least-exploited part of beech forest in this region, and one of the areas which represents an ecological entity with spontaneous development of well-conserved autochthonous forest vegetation in this region.
  3. Strict Nature Reserve “Felješana” is located in East Serbia, in the area of the North Kučaj on the north slopes of the Breza Mountain, or more precisely on the west side of the Kraku Reu ridge along the Reu stream. Total area of the protected area is 15.28 ha, at the altitude from 420 to 550 m. The Reserve “Felješana” is located within the forest estate presented by Queen Natalija to the Belgrade University in 1903. This university domain, known under the name “Natalijino“, now belongs to the Faculty of Forestry. The Reserve was protected in 1950 and represents a well-conserved autochthonous forest association of the Moesian beech whose basic value is the original primeval character. The area of the Reserve is completely prohibited for any anthropogenic activities which enabled the development of a forest associations with trees aged up to 300 years, of imposing diameters and heights of more than 40 m, with very high wood volume, which is another indicator of good conservation and value of this primeval forest.
  4. Strict Nature Reserve “Kukavica” is located on the east slope and the central part of the Kukavica Mountain, below its highest peak Vlajna (1442 m), at the altitude ranging from 700 to 1200 m. The intact natural forest ecosystem with a complete canopy, favourable site conditions, and thin beech trees aged about 140 years, was protected in 1980. It encompasses a vegetation belt of about 500 m and represents one of the best-conserved high pure primeval beech stands (Fagetum moesiacae serbicum) on the territory of Serbia, and with the total area of 75.76 ha, it is the largest pure primeval beech forest reserve in Serbia.
  5. Strict Nature Reserve “Golema reka” was separated from the Nature Park “Stara Planina Mt.” and designated in 1981. The Reserve belongs to the catchment of the Golema reka River, at the altitude from 1250 to 1350 m on geological substrate consisting of limestone and dolomites. The boundaries of the Reserve encompass a forest association of montane beech (Luzulo-Fagetum serbicum Mišić et Popović 1954). This primeval forest association is autochthonous on the Stara Planina Mt. The Reserve has the total area of 34.60 ha. The protected forest is of special significance, both in qualitative and in quantitative senses, thus the designation as a Strict Nature Reserve is fully justified.
  6. Strict Nature Reserve “Danilova kosa” is characterized by a well-conserved forest association Fagetum montanum serbicum Rudski 1949 Em. B. Jovanović 1967 covering the entire area of the Reserve which is 6.00 ha. It is located in West Serbia, at the altitude from 680 to 750 m. As one of the first designated Reserves in Serbia, having been designated 50 years ago, it is characterized by the basic values of typicalness, representativeness and original character of beech stands, with a high number of exceptional specimens of trees up to 200 years old. In the area of the Reserve, there are several protected species of flora and fauna, of which we shall emphasize the European Holly Ilex aquifolium, fern species hard-fern Blechnum spicant, and Butcher’s broom Ruscus hipoglossus.
  7. Nature Reserve “Iznad Tatalije” is located in West Serbia on the Jelova Gora Mountain near Užice. This protected area represents a beech forest (Fagetum moesiacae montanum ilicetosum) with the relict European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) as the undergrowth species protected by beech. The Reserve is inhabited by individual trees with imposing diameters at breast height and total heights. The Reserve is well-conserved and similar to the original, autochthonous forest habitats and as such represents an important diversity preservation site. The finding site of the European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) above the Tatalija River was protected in 1968 and has the total area of 0.80 ha.
  8. Nature Reserve “Zelenika” is located in West Serbia, on the Jelova Gora Mountain. The total area of the Reserve is 0.45 ha. The Reserve “Zelenika” is representative of the forest area of Jelova Gora due to specific climatic, edaphic, orographic, hydrographic and other conditions. The association of the montane beech forest with the European Holly Fagetum moesiacae montanum ilicetosum, in addition to beech, includes the European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) in the first and second layer (especially in the third layer).
  9. Nature Reserve “Zeleničje” is the first designated protected area in Serbia (1948). The Reserve is located on the north-west side of the Ostrozub Mountain, at the altitude of 1250 m. In terms of ecology, it is a montane beech forest (Fagetum moesiacae montanum) on brown soil. The protected natural area is overgrown in beech forest whose canopy in one part of the Reserve includes the Cherry-bay (Prunus laurocerasus) which in Serbia only occurs on the Ostrozub Mountain because of which this area was put under protection. It encompasses 41.70 ha of pure beech forest under whose crown the said species covers an area of 4.0 ha. The European Holly Prunus laurocerassus serbica Pancic is a tertiary relict discovered on Ostrozub by the great Serbian natural scientist Josif Pančić, PhD, in 1887.
  10. Nature Reserve “Mala Jasenova Glava” was protected in 1961 and includes part of the forest complex of the South Kučaj in the area called “Jasenova Glava”, at the altitude from 650 to 770 m. The entire protected area of 6.30 ha is inhabited by a characteristic, floristically rich relict forest ecosystem represented by the beech (Fagus moesiaca) and yew (Taxus baccata L.) forest association which is a tertiary relict. This type of forest association was once considerably more widespread but, due to the anthropogenic impact and excessive use of yew, the range of this association has been significantly reduced, that is, it has become fragmented. Three tertiary relicts are present in the protected area: sub-Mediterranean species Ruscus hypoglossum (Butcher’s broom), and two endemics, Taxus baccata (Yew tree) and Acer heldreichii (Heldreich's maple).
  11. Strict Nature Reserve “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka” is located on the mountain Željin, and encompasses the highest parts of this mountain reaching up to 1779 m (Pločka Čuka). The total area of the Reserve is 19.68 ha. Within the separated area, there are three vegetation formations: Subalpine beech forest (Fagetum subalpinum), meadows above the subalpine beech belt and small high-mountain mires. These three vegetation types are found on a very small area while the rest of it is covered in meadow formations, among which peatlands are clearly distinguished. Conifers have completely disappeared, thus the subalpine beech forest represents the forest vegetation boundary instead of the spruce forest belt which should continue after the beech-fir forest belt. The peatland vegetation is inhabited the species Drosera rotundifolia which represents an exceptional and rare value in the flora of Serbia. Strict Nature Reserve was designated in 1985.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (ix): Moesian beech (Fagus moesiaca Czeczott) represents an autochthonous species that has been preserved from the Tertiary to date. During the diluvial period, beech forests in refugiums of Serbia had significantly fewer opportunities for ecological differentiation compared to other heliophytic trees. Only with the acquisition of new habitats did beech develop new breeds, ecotypes and corresponding forest associations. Presently, the Moesian beech is, in fact, in the midst of the process of taxonomic divergence. This rapid acquisition of terrains and the formation of ecotypes and breeds is the result of the existence of latent genetic potentials in the hereditary genotype of the Moesian beech population, which it has created during the course of a very long historical development, and which it carries hidden in its individual variability. Hence beech forests represent the stands of the highest quality and are of great importance as historical natural monuments unique in Europe and the most beautiful natural ornaments of the mountains in Serbia. By preserving these forests and their genome, essential conditions will be created for the permanent restoration of natural beech forests and the expansion of its range, which is of particular importance for Serbia and Europe.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Strict Nature Reserve “Vinatovača” represents a pure primeval beech stand located at an extremely favourable site for a beech stand with the total area of 37.43 ha. Individual trees are up to 46 m high, with strong diameters at breast height above 1 m and aged about 200 years. The conditions for beech development are optimal here so beech, by increasing the tree numbers and crown coverage, as well as by the development of the root system and by a significant share in the formation of the thick layer of undergrowth, has suppressed gradually all other species, forming pure stands.

Strict Nature Reserve “Busovata” is the best-conserved part of the entire beech forest on the Beljanica Mountain stretching over 15.86 ha. It represents an ecological entity with spontaneous development of well-conserved autochthonous forest vegetation in this region.

Strict Nature Reserve “Felješana” represents a well-conserved autochthonous forest association of the Moesian beech whose basic value is the original primeval character covering an area of 15.28 ha. The area of the Reserve is completely prohibited for any anthropogenic activities which enabled the development of a forest associations with trees aged up to 300 years, of imposing diameters and heights of more than 40 m, with very high wood volume, which is another indicator of good conservation and value of this primeval forest.

Strict Nature Reserve “Kukavica” is an intact natural forest ecosystem with a complete canopy and thin beech trees aged about 140 years. The total area of the largest pure primeval beech forest reserve in Serbia is 75.76 ha.

Strict Nature Reserve “Golema reka” is an autochthonous montane beech forest association covering an area of 34.60 ha. It represents a value of special significance, both in qualitative and in quantitative senses.

Strict Nature Reserve “Danilova kosa” is characterized by a well-conserved beech forest association covering an area of 6.00 ha. It is distinguished by the basic values of typicalness, representativeness and original character of beech stands, with a high number of exceptional specimens of trees up to 200 years old.

Nature Reserve “Iznad Tatalije” represents a beech forest with the relict European Holly as the undergrowth species protected by beech. The Reserve is well-conserved and similar to original, autochthonous forest habitats and as such represents an important diversity preservation site.

Nature Reserve “Zelenika” represents a montane beech forest with the European Holly, and as such is representative of the forest area of Jelova Gora Mountain.

Nature Reserve “Zeleničje” is overgrown in beech forest whose canopy includes the Cherry-bay which in Serbia only occurs on the Ostrozub Mountain. It has a total area of 41.70 ha.

Nature Reserve “Mala Jasenova Glava” is a relict forest ecosystem represented by the beech and yew forest association which is a tertiary relict. The total area of the reserve is 6.30 ha.

Strict Nature Reserve “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka” represents three vegetation formations: Subalpine beech forest, meadows above the subalpine beech belt and small high-mountain mires. The total area of the Reserve is 19.68 ha.

Based on the present state and appearance, the primeval beech forests belong to the terminal stage of primeval forest development, with the total life cycle estimated at about 350-400 years. The stands are defined as high stands, close to all-aged/even-aged beech forests in which the tree distribution per diameter classes ranges from 12.5 to 107.5 cm.

It can be said that the wood volume in the most homogenous parts of the primeval forest located in the terminal stage of development is about 1000 m3/ha. The average diameter is about 50 cm, while the average stand height is about 35 m. The maximum diameters are above 100 cm while the maximum height is close to 50 m. Previous studies have shown that beech in Serbia has the ability to, in very advanced age of 230-240 years, increase increment and reach high diameter increment, thus exhibiting certain biological properties to which attention has not been paid thus far. The total life cycle is estimated at about 350-400 years. All the aforementioned properties of beech reserves point to the importance of these natural primeval beech forests, their principles of development and beech reforestation in specific environmental conditions.

Fifty-year strict protection regime has enabled the conservation, growth, development of primeval beech forest stands, as intact parts, which indicates the exceptional value of beech reserves in Serbia.

All the aforementioned Reserves are protected natural areas according to the Law on Nature Protection (“Official Gazette of RS”, Nos. 36/2009, 88/2010, 91/2010 and 14/2016). In these areas, the protection regime of first (I) degree has been established which determines: “strict protection that is implemented in part of the protected area with original, unaltered or slightly altered ecosystems of exceptional scientific and practical importance, by which the processes of natural succession are enabled”.

The protected Nature Reserves are managed by PE “Srbijašume” which, together with all interested parties, takes care of them, monitors their state and takes protection measures and activities in order to conserve and protect them.  

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

At a meeting held in early 2018 at the Ministry of Environmental Protection in Belgrade, it was decided to draft a transboundary nomination for extension of the World Heritage property of the “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” in order to ensure the protection of a unique forest ecosystem.

For this reason, the experts/associates of the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia have drafted this nomination which can contribute to the exceptional value of the existing World Heritage property, and which has the potential to be included in that property. During the drafting of this nomination, the experts/associates applied the criteria in assessing the contribution of each reserve according to their originality and unaltered phytocenological, structural and ecological characteristics. Even though they have a relatively small surface area, in terms of their rarity, they are representative examples of the typical conserved natural montane beech forest, characteristic for Serbia. Having in mind the natural values, character and purpose of the reserves, the importance of conserving autochthonous primeval beech forest stands in the existing environmental conditions is immense, because these stands have incalculable ecological value in preserving biodiversity and overall ecosystem stability. These Reserves represent a complex forest vegetation of the Balkan Peninsula and its diversification to a number of different forest associations adapted to different geographical areas, altitudes and habitats. Nominated component parts protected under Serbian law are: primeval beech forest reserves “Vinatovača”, “Busovata”, “Felješana”, “Kukavica”, “Golema reka” and “Danilova kosa”, and reserves with relict species “Iznad Tatalije”, “Zelenika”, “Zeleničje”, “Mala Jasenova Glava” and “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka”.

Comparison with other similar properties

The primeval beech forest reserves “Vinatovača”, “Busovata”, “Felješana”, “Kukavica”, “Golema reka” and “Danilova kosa”, and reserves with relict species “Iznad Tatalije”, “Zelenika”, “Zeleničje”, “Mala Jasenova Glava” and “Vrh Željina-Pločka Čuka” represent the most valuable beech forests not only in Serbia but also in the wider area of this region in which there have been no felling in recent time or at all. Furthermore, the nominated Reserves are representatives of specific phytocenoses, that is, the general distribution of beech in Serbia because they form an ecological vegetation series from 40 to about 2000 m in which they occur and survive as strictly protected areas.    

In this section we have compared primeval beech forest reserves in Serbia with beech stands on the territory of the National Park “Paklenica” and the Strict Nature Reserve “Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi” in the Nature Park “Velebit” in Croatia, and which have been inscribed on World Heritage List.

The comparison between the beech stands in the area of the National Park “Paklenica”, Strict Nature Reserve “Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi” in the Nature Park “Velebit” in Croatia and the nominated Reserves from Serbia shows similarities between ecology and floristic composition, but at the same time points to a certain degree of difference between individual geographically distant forests which is important, although it is a small geographical distance in question. Beech forests of Croatia and Serbia are distinguished by many geographical features, which are an expression of the different past of certain areas. The differences are mainly florogenetic. Beech forests of Serbia differ from other beech forests in the region in that they are gradually losing Illyrian floral elements, thus being between the Central European alliance Fagion silvaticae and the South European alliance Fagion ilirycum. In this sense, the beech forests of Serbia differ considerably from the Illyrian ones and belong to these associations according to the distribution and interrelations both in horizontal and vertical sense, forming a special alliance of the Moesian forests Fagion moesiacae. In addition, beech in Serbia, unlike the populations in Croatia, originates from Fagus plioenica and thus has a continuous development in these areas. Beech populations of the north-west Europe have developed from some populations of the Moesian beech and other refugiums of Europe. Answers to numerous historical, ceno-ecological and other questions on beech and beech forests in Europe can be found today using the example of beech and beech forests of Serbia and the Balkan Peninsula, which is directly contributed by the separated, established and compared reserves in the aforementioned two countries.