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Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe - extension (Poland)

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Description

The future nomination, which is subject of this Tentative List entry, represents an extension to the existing 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, 1133ter). This property was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee first in 2007 as “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians”, extended once in 2011 by the “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” and extended another time in 2017 by the “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” to the present transnational site.

The future extension corresponds to the decision 41  COM 8B.7, where future extensions toward a finite series are noted. With this extension 37 component parts in 10 European States Parties add new values to displaying the history and evolution of the European Beech.

Together with the already inscribed component parts in 12 European States Parties the component parts of this extension will represent an outstanding example of relatively undisturbed, complex temperate forests and exhibit a wide spectrum of 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, which are associated with and dependent on these forest habitats.

Name(s) of the component part(s)

The forest of the primeval character in the Bieszczady National Park - Poland, Subcarpathian Voivodeship - N49 06 E22 39

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 Polonina Wetlińska and Smerek in the North-West part of the Park (Tworylczyk Stream Valley and the Hylaty Stream Valley), the Terebowiec Stream valley and the Wołosatka Stream Valley in the center, the Border Ridge and the Upper Solinka Valley in the South-Western area of the park (Kucharzyk 2014). The last of the proposed partst is adjacent to the areas on the Ukrainian and Slovakian side inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007. It will be a natural extension of already existing protected areas and at the same time will be creating a buffer zone from the Polish side.

The altitude in the component part ranges from 700 – 1.260 meters above sea level. 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. The oldest beech tree examined by drilling is over 350 years old (Zarzycki 1963, Michalik & Kurzyński 1990, Jaworski & al 1991, 1995, 2002, Jaworski & Kołodziej 2002, 2004, Kucharzyk 2008, 2013, 2018).
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 Bieszczadzka 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., Kucharzyk 2018).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (ix): The property is indispensable for the understanding of 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 largely undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibit comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European beech across a variety of environmental gradients, such as climatic and geological conditions, throughout much of the European beech forest range. Forests are included from all altitudinal zones from the coast up to the forest line in the mountains and, furthermore, include the best remaining examples from the range limits of the European beech forest. Beech is one of the most important features in the Temperate Broadleaf Forest Biome and represents an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities since 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 natural corridors and stepping stones spanning the continent. The dominance of beech across extensive areas of Europe is a living testimony of the tree’s genetic adaptability, a process which is still ongoing.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The selected component parts represent the diversity found across Europe in terms of different climatic and geological conditions and altitudinal zones. Inclusion of these components representing the variability of European beech forest ecosystems across these different environmental conditions contributes to the integrity of the property as a whole in terms of the full representation of the ecological processes that convey the OUV of the property. However, each component part also needs to demonstrate integrity at the local level by representing the full suite of natural forest development processes in its particular geographical and ecological setting within the series. All component parts are of sufficient size (> 50 ha) to maintain such natural processes necessary for their long-term ecological viability.

All component parts have buffer zones of various configurations including surrounding protected areas (national parks, nature parks, biosphere reserves and others). These buffer zones will be regularly reviewed to ensure protection under changing environmental conditions such as climate 

change. The boundaries of buffer zones are, where possible, aligned with existing protected area boundaries. Special emphasis was given during the zonation of the new component parts to ensure effective ecological connectivity between beech forests and the surrounding complementary habitats to allow natural development and adaptation to environmental change.

While the history of distribution and expansion of beech across Europe demonstrates an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems since the last Ice Age, more recent changes in the distribution pattern of beech across Europe relate to direct influences of human disturbance and the more complex effects of anthropogenically induced climate change. To effectively protect the components of the property from negative influence, a comprehensive analysis of threats has been undertaken.

The forest of the primeval character in the Bieszczady National Park

The proposed component cluster is part of the Bieszczady National Park (approx. 11% of the National Park area), including the best-preserved areas of beech forests of a primeval character with four large component parts: Polonina Wetlinska and Smerek (the Tworylczyk Stream Valley and the Hylaty Stream Valley) in the northwest, the Border Ridge and the Upper Solinka Valley in the southwestern part of the National Park, the Wołosatka Stream Valley and the Terebowiec Stream Valley in the southeast. The buffer zone is composed of the remaining part of the Bieszczady National Park with a total surface area of 24,564.46 hectares. The largest proposed part (the Border Ridge and the Upper Solinka Valley - 1482,18 ha) is adjacent to the areas on the Ukrainian and Slovakian side inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007. It will be a natural extension of already existing protected areas and at the same time will be creating a buffer zone from the Polish side.

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 characterized 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 exotypes 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:

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., Kucharzyk 2015).
The size of about 3.300 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, 2018). 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, 2018). The dynamics of the ongoing forest-forming processes is being studied on a network of permanent study plots since the mid-90s of the twentieth century (Kucharzyk 2018).

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 ).

Comparison with other similar properties

The comparison with similar properties has already been provided in the nomination dossiers 1133 (2007), 1133bis (2011) and 1133ter (2016).