Bialowieza National Park - extension, modification

Date of Submission: 20/03/2006
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
The Bialowieza National Park Józef Popiel Park Palacowy 11 17-230 Bialowieza Poland
Coordinates: N 52 41 55 – 52 59 15 E 23 43 10 – 23 56 30 Podlasie Province; Hajnowka County; Bialowieza Commune; Narewka Commune
Ref.: 2100
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The Site is situated at the centre of the Bialowieza Forest, at the border of Republic of Poland and Republic of Belarus in North-Eastern Part of Poland. The altitude of the site renges between 145.0 and 172.5 m a. s. l. It is placed at the edge of the Baltic Sea drainage area, between Narew and Narewka rivers, close to their springs. There are 809 species of vascular plants (including 25 tree species, 56 shrub and 14 shrublet species), over 3000 fungi species, almost 200 mosses and 277 lichens with numerous rare species specific to primeval forests. The park in also inhabited by 120 nesting birds, 44 mammals and almost 10,000 invertebrate species, mainly insects. The European bison is the symbol of both the Bialowieza National Park and the entire Bialowieza Forest. It is the largest European mammal saved from extinction at the very last moment thanks to the long-term and devoted work of many scientists and employees of the Park. For centuries the Bialowieza Primeval Forest has been owned and protected by kings of Poland as a perfect hunting ground covered by rich mixed deciduous forests. Beauty of this place had inspired many painters, poets and writers of the 19th and 20th century. Limited right for using the forest resources saved enormous diversity of animal, plant and fungi species, especially those dependent on presence of old trees and dead, rotting wood from extinction. This is the very rare place in Europe, where ecological processes shaping forest ecosystems and communities still go on in conditions not changed by direct human interference. The name of the Bialowieza Forest was mentioned first time in written documents in the 15th century Chronicle of Jan Dlugosz (Historiae Poloniae), as a place of King Jagiello's hunting in 1409, prior to the Grunwald Battle against the Teutonic Knights Order. Official protection of the Bialowieza Forest starts in the 15th century. The forest was protected together with animals, particularly with the European bison. The reason for protection was not just a pleasure or benefits of hunting, but also prestige of possessing so unique a place (it was unique already in the 15th century). Special ranger service was created in order to control the use of forest resources and to organize Royal hunting games in the Bialowieza Forest. The service continued up to the first half of 19th century. The first commercial exploitation of the Bialowieza Forest on a large scale took place during the World War I; however, central part of the Forest, North of Bialowieza village, was left intact. This part, with well defined borders on Narewka and Hwozna rivers, was declared the Forest District "Reserve" in 1921, and National Park in Bialowieza in 1932. After the World War II, in 1947 the status of the national park was confirmed by the new Government and the area was given the name of the Bialowieza National Park. This long chain of historical facts ensured very efficient holistic protection of nature (biotic and abiotic elements as well as natural processes) in the oldest part of the present Bialowieza National Park. Its importance for nature protection was recognized by UNESCO in 1977 by including the Park into network of Biosphere Reserves, and its uniqueness by inclusion of the Park within the borders of that time on the World Heritage List in 1979. The World Heritage Site was enlarged in 1992 and transboundary World Heritage Site (Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest) was created by joining adjacent, strictly protected part of the Belarussian National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". Today the Site is known for its natural wood stands of primeval character, rare fauna of forest dwelling birds, saprophytic invertebrates, fungi and a place where course of natural processes has been continuing undisturbed for thousands of years.