The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/21/44.COM/8B.Add and WHC/21/44.COM/INF.8B2.Add,
- Recalling decisions 31 COM 8B.16, 35 COM 8B.13, 41 COM 8B.7, 42 COM 7B.71 and 43 COM 7B.13 adopted at its 31st (Christchurch, 2007), 35th (UNESCO Headquarters, 2011), 41st (Krakow, 2017), 42nd (Manama, 2018) and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions respectively,
- Approves the significant boundary modification 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 and Ukraine, on the basis of criterion (ix), through the addition or modification of the following nominated component parts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czechia, France, Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland:
- Vihorlat (Slovakia), as a boundary modification of the existing component part of the same name;
- Havešová Primeval Forest (Slovakia), as a boundary modification of the existing component part of the same name;
- Rožok (Slovakia), as a boundary modification of the existing component part of the same name;
- Udava (Slovakia) and Stužica - Bukovské Vrchy (Slovakia), as a boundary modification of the existing component part Stužica - Bukovské Vrchy (Slovakia);
- Cozzo Ferriero (Italy), as a boundary modification of the existing component part of the same name;
- Falascone (Italy), as a boundary modification of the existing component part Foresta Umbra (Italy);
- Pavari-Sfilzi (Italy) [new component part];
- Pollinello (Italy) [new component part];
- Valle Infernale (Italy) [new component part];
- Prašuma Janj (Bosnia and Herzegovina) [new component part];
- Forêt de la Bettlachstock (Switzerland) [new component part];
- Valli di Lodano, Busai and Soladino Forest Reserves (Switzerland) [new component part];
- Jizera Mountains (Czechia) [new component part];
- Chapitre (France) [new component part];
- Grand Ventron (France) [new component part];
- Massane (France) [new component part];
- Dlaboka Reka (North Macedonia) [new component part];
- Polonina Wetlinska and Smerek (Poland) [new component part];
- Border Ridge and Gorna Solinka valley (Poland) [new component part];
- Terebowiec stream valley (Poland) [new component part];
- Wolosatka stream valley (Poland) [new component part];
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property as a whole, including the modified and newly added components outlined above:
The “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” are a transnational serial property comprising 94 component parts across 18 countries. They 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. During each glacial phase (ice ages) of the last 1 million years, European beech (Fagus sylvatica) survived the unfavourable climatic conditions in refuge areas in the southern parts of the European continent. These refuge areas have been documented by scientists through palaeoecological analysis and using the latest techniques in genetic coding. After the last Ice Age, around 11,000 years ago, beech started expanding its range from these southern refuge areas to eventually cover large parts of the European continent. During this expansion process, which is still ongoing, beech formed different types of plant communities while occupying largely different environments. The interplay between a diversity of environments, climatic gradients and different species gene pools has and continues to shape this high diversity of beech forest communities. These forests contain an invaluable population of old trees and a genetic reservoir of beech and many other species, which are associated with and dependent on these old-growth forest habitats.
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, including climatic and geological conditions, spanning almost all European Beech Forest Regions. Forests are included from all altitudinal zones from coastal areas to the treeline and, 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.
The selected component parts represent the diversity of ancient and primeval beech forests found across Europe in terms of different climatic and geological conditions and altitudinal zones. The property includes component parts, which convey its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and represent the variability of European beech forest ecosystems. Together these component parts contribute to the integrity of the property as a whole. Additionally, each component part 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. Most of the component parts are of sufficient size to maintain such natural processes necessary for their long-term ecological viability.
The most significant threats to the property are logging and habitat fragmentation. Logging activities in the vicinity of component parts can cause microclimatic changes and nutrient mobilising effects, with negative impacts on the integrity of the property. Land use change in the surrounding landscapes can lead to increased habitat fragmentation, which would be of particular concern for smaller component parts. Infrastructure development is a potential threat only in the surroundings of a few component parts.
Climate change already poses a risk to some component parts and further impacts can be anticipated, including changes in species composition and habitat shifting. However, it should be noted that one of the attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is its demonstration of the ability of beech to adapt to different ecological and climatic regimes throughout its range. Therefore, potential future changes need to be monitored and documented in order to better understand these processes.
The above-mentioned threats may affect the integrity of the component parts to a different extent and in different ways, for example through the reduction of structural diversity, fragmentation, loss of connectivity, biomass loss and changed microclimate, which reduce ecosystem functionality and adaptive capacity as a whole. To cope with these threats, buffer zones are established and are managed accordingly by the responsible management bodies.
Protection and management requirements
A strict non-intervention management is essential for the conservation of the OUV of this serial property across all its component parts. The majority of the 94 component parts are protected by law as strict forest reserves, wilderness areas, core areas of biosphere reserves or national parks (IUCN category I or II). Some of the component parts are protected and managed by Forest Management Plans (with regulations ensuring no logging in old-growth forests). As it is of uppermost importance to guarantee strong protection status in the long term, the protection status will be improved where needed.
To ensure the viability of the four component parts smaller than the established minimum size of 50 ha, an enlargement of the component parts with further non-intervention management will be considered by the States Parties. Additionally, an effective management of buffer zones to protect the property from external threats and to safeguard its integrity is of uppermost importance.
The integrity of each component part is the responsibility of the State Party and is ensured by the relevant local management units. For the coherent protection and management of the property, as well as to coordinate activities between the management units and the 18 States Parties, a functional organisational structure should be established. To ensure this aspect, an Integrated Management System was developed during the nomination process and will be maintained to allow effective and coordinated management and protection of the property as a whole. The Joint Management Committee, comprising representatives of all States Parties, formulated a Joint Declaration of Intent. This Declaration regulates and structures the cooperation between all the States Parties whose territory is included in the property and ensures the commitment to protect and strengthen the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The position of a coordinator will be established and maintained to support the Joint Management Committee and the States Parties in their work.
The Integrated Management System and the management plans of the component parts will ensure a non-intervention management approach for the component parts while the buffer zones will be managed to avoid negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property with a specific focus on ensuring integrity remains intact. To harmonise the management approach across the 94 component parts, the States Parties will develop common objectives and coordinated activities which will cover property and buffer zone management, monitoring and research, education and awareness raising, visitor management and tourism as well as financial and human capacity building. It is proposed to establish a coherent monitoring system based on selected ecological (proxy) indicators of integrity within all component parts to compare long-term development. It is imperative that each State Party provides clear and committed long-term funding arrangements, to support consistent national site management as well as coordinated management.
Special attention is required to ensure the configuration of the property such that each component part retains ongoing viability to evolve with unimpeded ecological and biological processes and without the need for substantial interventions. This includes the integration of surrounding forest ecosystems to provide sufficient protection and connectivity, especially for small component parts. 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 monitored to ensure protection under changing environmental conditions such as climate change. The boundaries of buffer zones should, where possible, be aligned with existing protected area boundaries and should be expanded to connect component parts where they are in close proximity. Finally, where appropriate, special ongoing emphasis is needed to ensure effective ecological connectivity between beech forests and the surrounding complementary habitats to allow natural development and adaptation of the forest to the environmental change.
- Takes note of the following component parts in the present nomination, which are not recommended for inclusion in the serial property at the present time:
- Fruška gora – Papratski do (Serbia);
- Fruška gora – Ravne (Serbia);
- Kopaonik – Kozje stene (Serbia);
- Tara – Rača (Serbia);
- Tara – Zvezda (Serbia);
- Kyjovský prales (Slovakia);
- Aigoual (France);
- Sainte-Baume (France);
- Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre (France);
- Biogradska Gora 1 (Montenegro);
- Biogradska Gora 2 (Montenegro);
- Recommends before considering potential resubmission of these component parts in any future nomination:
- The State Party of Serbia to provide more detailed information on the type, scale, frequency and extent of any logging and forestry operations that may be implemented in the buffer zones of the nominated component parts in Serbia and their potential impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, together with a plan to minimize logging in the entirety of the defined buffer zones,
- The State Party of Slovakia to expand the buffer zone of the nominated Kyjovský prales component part and to connect this buffer zone to the buffer zone of the existing Vihorlat component part,
- The State Party of France, with the support of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN if requested, to significantly revise the nominated component parts of Aigoual, Sainte-Baume and Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre to enhance their integrity and to re-design and enlarge their buffer zones,
- The State Party of Montenegro, with the support of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN if requested, to merge the nominated component parts Biogradska Gora 1 and Biogradska Gora 2, and to align the zonation of the Biogradska Gora National Park in light of this and to revise current regulations, especially the Special Purpose Spatial Plan for Biogradska Gora National Park in order to align them with the protection of the nominated property’s Outstanding Universal Value. It is further recommended to develop an appropriate tourism management plan for the resulting area;
- Also takes note of the following nominated component parts which are not recommended for inclusion in the serial property:
- Chizé Component 1 North-West (France);
- Chizé Component 2 South (France);
- Fontainebleau (France);
- Notes that the Fontainebleau nominated component part could potentially be considered in relation to the possible extension of the existing World Heritage property: Palace and Park of Fontainebleau, France;
- Reiterates its requests to all States Parties involved in this transnational serial property, to ensure that buffer zone management supports undisturbed natural processes with special emphasis on dead and decaying wood, including ongoing monitoring of threats and risks, in line with Decision 41 COM 8B.7, with a clear, strict and consistent approach to buffer zone design and management, in line with Decision 42 COM 7B.71, as the only feasible way to protect the integrity of the small forest remnants included in this property, in line with Decision 43 COM 7B.13;
- Also requests all States Parties involved in this transnational serial property to undertake a review of the consistency of component part design and buffer zone configurations across the entire transnational serial property, allowing for the expansion of undisturbed natural processes into the surrounding areas, so as to ensure the natural evolution and continued recovery of Beech Forests within the component parts and towards the surrounding areas, and to consider the proposals to strengthen the property accordingly;
- Further requests the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2023, a joint report on the state of conservation of the property as a whole, and the implementation and the review of boundary and buffer zone consistency, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session;
- Welcomes the enhanced cooperation between a large number of European States Parties to preserve primeval, ancient and old-growth Beech Forests across the continent.