Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2007
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1133/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1133/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
October 2014: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to Slovakia; October 2018: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Advisory mission to Slovakia
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1133/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021
From 13 to 22 November 2019, the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission requested in Decision 43 COM 7B.13 visited Albanian and Romanian components of the property.
On 30 January 2020, the States Parties submitted a joint report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1133/documents/, reporting the following:
According to the minutes of a meeting organized by the States Parties and received by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to discuss the issue of buffer zone management, clear-cuts are possible inside 2 out of 41 assessed component clusters, either through special permission or in specific areas. In buffer zones, clear cuts above 0.3 ha are generally allowed in 2 clusters, and in 5 clusters through special permissions or in specific areas. Clear cuts below 0.3 ha, cutting of firewood, and shelterwood cuts above 0.3 ha are possible in a few components, whilst shelterwood cuts below 0.3 ha, tendering operations in young stands, selective logging and sanitary cuts can be permitted in approximately half of the assessed component clusters. The World Heritage Centre transmitted this information to the States Parties on 22 April 2020 and received a reply on 19 April 2021. According to this response, the information that clear cuts are allowed inside the property was incorrect and all States Parties confirmed that currently no logging is possible inside of any of the property’s component parts. For buffer zones however, the States Parties confirm that “in total 17 cluster/component parts in 6 countries have mentioned that some logging interventions might be possible in the buffer zone.”
On 28 January 2021, the States Parties submitted an update of the States Parties’ report noting that no agreement among them was reached regarding the management of the property and buffer zones, but that a roadmap was adopted to reach an agreement that would include consultations with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN. On 25 May 2021, the States Parties submitted the Guidance document on buffer zone management and buffer zone zonation for further advice from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, which is currently under review.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
In the context of various previous Committee decisions requesting the State Party of Slovakia to strengthen the legal protection of its components, the amendment of the Act on Nature and Landscape Protection is welcome as it significantly expands low- and non-intervention regimes in the Poloniny National Park. The submission of the proposed boundary modification of the Slovak component as part of the proposed extension of the property is noted and is dealt with through the Evaluation process.
The 2019 Reactive Monitoring mission concluded that the Albanian components exhibit a high level of integrity and benefit from a strict protection regime applicable in the components and their buffer zones, which appear to provide a functional additional layer of protection, in line with the Operational Guidelines. This is highly welcome and may inform the revision of buffer zone management in some other components of this transnational property as well as the on-going development of guidelines for the buffer zones of the property.
Regarding the Romanian components, the impacts from potential future projects related to hydropower facilities in the buffer zone and the potential widening and paving of a forest track crossing the property and its buffer zone (national road 66A) is of serious concern. In line with the mission recommendations, it is recommended that the State Party be requested to abandon plans to upgrade this forest track inside and/or nearby the property, due to the potential impact of this project on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), including its integrity. The mission also concluded that the current management of the Romanian components’ buffer zones may result in negative effects on the integrity of the property and does not meet the requirements of the Operational Guidelines. In this respect, the State Party’s intention to approve new national legislation dedicated to World Heritage as well as intermediate measures, including the identification and protection of 2,000 ha of quasi-virgin forests are welcome. The designation of virgin forest may support the implementation of the recommendations of the 2019 mission and improve connectivity between the components.
In light of the findings of the 2019 mission and previous Committee decisions, the level of potential forestry operations in several buffer zones across the transnational property remains a serious concern. It is of utmost concern that particularly impactful clear-cuts are possible in several buffer zones of the property. These clear-cuts may be even more impactful and less strictly regulated than those buffer zones affected by shelterwood cuts that were assessed in the 2019 mission and previous missions to Slovakia. Clear-cuts are generally allowed in buffer zones of Hayedos de Navarra (Spain), Groșii Țibleșului, and Strâmbu Băiuț (Romania), and with special permission or in special areas in the buffer zones of Grumsin (Germany), Hayedos de Ayllón - La Mancha, Hayedos d. Picos d. Europa (Spain), Monte Raschio (Italy), and Uzhanski NNPk (Ukraine). To assess the potential impacts on the OUV of the property of clear-cuts and the protection regimes providing for them, it is therefore recommended that the Committee request the States Parties of Spain, Romania, Germany, Italy and Ukraine to provide full and up to date details of these activities in order to make clear all the locations and the full list of potentially affected component parts and buffer zones, and to convene, in conjunction with the other States Parties, a technical workshop with IUCN and the World Heritage Centre to consider the means by which concerns over these activities could be addressed.
The 2019 mission and the draft buffer zone Guidance note significant variation in the management regimes across the transnational property. In order to coherently protect component parts against the negative impacts from forest management, the draft Guidance proposes a zoning largely based on microclimatic indicators as a minimum baseline. While the impacts from forestry on the microclimate are doubtlessly an important aspect, it is of significant concern that other factors decisive for natural processes in Beech Forest ecosystems have not been taken into account in determining the minimum width of the protective buffer sub-zone and its protection regime. While for instance, the role of deadwood is emphasised in the description of the functions of the landscape conservation buffer sub-zone, it would not serve as a decisive factor for the design of the boundaries of the protective buffer sub-zone, in spite of the approach applied in the Belgian components where deadwood habitat connectivity is ensured through strictly protected senescence islets and set-aside-areas in the buffer zone. In this regard, it should also be recalled that Committee Decision 41 COM 8B.7 requested special emphasis on dead and decaying wood in order to support undisturbed natural processes in buffer zones, which require a strict and precautionary approach across wider areas. The approach proposed by the draft Guidance is therefore considered inadequate by IUCN and the World Heritage Centre as it would result in very narrow and uniform strips of protective buffer sub-sections, where interventions as large as one tree height may still be possible, and where factors other than standard widths derived from knowledge on microclimatic effects are not necessarily taken into account. It is therefore welcome that the States Parties intend to seek further guidance from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN in order for the buffer zone Guidance to ensure fully functional buffer zones across all components of the property. In the meantime, it is recommended that the Committee urge the States Parties to ensure that interventions are kept minimal before the adoption of the buffer zone Guidance.
It is noted that a new version of the Guidance document on buffer zone management and buffer zone zonation was approved by the States Parties on 19 April 2021 and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for further advice. Due to the late submission of this document on 25 May 2021, it was impossible to review it as part of the preparation of this report, and the World Heritage Centre and IUCN will revert to the States Parties after a careful analysis of the document in due course.
Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.99
The World Heritage Committee,
Decision Adopted: 44 COM 8B.32
The World Heritage Committee,
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.