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Beech Forest in Croatian National Parks on UNESCO World Heritage List

Northern Velebit National Park (Photo: Facebook/NP Sjeverni Velebit)

UNESCO has inscribed beech tree forests in the Northern Velebit and Paklenica National Parks in Croatia as a new world heritage site.

The decision was made at the 41st sitting of the World Heritage Committee in Kraków, Poland back in July and yesterday in Zagreb the official UNESCO Charter was presented to directors of both National Parks.

The UNESCO World Heritage Charter was presented to the NP Paklenica Director Natalija Andačić and NP Northern Velebit Director Irena Glavičić Sertić by Croatia’s Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Koržinek and Environment Minister Tomislav Ćorić.

The UNESCO Charter presented to the National Park Directors yesterday in Zagreb (Photo: mzoip.hr)

The decision to inscribe beech tree forests in the Northern Velebit and Paklenica National Parks is an extension of the UNESCO protection of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany, which now stretches over 12 countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine.

The beech forests at Northern Velebit National Park are situated in two special reservations in the park called Hajdučki kukovi and Rožanski kukovi. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful karst terrains in the world and has a very high concentration of vertical speleological objects with special features such as one of the deepest pits and the longest inner vertical in the world. Only scientific researchers and educational visits are allowed in the protected area.

Veliki Lubenovac krast valley on the edge of the strict reserve of Hajdučki kukovi and Rožanski kukovi (photo: parkovihrvatske.hr)

“This transboundary extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany (Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine) stretches over 12 countries. Since the end of the last Ice Age, European beech spread from a few isolated refuges in the Alps, Carpathians, Mediterranean and Pyrenees over a short period of a few thousand years in a process that is still ongoing. This successful expansion is related to the tree’s flexibility and tolerance of different climatic, geographical and physical conditions,” UNESCO stated.

The beech forests growing in the Reserve are of the Illyrian type, with a lot of specific Illyrian species in their composition, making them very species-rich and interesting from the floristic point of view. Although old, the beech specimens are not massive, as the extreme weather and rough terrain have worked a kind of “natural bonsai” on the trees, which grow very slowly and can be dwarfed and twisted. These forms, combined with the craggy rocks of the massive they grow on and stunning views of the seaside, create a unique, very peculiar and fantastic landscape of great aesthetic value.

Beech tree forests in Croatia (photo credit: Intipacha under CC)

Due to the geographical position, relief, carbonate bedrock with narrow outcrops of clastits and sandstone, it is under influence of three climate types: the Mediterranean, Continental, and Alpine. The beech forests are richer in a number of plant species growing in them and these forests represent the important centre of biological diversity.

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