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UNESCO Makes Forest in Croatian National Park a World Heritage Site


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

UNESCO has recognised 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 on Friday.

The decision 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.

“We wish to facilitate an even greater level of protection for Croatia’s nature and sustainable development of areas surrounding our national parks. UNESCO protection means greater recognition on the global level. That also means a greater number of tourists, which will mostly benefit the local population”, the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection said.

(Photo: mzoip.hr)

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.

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 number of plant species growing in them and these forests represent the important centre of biological diversity.

Check out which other sites were added to the list this weekend here.

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