UNESCO World Heritage List

Cultural and natural heritage is counted among invaluable and indispensable goods, not just for each country, but for all humanity. Loss of any of these invaluable goods because of deterioration or disappearance means impoverishment of the heritage of all nations of the world. Parts of this heritage, due to their exceptional characteristics, can be considered as goods of "outstanding universal value" and as such, they deserve special protection from the dangers they are increasingly threatened by.

Having been included in the World Heritage List in 2017, the beech forests in the area of Paklenica National Park and the Northern Velebit National Park belong to globally significant localities.

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UNESCO is an organization that has been implementing the idea of the need to preserve the world's natural and cultural heritage since 1972, when the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted. The purpose of the Convention is to identify, protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations the cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value. One of the most important instruments of the Convention is the inclusion of heritage into the UNESCO World Heritage List. The main basis for inclusion in the Natural Heritage List is that a heritage asset has an outstanding universal value under one of the four criteria:

- areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance

- areas representing major stages of Earth's history, significant geological processes and possessing significant geomorphic or physiographic features

- areas representing an example of ecological and biological processes in the evolution

- areas which are most significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity

The beech forests of Paklenica National Park and Northern Velebit National Park were listed on UNESCO World Heritage List on 7 July 2017, and together with the beech forests of Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine comprise the whole of "Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe". For inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List, as Croatian representatives of the primeval beech forests, two sites were selected, one within the boundaries of Paklenica NP (Suva draga-Klimenta and Oglavinovac-Javornik) and the other part within the borders of Northern Velebit NP (Rožanski and Hajdučki kukovi).

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The beech forests of Paklenica and Northern Velebit National Parks represent exceptionally preserved and undisturbed forest ecosystems, whose authenticity and integrity have been secured by years of protection. They are a valuable part of the European primeval beech forests and an important haven for many species, some of which, like the bear, lynx, wolf, stag beetle, longhorn beetle, and holly, peony or forest orchids, are endangered worldwide.

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Beech is one of the most important species in deciduous temperate forests. It represents a remarkable example of re-invasion of space and development of forest communities after the last glaciation, across the whole of Europe, under a variety of environmental conditions (climatic and geographic) and over a relatively short period of time. It is a process that continues even today.

With the development of civilization and the cultivation of forest areas, significant forest areas have disappeared all over Europe, including beech forests. Many of the beech forests that are still in existence are used for economic purposes, which harms their authenticity. It is estimated that, before human intervention, ancient beech forests in Europe occupied 91 million hectares. Today, primeval beech forests occupy an area of only 90,000 hectares.  The only examples of primeval beech forests that can still be explored for their intactness and true preservation are limited to relatively small areas, so it was necessary to unify these remains throughout Europe, under one natural good and with one goal, which is joint care.

In 2021, the Unesco World Heritage Series “ Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” was extended with 6 additional States Parties (Bosnia&Herzegovina, Czechia, France, North Macedonia, Poland, and Switzerland). This extension added 15 new protected areas to the network. And more precious forest areas in other countries could follow. The entire World Heritage Site comprises the few remaining European primeval beech forests and centuries-old European beech forest areas, which are almost unaltered by humans.

This World Heritage series is currently the largest serial World Heritage property. With 94 sites in 18 countries, it is the only World Heritage Site globally that connects so many component parts. It covers areas in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia& Herzegovina, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Czechia, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Ukraine. This requires collaboration across boundaries and illustrates the close relationship of the beech forest with European culture.  

Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe as a transboundary property is under the joint care of 18 countries in whose territories the individual components are located, and the care is provided through regular meetings and development of joint projects and management documents. More info on the Property is available on the following link: European beech forests