Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Białowieża Forest is the last primeval forest of European Plain. Popular with nature lovers seeking solitude, and yet unknown, with the wildest parts still undiscovered, hidden far from the “woodland capital” – Białowieża.
Białowieża National Park is a National Park in Podlaskie Voivodeship, in Eastern Poland adjacent with the border with Belarus. The total area of the park is 152.2 square kilometres. It is located 62 km southeast of Białystok. The border between the two countries runs through the forest, the Belovezshkaya Pushcha National Park is adjacent on the Belarus side of the border. There is a border crossing for hikers and cyclists within the forest.
Bialowieza Forest conserves a diverse complex of protected forest ecosystems which exemplify the Central European mixed forests terrestrial ecoregion, and a range of associated non-forest habitats, including wet meadows, river valleys and other wetlands. The area has an exceptionally high nature conservation value, including extensive old-growth forests. The large and integral forest area supports complete food webs including viable populations of large mammals and large carnivores (wolf, lynx and otter) amongst other. The richness in dead wood, standing and on the ground, leads to a consequent high diversity of fungi and saproxylic invertebrates. The long tradition of research on the little disturbed forest ecosystem and the numerous publications, including description of new species, also contributes significantly to the values of the nominated property.
Bialowieza Forest is an irreplaceable area for biodiversity conservation, due in particular to its size, protection status, and substantially undisturbed nature. The property is home to the largest free-roaming population of European Bison, which is the iconic species of this property. However the biodiversity conservation values are extensive, and include protection for 59 mammal species, over 250 bird species, 13 amphibians, 7 reptiles, and over 12,000 invertebrates. The flora is diverse and regionally significant, and the property also is notable for conservation of fungi. Several new species have been described here and many threatened species are still well represented.
The property is a large, coherent area conserved via a range of protective designations representing the full range of forest ecosystems of the region, and providing habitat for large mammals. The presence of extensive undisturbed areas is crucial to its nature conservation values. Some of the ecosystems represented in the property (wet meadows, wetlands, river corridors) require maintenance through active management, due to the decrease of water flow and absence of agriculture (hay cutting). The buffer zone that has been proposed by both State Parties appears sufficient to provide effective protection of the integrity of the property from threats from outside its boundaries. There are some connectivity challenges, from barriers inside the property, and its relative isolation within surrounding agricultural landscapes, that require continued management and monitoring.
2. Crosbill Guide “North East Poland” ISBN: 978 94 91648 00 7, 2013