Primeval forest in Jizera Mountains placed on UNESCO World Heritage list

Jizerskohorské bučiny (Jizera Mountain  Beechwood)

An area of the Jizera Mountains in North Bohemia known as Jizerskohorské bučiny (Jizera Mountain  Beechwood) has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is the first Czech natural site to have been recognized in this way.

The largest self-contained area of beech wood (27 km2) covers the steep northern slopes of the Jizera Mountains from Špičák in the west to Tišina in the east and is known as the Jizera Mountains Beechwood. The woods now dominated by the European beech stretch from an altitude of 350 m above sea level under the Šolc Fishpond up to 1000 m above sea level on Polední kameny. The area is highly diverse and the composition of the natural forest has changed many times over the years.

In the days of the Ice Age, the whole area was covered with tundra. About 15,000 years ago, the Scandinavian glacier began to melt and within several thousand years birch trees, pines and aspen started spreading in the area. After another few thousand years of gradual warming, oaks, lindens, elms, rowans and hazel trees sprouted.

Later still, in the period when the first farmers appeared in Central Europe, the mountain forests were enriched with spruce trees, alders, maples, and yew trees.

Beech and fir trees were much younger “settlers” but were so suited to the climate that they forced the spruce trees higher up into the mountains. The hornbeam arrived last of all, approximately 3,000 years ago.

Today the natural forest, where there is no intervention from man, is a treasure trove for environmentalists. Director of the Nature and Landscape Protection Agency František Pelc says it is a place where we can learn from Mother Nature.

“It is a huge “laboratory of nature” that foresters can learn from and then use that knowledge to improve forest management elsewhere. That is the biggest value of the place.”

Jizerskohorské bučiny  (Jizera Mountain  Beechwood) | Photo: Lovecz,  Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

The lack of intervention from man has made the forest area an oasis for birds and animals. The black stork, the Eurasian eagle owl and the peregrine falcon are at home here. The white throated dipper flies along almost every stream, while woodpeckers, stock doves or Boreal owls inhabit the hollows in old trees. You may come across rare spotted salamanders and predators such as the European honey buzzard and the Red Kite. And, last but not least, large predators such as lynxes and wolves, which are searching for new territories, where they can avoid humans, have also recently moved into the natural forest.

The forests’ listing on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list is considered a huge honour and the area is now likely to attract more visitors. Meeting that interest while protecting the pristine forest may prove to be quite a challenge.