Situated on the watershed between the Baltic and the Black Seas, this immense relatively undisturbed forest of evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved trees is the last large primary temperate forest in lowland Europe and one of its largest conservation areas. It contains several rare species of mammal such as wolf, elk, lynx and otter, and hundreds of reintroduced European Bison, an endangered species.


Belarus and Poland


Białowieża Forest


1979: Bialowieza Puszcza Forest inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criterion vii.

1992: Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criterion vii.

2014: Extension of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieża Forest, which becomes the Bialowieza Forest and inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criteria ix and x.


The UNESCO World Heritage Committee adopted the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value at the time of inscription:

Brief synthesis

Bialowieza Forest is a large forest complex located on the border between Poland and Belarus. Thanks to several ages of protection the forest has survived in its natural state to this day. The Bialowieza National Park, Poland, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and extended to include Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Belarus, in 1992. A large extension of the property in 2014 results in a property of 141,885 ha with a buffer zone of 166,708 ha.

This property includes a complex of lowland forests that are characteristic of the Central European mixed forests terrestrial ecoregion. The area has exceptional conservation significance due to the scale of its old growth forests, which include extensive undisturbed areas where natural processes are on-going. A consequence is the richness in dead wood, standing and on the ground, and consequently a high diversity of fungi and saproxylic invertebrates. The property protects a diverse and rich wildlife including 59 mammal species, over 250 bird, 13 amphibian, 7 reptile and over 12,000 invertebrate species. The iconic symbol of the property is the European Bison: the approximate 900 individuals in the whole property make up almost 25% of the total world’s population and over 30% of free-living animals.

Criterion (ix): 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 others. 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 property.

Criterion (x): 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 and 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.

Protection and management requirements

The property benefits from legal and institutional protection in both States Parties, through a variety of protected area designations. Protection and management requires strong and effective cooperation between the States Parties, and also between institutions in each State Party. The Bialowieza National Park (Poland), the Polish Forestry Administration and the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park authorities have entered into an agreement regarding preparation and implementation of an integrated management plan for the property, and to establish a transboundary steering group. In addition the State Party of Poland has developed an agreement establishing a Steering Committee between the National Park and the Forest Administration aiming to achieve a coordinated approach to integrated management. It is essential to ensure the effective functioning of this Steering Committee, including through regular meetings, and its input to transboundary coordination and management. It is essential that the national parks of both States Parties maintain effective and legally adopted management plans, and an adopted management plan for the Bialowieza National Park (Poland), to support its inclusion in the property, is an essential and long-term requirement.

It is essential to ensure that the integrated management plan for the property addresses all key issues concerning the effective management of this property, particularly forest, meadows and wetlands management, and that it is adequately funded on a long term basis to ensure its effective implementation.

Effective and well-resourced conservation management is the main long-term requirement to secure the property, and maintain the necessary management interventions that sustain its natural values. Threats that require long-term attention via monitoring and continued management programmes include fire management, the impacts of barriers to connectivity, including roads, firebreaks and the border fence. There is also scope to continually improve aspects of the management of the property, including in relation to ensuring connectivity within the property, and in its wider landscape, and to also secure enhanced community engagement.


1976: Bialowieza Puszcza Forest designated a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme (10,502 ha).

1993: Belovezhskaya Pushcha designated a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme (191,300 ha).

2004: Puszcza Bialowieska designated as a Special Protection Area (Birds Directive).

2014: Bialowieza Forest designated as a Natural World Heritage Site.


Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus: II National Park
Bialowieza National Park, Poland: II National Park
Puszcza Bialowieska, Poland Not Reported
OChK Puszcza Bialowieska Not Reported


Middle European Forest (2.11.05)


The geographical centre of the property is 52o 44’ N and 23o 53’ E. The Belarussian component, Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest lies between western Belarus about 60 km north-northwest of Brest and eastern Poland, 62 km south-east of Bialystok, located between 52° 30' to 52° 59'N and 23° 35' to 24° 20'E;


Historically the forest was well protected as a royal hunting reserve. In the 14th century limited hunting rights were granted.

1538: The first recorded law protecting the forest;

1541: Declared a hunting reserve to protect the bison;

1557: A forest charter was issued, appointing a special board to examine the rights of forest usage;

1800’s: The forest was opened to public use;

1888-1917:The Tsar was the last private owner; 1917: the forest came under state jurisdiction;

Bialowieza Puszcza

1921: The Polish sector of the forest protected as a National Forest Reserve, following heavy mechanised logging in World War I;

1931: Bialowieza Puszcza designated a Polish National Park (4,500 ha);

1944: At Yalta the forest was formally divided between the USSR (87,607 ha) and Poland (62,500 ha); The Pushcha was protected for hunting, under Decision 657 of the Soviet Union of People's Commissars and in 1957, under Order 2252-P of the USSR Council of Ministers;

1947: Bialowieza National Park re-established following heavy logging during and after World War II: Strict Reserve (4,747 ha), Research Restitution Centre (217.8 ha), Botanic Park (47 ha);

1976: The Polish forest designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve;

1996: The National Park was extended northwards by 5,186 ha to 10,502 ha; to be governed by the Nature Protection Act of 1991;

2003: The Polish government lifted a ban on felling trees in the surrounding forest over 100 years old, and increased the permissible harvest;

2005: Extension of the Biosphere Reserve to include the whole Polish part of the Bialowieza forest.

Belovezhskaya Pushcha

1940: Belovezhskaya Pushcha State Game Reserve established;

1944: At Yalta the forest was formally divided between the USSR (87,607 ha) and Poland (62,500 ha); The Pushcha was protected for hunting, under Decision 657 of the Soviet Union of People's Commissars and in 1957, under Order 2252-P of the USSR Council of Ministers;

1957: The Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest declared a Hunting Reserve;

1991: National Park status for 87,606 ha declared by Decree 352 of the Byelorussian SSR Council of Ministers; 1993: Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve;

1993: Belovezhskaya Pushcha designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve;

1994: The Property Management Department of the Belorussian Presidency introduced a multi-purpose management regime for Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest;

1997: The Park was awarded the European Diploma by the Council of Europe, for its management regime; renewed in 2002.

2002: Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park (BPNP) in Belarus enlarged to 100,312 ha with a buffer zone of 92,000 ha;

2004: The forest area in Belarus enlarged to 152,200 ha with a core area of 30,000 ha (UNESCO/IUCN, 2004; BP XXIth CI, 2004).

Bialowieza Forest

2014: The Polish component of the property is significantly extended whilst the Belarusian component is slightly downsized. The property is also renominated under criteria ix and x instead of (vii).


The whole property is owned by the Belorussian and Polish States. In Belarus, the Kamenetsky and Pruzhansky Districts of the Brest Region and Svisloch District in Grodno Province act as administrators. Administration since 1994 has been run by the Administrative Department of the President’s Office. The Forest and Game Hunting Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environmental Protection is responsible for the conservation of biodiversity and the use of natural resources. In Poland, the site is in the voivodship of Podlasie, administered by the Bialowieski National Park Management under the General Board of National Parks within the Ministry of the Environment.


After the 2014 extension the property is 141,885 ha with a buffer area of 166,708 ha. The UNESCO/IUCN site evaluation report of 2013 determined the areas of the property to be 82,309 ha in Belarus and 59,576 ha in Poland totalling 141,885 ha. New buffer zones have also been established, with a total area of 130,873.4 ha in Belarus and 35,384.9 ha in Poland.


145m to 202m a.s.l.


The Pushcha forest nominally covers between 150,000 and 214,600 hectares of a flat to rolling lowland plain on the hydrological divide between the Baltic and Black Seas. The land is covered by glacial formations with deposits of deep sands overlying clays and loams, podsols and bog soils above Cretaceous bedrock, which forms a mosaic of peat bogs, streams and river valleys. The organogenic peat and marshy peat formations in valleys and local depressions often contain raised mire systems (Okolow, 1994). The forest is drained by the River Orlowka, a tributary of the northward-flowing Narewka which crosses the northern part of the Park in Belarus. The Pavaya Lisnaya River drains the south (MAB-Belarus, 1993).


Conditions are cool-temperate continental with a mean annual precipitation of 620mm, two-thirds of which falls between April and October. The mean annual temperature is 7°C with average January and July temperatures of -5°C and 18°C. Snow cover persists for an average of 92 days per year between mid-October and the end of April. Conditions favouring plant growth occurs for 205 days per year (MAB-Belarus, 1993).


The property is located in the Central European plain within the transition zone between European deciduous forests and Eurasian coniferous forests. Due to the lack of significant dispersal barriers for species, populations were not isolated resulting in a lack of endemic species within the property. There are, however, multiple relict species which reflect cooler climates of previous times. In total, within the hundred plant communities of the forest, 1,060 vascular plant species are recorded, including 26 tree and 138 shrub species, almost two-thirds being indigenous, more than 3,000 species of fungi, 402 species of lichens and 230 mosses.

Belarus: The ancient Forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the last large primary mixed deciduous and evergreen temperate forest in lowland Europe, and is thought to have first established 4,000 years ago following a change in climate. It extended, before recent enlargement, 55 km from east to west and 51 km from north to south with the National Park in the centre. When designated in 1992 the Park’s area was 87,607 ha, 90% being forested. Of the total 62.2% was coniferous, 28.2% deciduous and the remaining 9.6% (8,087 ha) was hay meadow, arable, water and marsh (N. Bambiza in litt., 2002). It has scattered stands of virgin old growth averaging 250-350 years old and it is claimed that there are over 1,000 trees between 300-600 years old. The core areas of the World Heritage site are the only nearly untouched islands of primeval forest in the whole forest area. This makes them very vulnerable to negative changes in their surroundings.

The vegetation is of humid western European type with intermixed northern and southern elements. It has 12 major forest associations, the co-dominant communities being the typical east European linden-hornbeam Tilio-Carpinetum and the typical central European oak-hornbeam Querco-Carpinetum. Principal forest species include Scots pine Pinus silvestris, Norway spruce Picea abies, hornbeam Carpinus betulus, little-leaved lime Tilia cordata, oak Quercus robur, sycamore Acer platanoides, maple Acer spp., ash Fraxinus excelsior, downy and white birch Betula pubescens and B. verrucosa, aspen Populus tremula and black alder Alnus glutinosa. There are aquatic communities and 38 nationally threatened plant species. The Red Book of Belarus lists 65 higher plants, 4 mosses, 16 lichens and 7 mushrooms. The forest retains unique associations of saprolitic invertebrates living in rotten wood, bogs and fens (UNESCO/IUCN, 2004).

Poland: The National Park is in the centre of the forest with a core area of scattered stands of primeval forest. Within this section of the forest (58,000 ha) there are 113 plant associations including 20 forest associations, four communities of water plants, two shrub communities and 13 communities of peat bogs and meadows. Within the strict preservation area there are 632 species of vascular plants, 443 being native, comprising about 29% of the flora of Poland. All the major forest associations found in this part of Europe occur: lime-hornbeam and oak-hornbeam communities and north eastern European forms such as pine-spruce-oak communities. The dominant tree species are the same as those across the border. Beech, yew and larch are absent.

35 species of shrubs are recorded. Brushwood associations on the peat soils are composed mainly of grey willow Salix cinerea, dwarf birch Betula humilis and Pinus silvestris. Meadow associations and aquatic communities also occur. Rare plant species include mountain arnica Arnica montana, swamp willow Salix myrtilloides, river birch Betula obscura, Isopyrum thalictroides, twelve Orchidaceae, Saxifraga hirculus, the aquatic species Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum and Lathyrus laevigatus, and Hedera helix, here at the eastern limit of its range. According to the Society for Conservation Biology (2003) there are 5,500 different species of plants in the whole forest including 254 lichen species, 80 liverworts and more than 3,000 fungi.


The Bialowieza Forest is an exceptionally diverse and highly important area for a wide range of species, from top predators such as the wolf to thousands of invertebrate and fungi species. The Bialowieza Forest functions as a stronghold habitat for the European bison Bison bonasus and can also be considered one of the best sites in the boreo-nemoral region for large-cap fungi (macromycete) species.

Belarus: The Pushcha forest has typical European forest faunal communities with 59 mammal, 250 bird, 13 amphibian, 7 reptile and 26 fish species and some 8,500 insect species have been recorded in the adjacent Polish park (Society for Conservation Biology, 2003). The Belarus Red Book lists 11 mammal, 52 bird, 2 reptile, 1 amphibian, 8 fish and 38 insect species. Notable mammals include the wolf Canis lupus, Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, Eurasian otter Lutra lutra and European beaver Castor fiber, as well as the reintroduced bison Bison bonasus (VU) (IUCN Red List, 2015). There are large populations of red deer Cervus elaphus, roe deer Capreolus capreolus, and wild boar Sus scrofa, and about 300 elk Alces alces, introduced in 1864. The bison were reintroduced in 1929, and now number over 315 animals on the Belorussian side. The tarpan, the European wild forest horse Equus caballini gmelini used to live in the forest, became extinct, but was genetically reconstituted and reintroduced. The avifauna includes black stork Ciconia nigra, white stork Ciconia ciconia, golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos, greater spotted eagle A. clanga (VU), white-tailed eagle Haliaetus albicilla, great snipe Gallinaga media, corncrake Crex crex, eagle owl, great grey owl Strix nebulosa and Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata. The forest also hosts 9 species of woodpecker (MAB-Belarus, 1993; Tomialojc & Wesolowski, 2005).

Poland: There are over 11,500 different species of animals (Society for Conservation Biology, 2003) including 59 species of mammal: the reintroduced European bison (VU), grey wolf and lynx, common otter, and reintroduced European beaver. Common mammals are wild boar, elk, red deer and roe deer. Also recorded are northern birch mouse Sicista betulina and masked shrew Sorex caecutiens (the only known population in Poland). The bison, exterminated in the forest in 1919, was re-established in 1929, initially in a 297 ha fenced reserve which is part of the Park. Within the whole property there are 900 bison, which represents around 25% of the world’s total population.

Some 254 species of birds have been noted in the Bialowieza region. Between 170 and 180 nest in the Park and include black stork, crane Grus grus, pygmy owl Glaucidium passerinum and eagle owl, a large number of raptors such as Pomeranian eagle Aquila pomerina, greater spotted eagle A.clanga (VU), three-toed woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, redwing Turdus iliacus, nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes and red-breasted flycatcher Muscicapa parva. The property is considered to harbour an exceptional diversity of avian species, such as the white-backed woodpecker Dendrocopus leucotos (LC) and the booted eagle Hieraeetus pennatus, (LC). 13 species of amphibians, seven reptiles and 31 species of fish have been noted. Some 12,000 species of insects have been recorded including the beetles Carabus menetriesi, Orthothomicus longicollis, Pytho kolwensis and Boros schneideri (Okolow,1994; Reklamowo & Grzegorczyk, 1997), although it is thought there could be as many as 20,000.


Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the largest conservation areas on the continent, containing the last fragments in Europe of mixed deciduous temperate lowland forest with some traces of primeval forest and many very ancient trees. By comparison with other lowland European forests it has suffered, until very recently, little human disturbance, especially on the Belarussian side. The site contains many relict plant and animal species typical of the surrounding forests, including the European bison (MAB-Belarus, 1993).


Slav tribes are known to have peopled the area between the 10th and 13th centuries, and 184 old Slav burial tumuli from the 10th and 11th centuries have been found. The eponymous white tower (belaya vezha) was built at Kamenetz in the 13th century. Until the 20th century, the forest remained largely virgin, protected as a royal hunting reserve for Lithuanian princes, Polish kings and Russian Tsars, and for its bison and scenery. The forest was first exploited for timber, charcoal and iron in the 16th century. Logging of the Polish section under King Augustus III of Saxony suggests that the present forest, though pristine, is in fact well-grown secondary forest. During that period alien ungulates were introduced for the hunt and large carnivores were persecuted. Traces of 18th-19th century forest bee-keeping are visible on some 100 pines in the core area. However, from the mid 19th century, the western half of the forest was logged commercially and suffered very heavy logging during the first half of the 20th century. Palace Park, a former imperial Russian hunting lodge near the village of Bialowieza, dates from the 1890s, where a monument commemorates the hunting by Augustus. The Pushcha is valued in Russian culture, being connected with the landscape painter I.I. Shishkin, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, painter N. S. Samokish, Byelorussian poet, N.A. Gusovsky, and the revolutionary writers A.I. Gertsen and N. P. Ogarev (Anon, 1991). The Belovezhskoe Accords, announcing the dissolution of the Soviet Union to become the Commonwealth of Independent States was signed in the forest at Viskuly Lodge in 1999.


There are no inhabitants within the boundary of the property; however, there are local residents in the areas surrounding the property. Centuries of human activity have created clearings, hunting grounds, riverside meadows, road systems and trails, forest settlements, narrow-gauge railways, felling sites, and gravel-pits. People use the forest for bee-keeping, charcoal-burning, animal rearing, game-keeping and hay. In Belarus about 4,000 people live within the Biosphere Reserve: 2,500 within the transition area; and 1,500 in the buffer zone. Within the extended forest there are 22 villages with some 30,000 inhabitants (UNESCO/IUCN, 2004). They are mostly farmers, growing potatoes, rye, wheat, oats, barley, rape and sugar-beet. In Belarus the Reserve offers few financial benefits to the local population, but health and community services are provided in addition to rural development assistance. There are also some work and training opportunities in forestry, forestry protection and other services. The nearest town is Kamenyuki (MAB-Belarus, 1993). In Poland the village of Bialowieza is located 1 km from the Park. There are no human settlements in the strict preservation area but some 3,000 people live in villages nearby.


There were approximately 320,000 tourists to Belovezhskaya Pushcha in 2010, of these, 45% were students and school children and 10% were foreign tourists. The Nature Museum has been supplemented by an Ecological Awareness Centre housed in a very popular ‘Grandfather Frost house’ as a tourist attraction. Tourist and ecological trails have been improved and there are carriage rides, bicycle rental and guides available. Plans to encourage international tourism were implemented after the provision of adequate access and accommodation, water and sewage, and the impacts of tourist litter and environmental pollution had been fully assessed (MAB-Belarus, 1993). In Belovezhskaya Pushcha there are four hotels and two guesthouses, with a total capacity of 207 overnight visitors. Commercial hunting is encouraged in a neighbouring 3,500 ha enclosure, to lessen pressure on the Park.

The Bialowieza National Park’s animal park is the most popular part of the Polish property, with an estimated 140,000 tourists annually. The National Park is visited by approximately 10,000 international visitors a year, whilst the trails in the National Park are used by roughly 20,000 visitors. Trained guides are provided by the tourist offices and are assigned to individual tourist groups and youth excursions. Guided trips are allowed to use traditional horse drawn vehicles and bicycles. Bialowieza village on the boundary of the Park has about 1,000 beds of varying standards (B. Zaroszevicz, in litt, 2004). Other facilities on the site include a nature education centre, museum and tourist lodges (World Heritage, 1998).


Belarus: The Belovezhskaya Pushcha was first covered with a net of exploitation tracks, and subsequently studied scientifically, in the mid 19th century. Ongoing research includes natural ecosystems and their restoration, natural succession, forest management, agricultural research, and floral and faunal surveys. Research is also planned for the social sciences, in particular ethnobiology, cultural anthropology, rural technology and traditional land-use systems. There is now a scientific research centre laboratory situated near the Park headquarters at Kamieniuki, conference and library facilities, and accommodation for up to 100 visiting scientists as well as several field stations for ecological, hydrological and climatological monitoring. There is an advisory Scientific Council.

Poland: The Polish sector of the Park has been used for scientific research since the 1920s when Professor Paczoski, a prominent botanist and phytosociologist, became its first manager. The results of his research are included in The Forests of Bialowieza (1930). Zoological studies, especially on wood-boring insects, begun in 1929 by his successor, Professor Karpinski, were extended by Professor Dehnel. The Park staff are currently studying the structure of the forests, the ecology of bison, and entomology. Seventeen scientific institutions are carrying out research in the Park, coordinated by the University of Bialystok. The Park management facilitates studies on the structure and functioning of natural ecosystems, natural succession, the flow of materials and energy within ecosystems, and human impacts on these processes, the circulation of parasites in natural and modified ecosystems, the classification of animals, especially of lower systematic units, biological control of pest insects, forest management, genetically valuable ecotypes of indigenous tree species, and the improvement of forest productivity.

There are five research institutions located in Bialowieza: the Natural Forests Department of the Forest Research Institute field station, established in 1930; the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences (1954); Bialowieza Geobotanical Station of Warsaw University (1956); the Plant Demography Laboratory of the Institute of Botany of the Polish Academy of Sciences (1980); and the Laboratory on the Ecology and Protection of Natural Habitats (1991). There are permanent study plots, some established in 1936, for the study of forest dynamics. The Museum of Nature and Forestry is managed by a custodian (Okolow, 1994).


Belarus: Until very recently the Pushcha forest in Belarus was not as heavily logged as in Poland having been well preserved by rulers of all nationalities and regimes in order to protect the bison and their own hunting. This occasionally hunted out species that were then re-introduced. Recent responsibility for the Reserve until 1994 rested with the Forest Department, with a management team of a Director, deputies and support wardens, with staff from the Reserve's scientific laboratory. Protection was ensured by cross-country patrols, with fire-risks monitored by air patrols. One of the main tasks was to control wildlife populations, especially red deer, whose numbers are high and whose browsing has a destructive impact on forest re-planting (Anon., 1991). Licensed hunters may take wolf and wild boar. A 20-year Management Plan was drafted for 1996-2016 to complement the Polish Bialowieza National Park Management Plan, which is essentially a forest management plan. There are four zones within Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park: the strictly protected zone constitutes 38% of the park, closely followed by the economic activity zone (31%) and the regulated zone (26%). The remaining 5% is classed as a recreational zone.

Since 1991, Polish and Belarus authorities have tried to work together on management issues and the Director of the Belarussian Park has been nominated as a member of the Scientific Council of the Polish Bialowieza National Park. Between 1992 and 1996 the National Park was the subject of a transboundary Forest Biodiversity Protection Project funded by the Global Environmental Facility. The project aimed at supporting research culminating in land use plans, involving local people in the management and benefits of the area and introduced a Geographical Information System. One issue was the proposal to remove a two-metre high barbed-wire fence along the border which bisects the forest and impedes the movement of wildlife, fragmenting the populations and hindering the movements of staff. However, its removal could attract Belarussian bison herds to the broadleaf forests of Poland, so a gated fence will probably remain (UNESCO/IUCN, 2004). Formal monitoring includes eight topics. A bilateral transboundary cooperation agreement between the two National Park authorities in November 2006 prioritized the conservation of the forest’s biodiversity and its use for educational and recreational purposes, but no further recommendations for transboundary cooperation were made (IUCN, 2008).

In 2004, the 75th anniversary of the reintroduction of the bison, there were celebrations of the Year of the Bison with many promotional and conservation activities. Chief among these, urged by a 2003 IUCN and UNESCO Mission, was to achieve an integrated transboundary management plan for both sectors, incorporating improved practices for managing both the core area and the adjacent forests. The Mission also recommended restoring disturbed old forest ecosystems, restoring the damaged hydrological regime, removal of the border fence, better protection of rare species, better legislation, a surveillance Council, better empowered scientific advisors and more international oversight (UNESCO/ IUCN, 2004).

Poland: The 10,500 ha National Park surrounding the World heritage site comprises about 17% of Poland’s Bialowieza forest. It consists of a strictly protected core zone of 6,061 ha with a zone of active nature and landscape management of 4,103 ha around the village (B. Jaroszewicz, in litt., 2002). In this zone, clear felling, hunting and the use of insecticides are banned. Access is limited to research and guided visitors; all motor vehicles are banned. This area is now managed under a new management plan which runs from 2012 – 2031. The Hwozna Protective District covers an area of 5,155 ha. It comprises a mosaic of old growth forest stands, including conifer species that are not represented in other areas of the Park. This is surrounded by a 1 km wide forest buffer zone to the north, west and south. A zone of 272 ha in the south western part of the site, the Research Restitution Centre, is used for breeding bison and tarpan horses. The Park’s headquarters are at Palace Park near the village of Bialowieza, outside the strict protected zone. The multiple use zone surrounding it is 49 ha in area (World Heritage, 1998). A management plan and 20-year protection plan were to be completed by 2007. Between 1992 and 1996 a transboundary Forest Biodiversity Protection Project was funded by the Global Environmental Facility. From the early 1990s there was a movement to expand the Park over the whole extent (62,219 ha) of Poland’s Bialowieza Forest (B. Zaroszevicz, in litt., 2004). This plan was rejected by the government which, in 2003, instituted a management plan for a new Reserve, the Natural Forests of Bialowieza, for sustainable multi-purpose management of 8,581 hectares of forest throughout the remaining forest in place of its conservation (Verhart, 2003).

The Scientific Council of the Polish Bialowieza National Park in its role as an advisory board for administration of the Park has proposed the adoption of monitoring systems for pollution, staff exchanges at different levels and a direct telephone link between the headquarters at Bialowieza and Kamieniuki. In 2004, on the 75th anniversary of the reintroduction of the bison, an IUCN/UNESCO mission recommended several policies to both parks including enlarging the core areas, especially necessary in Poland, by including the whole National Park and beyond it, to better protect their relatively small area (UNESCO/IUCN, 2004). In 2006 there was a cooperation agreement between the two National Park authorities, focussing on measures to facilitate the movement of park staff between the two countries but this did not occur at ministerial level. By 2008 the property was in a good state of conservation and appeared effectively managed. The authorities were drafting management principles for the whole Bialowieza forest surrounding and including the property to encourage an approach more focussed on conservation. Eventually a transboundary conservation strategy with shared objectives and activities was realised in 2014 (UNESCO, 2014).


Belarus: The forests of the World Heritage sites are the only nearly undisturbed islands of old-growth forest in the whole area and are very vulnerable to negative changes in their surroundings. Until 1991 the greatest hazard came from run-off generated by the 40 tons of pesticide and over 30,000 tons of fertiliser used annually by large state farms within or close to the buffer zone. Further disturbance to the hydrological balance has been caused by drainage and land reclamation projects underway since the 1960s, with roads and over 90 km of canals constructed within the Reserve so far, which threaten one of the most economically important species in the forest, the Norway spruce, which is extremely sensitive to changes in the ground water table (Anon, 1991). There were also an estimated 60,000 free-ranging cattle within the Pushcha, 1,200 being permitted to graze over 11,000 ha of forest within the reserve. Other provisions made for farming within the buffer zone included 1,500 ha of hay meadows for intensive cultivation, in addition to 240 ha of arable land and 750 ha of meadows for cultivation by Park employees. Disease amongst the bison has necessitated some sanitary culling; and rampant invasion of the forest by up to 165 alien plant species has to be limited (N. Bambiza in litt., 2002). It was said that illegal hunting by high officials among others should be restrained.

The new Park management is said to have victimised and alienated the local people for their opposition to its policy. These facts are detailed on the website of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha XXI Group (BPXXIth CI, 2004), are detailed in Annexes to the UNESCO/IUCN Mission Report of 2004, and are widely condemned in the published discussions of the similar Polish forestry policy. Both policies exploit for commercial profit to the state, the uniquely untouched nature of the Pushcha (Wesolowski, 2003a, 2003b). The UNESCO/IUCN Mission Report of 2008 stated that 82,371 hectares of the property within Belarus “had not been managed in a way compatible with its World Heritage status, thus potentially affecting the integrity of the property”. It also noted the fragmentation of the property by the fencing in Belarus constricting the movements and affecting the genetics of large mammal populations, several networks of vehicular trails which should be reduced to limit incursions, the presence of invasive red oak, and overgrazing of flora by bison and deer (UNESCO, 2009). The IUCN Evaluation Report of 2014 (WHC-14/38.COM/INF.8B2) has noted however that it considers the property to successfully meet the necessary criteria for integrity and protection. Although the property is considered to be satisfactorily managed, the IUCN Evaluation Report does recommend that better collaboration is established between the two State Parties.

Poland: Large-scale illegal and government-sponsored commercial logging in the surrounding old-growth forests and its conversion to conifer plantations have historically been major management constraints. A secondary threat is the potential infestation of bark beetles as a result of a prolonged drought. At present “only about 13% [of Bialowieza Forest] is free of any management, where natural processes can operate without human intervention”; and “the importance of preserving the whole Bialowieza Forest as a national park is not recognised by the authorities”. The multi-purpose forest management of the surrounding Bialowieza forest instigated by the Ministry of the Environment in 2003 was done to increase its economic productivity. Contrary to a 1998 government prohibition, this has allowed commercial logging of trees over 100 years old, supposedly to control infection by spruce bark beetle although such logging tends to disperse the disease. This was done without consulting the Park’s Director (BBC, 2003) or considering the part played by the beetles, by dead trees and by the lack of management in the forest’s natural ecology (Wesolowski, 2003a,b).

The historical replacement of primeval forest by conifer plantations, intensified forest management, clear-felling and selective logging, were the greatest threats to the integrity of the forest. There are also negative impacts from the trampling by tourists of vegetation and soil, the introduction of invasive alien species, air pollution, a nearby railway line carrying very large quantities of highly toxic chemicals, the disturbance of water regimes by drainage of farmland in the contiguous Belarussian forests and the creation of a reservoir river near the Park. A large hotel and recreational complex are located near Bialowieza village. A border crossing point planned at Bialowieza will inevitably attract tourist traffic into the heart of the forest which would be better routed around the forest if this is to be preserved.


Belarus: There are a General Director and four Deputy Directors for science & research, tourism, economy and trade. In 2012 there were almost 1300 employees of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, spanning research, education and tourism departments.

Poland: There was a total of 110 employees in 2012: 83 in the Park and 30 in the European Bison Breeding Centre. Over 50% have university qualifications in forestry or protected area management and field staff are routinely trained. A major activity is management of the bison at the restoration centre, and of free-ranging bison, and manning the research laboratories, museum and technical department (Okolow, pers. comm., 1995; World Heritage 1998). The Forest District Units, which constitute the Forest Promotion Complex ‘Bialowieza Forest’, together employ 134 people. These employees predominantly work as forest service and administration staff.


The funding for Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park in Belarus originates from the state budget in addition to extra-budgetary funds (funds sourced from the National Park proceeds). Similarly, the Bialowieza National Park in Poland receives a fixed budget from the State’s Ministry for the Environment as well as several sources of additional funding (again, funds sourced from the National Park). In 2011, the total budget for all components of the Bialowieza Forest World Heritage Site amounted to US\$ 23,051,266, the majority of which was the forest budget for the Forest Promotional Complex in Poland (US\$ 7,861,860). The second and third largest sources of funding were the external funds and State budget for Bielawiezskaha Puszcza in Belarus (US\$ 7,145,334 and US\$ 4,760,821 respectively).


Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Kamienyuki, Kamienets District, Brest 2225063, Belarus.

Bialowieski Park National Park, Park Palacowy 11, 17-230 Bialowieza, Park Poland.

General Board of National Parks, Wawelska 52/54, 00-922 Warsaw.


The principal sources for the above information were the original nominations for World Heritage status.

The bibliographies by Karpinski & Okolow (1969) and by Okolow (1976.1983, 1991) are available through the MAB National Committee of Poland.

Anon (1991). Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park World Heritage Nomination. 15 pp.

Anon (2005). Belovezhskaya Pushcha Must be a World Heritage Site Belovezhskaya Pushcha XXIst Century Initiative. www//

Association for Landscape Protection (2005). Do Not Tear Bialowieza Forest Apart! Appeal of the Association for Landscape Protection from Hajnowka to the Polish Ministry, National Council of Nature Protection & the regional authorities on necessity of integral plan for the Bialowieza region.

BBC World Section News (2003). Chainsaws Let Rip in Europe’s Oldest Forest. London.

BelaPAN News Co. (2003).

Belovezhskaya Pushcha XXIst Century Initiative (2004). Belovezhskaya Pushcha XXI National Park. Biosphere Reserve. World Heritage. www//

Borowski, S. & Okolow, C. (1988). Birds of the Bialowieza Forest. Acta. Zool. Cracow. 31, 2: 65-114.

Charai, N. (1987). Belovezhskaya Pushcha. In Belorussian, English, French, German and Spanish.

Cieslinski, S. & Tobolewski, Z. (1988). Lichens/Lichenes of the Bialowieza Forest and its western foreland. Phytocoenosis, Bialowieza, suppl.NS 1. 216 pp.

Czubinski, et al. (1973). Nature Reserves in Poland. Cracow. 528 pp.

Falinski, J (1986). Vegetation Dynamics in a Temperate Lowland Primeval Forest. Ecological Studies in Bialowieza Forest. W.Junk, Dordrecht. 537 pp.

IUCN (2008). State of Conservation Reports. Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest (Belarus/Poland). Gland, Switzerland

---------- (1997). Human Use of World Heritage Natural Sites. A Global Overview. Annex 3. Tourism in Natural World Heritage Sites. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

---------- (2004). Bialowieza-Kamenyuki-Brussels Appeal 2004 - A Forest Of Hope.

---------- (2015). Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 11 February 2015

Jakimiuk, S., Brandlmaier, H. & van Bogaert, O. (2003). Polish Protected Treasure Devastated by State Forest Axe. WWF Poland Programme Office and WWF International

Karpinski, J. (1948). Bark beetle fauna against a background of trees appearing in Bialowieza Forest. Res. Inst . No 49.

---------- (1949). Material on the bioecology of Bialowieza Forest. Res Inst . No.56.

---------- (1954). Birds in biocenosis of the forest in Bialowieza National Park. Res Inst . No.120.

Karpinski, J. & Okolow, Cz. (1969). Bibliography of the Bialowieza Forest. Warsaw. [Contains over 2,100 references on Bialowieza up to 1966.]

Kartsev, G. (in press). Belovezhskaya Pushcha 1382-1902. Vecherniy Brest, Brest, Belarus.

Kawecka, A. (1994). Strict Nature Reserve of the Bialowieza Forest. Bialowieza.

Kazulka, H. (2004). Belovezhskaya Pushcha Should Become a True World Heritage Site? For Belovezhskaya Pushcha XXIst Century Initiative website www//

Koster,T.,Langedijk, W.,van der Linden, B. & Smeenge H. (2003). Destruction of the Primeval Forest of Bialowieza.

Krasinski, Z. & Raczynski, J. (1970). Bison in Bialowieza Forest.

Krasinski, A. (1993). Bison a Relict of Ancient Times. Bialowieza. 20 pp.

MAB-Belarus. Belovezhskaya Pushcha Biosphere Reserve Nomination Form. 25 pp.

Matuszkiewicz, W. (1952). Forest communities in Bialowieza Forest . Ann Univ MCS. Sklodowska. Lublin, suppl. 6.

Obminski, Z. (1955). Research on forest habitat climate in Bialowieza National Park. Res Inst . No.141.

Okolow, C. (1976). Bibliography of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, 1967-1972. Bialowieza. 164 pp.

---------- (1983). Bibliography of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, 1973-1980. Bialowieza. 190 pp.

---------- (1986). The Bialowieza primaeval forest - the pearl of European forests. Parks 11: 2-3.

---------- (1991). Bibliography of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest (1981-1985). Bialowieza. 197 pp.

---------- (1994). Bialowieza. In: Breymeyer, A. (ed). Biosphere Reserves in Poland. Pp. 68-76.

---------- (1994). Monuments of Material Culture in the Bialowieza Forest . Bialowieza. 31 pp.

Olszewski, J. (1986). The Role of Forest Ecosystems in Modifying the Local Climate of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest. Ossolineum, Warsaw. 222 pp.

Paczoski, J. (1930). Forest of Bialowieza, Poznan.

Pachlewski, R. (1960). The Bialowicza National Park. State Council for Conservation of Nature. 25 pp.

Polish Academy Of Sciences, Committee For Nature Conservation, (2003). The Tragedy of the Bielowieza Forest, University of Wroclaw.

Reklamowo, A. & Grzegorczyk, W. (1997). Biosphere Reserves in Poland. Polish National MAB Committee, Warsaw. Pp. 71-97.

Society for Conservation Biology, European Section (2003). Resolution Concerning the Preservation of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest (Poland).

Sokolowski, A.(1981). Flora of the vascular plants of the Bialowieza Forest. Geobot. 27:1-2.

---------- (1987). Parki Narodowe i Rezerwaty Przyrody 4: 2.

Tomialojc, L. et al. (1984). Breeding bird community of a primeval temperate forest (Bialowieza Forest, Poland). Acta Orn. 29: 3.

Tomialojc, L. & Wesolowski, T. (2005) The avifauna of Bialoweiza forest. British Birds, 98: 174-193.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee (2001). Report on the 24th Session of the Committee. Paris.

---------- (2005). Report on the 29th Session of the Committee. Paris.

---------- (2009). Report on the 33rd Session of the Committee. Paris.

UNESCO/IUCN (2004). Report on the Joint UNESCO-IUCN Mission to Bialowieza Forest/ Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest, Poland and Republic of Belarus. UNESCO, Paris / IUCN, Gland Switzerland.

---------- (2006). State of Conservation of World Heritage Properties in Europe. Belarus/ Poland. Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest. UNESCO, Paris / IUCN, Gland Switzerland.

Verhart, F. (2003). Primaeval Forest or No Primaeval Forest? Kanne, Belgium. 9 pp.

Wesolowski, T. (1997). Bialowieza Forest. World Birdwatch 19(2): 12-15.

---------- (2003a). Save Bialowieza Forest, the Last Primaeval Forest of Europe.

---------- (2003b). Three Approaches To The Present Białowieża Forest Situation.

Wloczewski, T. (1952). Soils of Bialowieza Forest. Res Inst . No. 83.

Wiecko. E. (n.d.). Wostepach Puszczy Bialiowieskiej. 205 pp. [Illustrations, maps & English summary.]World Heritage Site Nominations (1978 and 1988).


Bialowieza: 1982, Updated 8-1986,11-1987, 5-1990, 8-1995,7-1997,11-1999,10-2008,1-2010, 5-2011, January 2012.

Belovezhskaya Pushcha: August 1994. Updated 10-2008, 1-2010, 5-2011, January 2012.

Bialowieza Forest: January, 2015.