Location: Podlaskie Voivodeship Map
Map: 152 sq km
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Białowieża National Park - a Polish national park located in the
north-eastern part of Poland, in the Podlaskie Voivodeship, created
from the Reserve Forestry Inspectorate as a National Park in
Białowieża, in force since August 11, 1932, by the Regulation of the
Minister of Agriculture and Agricultural Reforms, restored in its
present form by virtue of a Council Regulation Of Ministers of
November 21, 1947. It is the second national park in Poland after
the Pieniny National Park and one of the first in Europe. Known for
the protection of the best-preserved fragment of the Białowieża
Primeval Forest, the last fragment of primeval forest in Europe, and
the world's largest libertarian bison population, numbering several
The seat of the park management is Białowieża. Currently, the park consists of two administrative units: the Protection District the Reserve and the Protection District of the European Bison Breeding Center. Protection Precinct Reserve (area 10,242.71 ha), of which: 6,059.27 ha is under strict protection, 4104.63 ha under active protection and 77.45 ha under landscape protection. Protection District The reserve is divided into Protection Districts: Gruszki, Zamosze, Masiewo, Cupryki, Sierganowo, Dziedzinka.
Protection Precinct Bison Breeding Center (area 274.56 ha). The entire closed farming area is under landscape protection. It consists of:
closed (reserve) breeding, i.e. two breeding reserves and a European Bison Show Reserve with back-up facilities.
free breeding. Employees of the Protection Unit of the European Bison Breeding Center deal with restitution breeding of European bison living in the entire Polish part of the Białowieża Forest (approximately 130,000 ha).
The Strict Protection Area of the Białowieża National Park in 1979, due to its importance for culture and human heritage, was entered on the prestigious UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. In 1992, UNESCO extended the status of a world heritage site to the part of the Belarussian national park "Bielavieżska Puszcza" adjacent to it from the east, under strict protection (4500 ha). In this way, one of seven in the world and three in Europe, a cross-border world heritage site was created in the Białowieża Primeval Forest.
The oldest traces of human presence in the Białowieża Primeval Forest
come from the Neolithic, i.e. about 4,500 years ago. These are simple
flint tools, stone hatchets and the remains of utensils. Two settlements
also come from the Neolithic, discovered in 1923 near the village of
Rudnia and between the villages of Krynica and Kupicze.
In the period from the 1st century BC until the 5th century AD in the area of the forest there were settlements bearing traces of the mixed influences of the dashed and Przeworsk pottery cultures, and then the Wielbark culture. One of such settlements, dating from the turn of the 1st century BC. in the 1st century CE, it was found in the Berezowo hunting clearing (Białowieża Forest District). Remains of iron smelters from bog iron ore, iron and ceramic relics as well as bones of domestic cattle and deer were also discovered there. This fact indicates that, in addition to hunting and breeding, the population of this area was involved in the local extraction of ore and the burning of charcoal necessary for smelting iron. This led to a slight loss in the forest surface, but after the ancient period there was a pause in settlement, which allowed for their regeneration.
Two forest cemeteries found so far, left by representatives of the Wielbark culture, come from this period. The first is an isolated skeleton grave of a child from the 3rd-4th century, found in a gravel pit in the Hajduki forest, on the road from Białowieża to Narewka. However, it may only be a fragment of the cemetery that was destroyed during the sand excavation. The second find is a cremation graveyard from the 3rd-5th century, found in the Wielka Kletna wilderness in the Białowieża National Park itself. It probably contains 60-70 flat graves located in a former mid-forest clearing. In the vicinity of the Białowieża Primeval Forest, there are three other cemeteries of the Wielbark Culture, containing cremation-like barrows or flat graves.
A large number of objects of foreign origin found in graves may indicate the existing road network, while the constant, several percent share of pollen from plants growing in open areas (mainly grasses) and anthropogenic pollen in palynological data from the 1st-4th century indicates a slight degree of its deforestation in that period.
The first plans to create a national park in Białowieża were made in 1916, mainly on the initiative of a Gdańsk botanist and one of the founders of the nature conservation movement, Dr. Hugo Conwentz. They did not gain much support then. The idea of protecting at least a part of the forest returned in 1919, during the counting of Białowieża bison. Its advocates were then the Polish botanist, professor of the Jagiellonian University, Władysław Szafer, professor Eugeniusz Kiernik and engineer Jan Kloska. These efforts, as well as previous efforts, have proved fruitless.
On December 29, 1921, on the initiative and thanks to the efforts of a group of Polish naturalists and foresters headed by Professor Władysław Szafer, the Ministry of Agriculture and State Goods, on the basis of the decision of December 29, 1921, separated the forestry, which on April 13, 1924 was raised to the rank of a forest inspectorate of the same name. The forest divisions with the numbers: 258, 288, 289, 319 and 344 were recognized as a strict reserve. The divisions located at the fork of the Narewka and Hwoźna rivers and several divisions from the former Zwierzyniec forest district became a partial reserve. In 1923, Józef Paczoski took over the management of the reserve, and began research there. On September 9, 1928, Jan Jerzy Karpiński took over the management. On January 1, 1929, the forest inspectorate was placed under strict protection.
Pursuant to the ordinance issued by the Minister of Agriculture on August 4, 1932, the Reserve forest inspectorate was transformed into the "National Park in Białowieża", with an area of 4,693.24 hectares. The park was subordinate to the Directorate of State Forests in Białowieża, but the scientific supervision over it was entrusted to the Experimental Station of the State Forests in Warsaw.
After the war, the Park was reactivated by the regulation of the Council of Ministers of October 21, 1947 and has been known as Białowieża National Park ever since. It was joined by meadows on the rivers Narewka and Hwoźna. The Narewka River became the western border of the Park, the northern border - the Hwoźna River, and the eastern border with the USSR. The trees are dominated by spruce and hornbeam, while smaller areas are occupied by alder, pine, birch, oak and ash. No economic activities are performed in the Park, it serves scientific and didactic purposes, and partly also for tourism.
On October 26, 1996, the area of the park was enlarged to 10,502 ha
by joining a part of the area of two neighboring forest districts, and
a buffer zone of 3224 ha was created around the park. Since April 19,
2011, the protection zone of game animals has also been covered by the
buffer zone, which means that hunting and the creation of hunting
equipment are forbidden.
The strict protection area in the Białowieża National Park is the last fragment of the primeval forest of Europe that has survived to our times. Many opponents of appreciating this uniqueness deny it, asking how primitive it is, since we find in it numerous traces of human activity? It is true that man has been in the Forest a long time ago, but he has never managed to break the natural natural processes that have shaped this forest for thousands of years, since the last ice age. From the beginning of the twentieth century, this fragment of the forest was already protected against the exploitation of the age of technology, development and wars.
The Białowieża National Park is situated at the watershed of the Vistula and the Nemunas. There are no lakes or major rivers in the park. The most valuable area of the park lies at the fork of the Hwoźna and Narewka rivers. The Orłówka River has its source in the park. Moreover, the following tributaries of the Narewka flow through the park: Łutownia, Przedzielna and Braszcza. The average air temperature per year is 6.8 ° C, while the average amount of precipitation is 633 mm per year, most of which falls in the growing season.
The Białowieża Primeval Forest is the living environment for a huge number of animal species for this climate zone. Starting from invertebrates: protozoa, flatworms, roundworms, gastropods, molluscs, earthworms, tardigrades, spiders, mites, wraps, insects and many others, to vertebrates: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - so far, the presence of over 12 thousands of animal species. There are about 35-40 thousand of them in Poland. It is estimated that the forest fauna is recognized in about 50%, so the actual number of species inhabiting this forest massif may be around 25,000.
The value and uniqueness of the Forest is determined not by the number but the quality of the animal species present in it. There are few species associated with man-transformed environments and many species characteristic of natural forests. It is also characteristic that species very often occur in small densities of individuals, with a very high diversity in a given area. So far, around 12,000 have been identified in the Białowieża Primeval Forest. animal species, most of which are invertebrates, especially insects (8,000 species). In addition, there are 58 species of mammals, 120 species of birds, 32 species of fish, 7 species of reptiles and 11 species of amphibians.
The bison is the symbol of the park, because it was in this park that this animal was saved from extermination. Wisents were almost completely extinct in the 18th century. Their sparse populations survived only in the Caucasus and the Białowieża Primeval Forest. In 1919, the last individual in the Białowieża Forest was killed. The Caucasian population also died out. Individuals from zoos began to be brought to Białowieża. Initially, they were bred in a separate courtyard. It was not until 1952 that the first specimens were released. Currently, about 950 bison live in the Białowieża Primeval Forest (of which about 510 on the Polish side), out of 4,500 all over the world; all of them come from Białowieża breeding.
The Białowieża Primeval Forest is the best-preserved natural forest in the East European Plain. Deciduous forests cover over 2/3 of the park. The largest area is covered by hornbeam forests (oak-hornbeam), which grow on the most fertile soils of the forest. In places flooded with water for several months, alder and riparian forests grow, mainly consisting of black alder and ash. In drier places, however, pine, spruce and mixed forests grow. There are 20 forest complexes here. In general, the flora of the park consists of over 1,000 species of plants, including 728 species of vascular plants and 277 species of lichens. Particularly rare plants include the European globe, Siberian iris, mountain arnica and marsh violet.
The richness of the local primeval forest is best seen in the multi-layered nature of the local broadleaved forests. The top floor is occupied by single spruces, often exceeding 50 m in height. The oaks, lindens and ash trees are less high (40–44 m). The maple does not reach 40 m. Hornbeams grow at its lowest, up to a height of 30 m.
The Białowieża National Park is characterized by a large amount of dead wood. In the Strict Protection Area, it covers about 25% of the mass of all trees. Thanks to the decomposition of dead trunks, valuable nutrients are returned to the soil, restoring its fertility. Moreover, dead wood becomes a habitat for countless saproxylic organisms - fungi, bacteria and invertebrates. Many of them are endangered species found nowhere else in Europe.
About 140,000 tourists come to the Białowieża National Park every year. The most frequently visited sites are the Bison Show Reserve, the BNP museum and the BNP Strict Protection Area. Tourists may enter the strict protection areas (Orłówka Protection District) and the museum only under the supervision of an authorized guide. In this area, there are routes to the Jagiełło Oak and further to the honey pine trees (visiting time about 3 hours). There are two marked hiking and cycling routes in the Hwoźna Protection District, 6.5 km long and 11.5 km long. An animal observation tower was built in the Narewka valley.