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Forests of the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:15 pm
by Jeroen Philippona
Forests of the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

The last days of our trip to the Balkans we visited the Plitvice National Park in central Croatia. It is the largest and most visited of the National Parks of Croatia and famous for its chain of turquoise coloured lakes arranged in cascades connected by numourous waterfalls.
The upper lake, second largest of the Plitvice lakes
The upper lake, second largest of the Plitvice lakes
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Surrounding the lakes are low mountains covered by dense forests. The mountains consist of karstic rock, mainly dolomite and limestone with the associated lakes, underground rivers and many caves. Altitude varies from 367 m at the lower end of the lakes to 1280 m in the western part of the park. Just to the east of the park are mountains up to 1640 m. The lakes are mostly between 500 and 636 m a.s.l.
The forests surrounding the lakes are heavy dominated by European beech, but mixed with some spruce and fir. Near the lakes sycamore maple, Italian maple, hop hornbeam, willows and black alder can be seen.
The forests surrounding the lakes are heavy dominated by European beech, but mixed with some spruce and fir. Near the lakes sycamore maple, Italian maple, hop hornbeam, willows and black alder can be seen.
The national park has an area of 29,842 hectares, out of which three quarters (22,308 hectares) are forests.
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Of these forests the most special is Čorkova Uvala, a strict reserve of 80 hectares in a rather remote northwestern part of the park. Alas visits to this are not allowed without a special permission and a guide. It consists of a real old growth beech-fir-spruce forest at an altitude of between 850 and 1000 m on limestone mountains, characterised by annual precipitations of over 1750 mm.

Several publications we knew of mention that in this reserve grow large and tall Norway spruce (Picea abies) and European white fir (Abies alba) with heights of up to at least 50, possibly 55 m for spruce and even 58 m for fir and diameters to 1.6 m (Mayer & Neumann 1981; height measurements will have been done with tangent method). In these publications it is written that the firs and spruces can attain ages of 300 to 550 years, while beech normally lives around 200 years with maxima of over 300 years.

Whilst we had had no contact with the park authorities in advance and because it was not 100 % certain that there were no land mines in or near the reserve, we did not visit it.

So visiting the lakes and waterfals we saw something of the forests around the lakes, which, although not being real old growth, still show a quite natural character. Being at lower altitude these forests consist of some Norway spruce but mostly of hardwood species like European beech (Fagus sylvatica), sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), Italian maple (Acer opalus),
Leaves of Italian maple, Acer opalus
Leaves of Italian maple, Acer opalus
field maple (Acer campestre), European hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia),
A large multitrunk Hop Hornbeam, Ostrya carpinifolia
A large multitrunk Hop Hornbeam, Ostrya carpinifolia
common whitebeam (Sorbus aria) and black alder (Alnus glutinosa). Of hop-hornbeam and Italian maple we saw relatively large specimens, respectively to 21 and 27 m tall and with girths of up to 3 m.

Literature.
H.Mayer and M. Neumann (1981). Struktureller und entwicklungsdynamischer Vergleich der Fichten-Tannen-Buchen Urwälder Rothwald/ Niederösterreich und Čorkova Uvala/ Kroatien.

Re: Forests of the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:29 pm
by Will Blozan
Jeroen,

What a stunning place- and your great photos illustrate it well. It is too bad you all could not survey in the old-growth section. Maybe on another trip?

Thanks for sharing your photos and interesting trip details.

Will

Re: Forests of the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Posted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:44 pm
by jamesrobertsmith
I saw a film about this park some time back. Made me want to see it before my time is up. I was impressed not only with the karst features of the park, but also the wildlife.