The site comprises the Polish part of the Bia³owie¿a forest, one of the largest and best preserved areas of primary lowland temperate forest in Europe, together with small remnants of the Ladzka forest. The forest covers 1,500 km2 of flat plain, of which 620 km2 are in Poland, the rest in Belarus. Moraine hills rise only c.30 m above the landscape. All rivers which run through the forest have water sources there or on its periphery. Most of the forest lies in the Narew and Bug tributaries of the Wis³a (Vistula) catchment. The northern part is drained by tributaries of the Niemen, and the western part is part of the Dniestr catchment. There is an almost total lack of standing water, apart from small bogs. The proportion of forest that can be classed as primeval is not large, but many trees are over 200 years old (old-growth). Most forest is on dry ground, dominated by lime Tilia and hornbeam Carpinus, while the most interesting ornithologically is dominated by oak Quercus. Along valley watercourses there is carr of alder Alnus and ash Fraxinus, with Alnus forest in swampy hollows. There is mixed forest of pine Pinus and Quercus, as well as coniferous forest (mainly on wet soils) dominated by spruce Picea and Pinus. As a result of centuries of man's activities there are clearings, forest settlements, hay-meadows along rivers, road systems and trails, narrow-gauge railways, felling sites, hunting areas and gravel-pits.
A total of 250 species have been recorded, including 177-180 breeding. The site is especially rich in breeding raptors (15 species extant, two extinct), owls (eight species extant, one extinct) and woodpeckers (eight species, out of nine in Europe). Breeding species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Gallinago media (rare).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The greatest threat is from the ongoing replacement of primeval forest by plantations, through intensified forest management, clear-felling, selective logging, and afforestation with conifers. Railway transport of very large quantities of highly toxic chemicals through the forest (more than 100,000 tonnes per year) is a threat (`Other'), and forestry and tourism cause disturbance to birds. Since 1991 efforts have been made to protect the whole of Bia³owie¿a forest in Poland, involving OTOP and other nature-conservation organisations. About 80 projects relevant to nature conservation have been carried out in the area.
National Partial International Partial10,502 ha of IBA covered by National Park (Bia³owieski, 10,502 ha). 3,463 ha of IBA covered by 20 Nature Reserves (Berezowo; Dolina Waliczówki; Dêbowy Gr¹d; Gnilec; G³êboki K¹t; Koz³owe Borki; Lipiny; Michnówka; Nieznanowo; Olszanka Myliszcze; Podcerkwia; Podolany; Pogorzelce; Przew³oka; W³adys³awa Szafera; Siemianówka; Sitki; Starzyna; Szczekotowo; Wysokie Bagno; combined area 3,463 ha). 10,502 ha of IBA covered by Biosphere Reserve (Bia³owie¿a National Park, 10,502 ha). 10,502 ha of IBA covered by World Heritage Site (Bia³owie¿a National Park, 10,502 ha).
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bialowieza Forest. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 02/04/2023.