Location and Values: Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in the limestone hills that rise above the Adriatic Sea, about 60km east of Croatia’s coastal town of Zadar. The lakes themselves are exquisitely beautiful – a series of sixteen turquoise gems, punctuated by spectacular cascades as the water tumbles over a series of travertine terraces that cross the steep-sided valley between each lake. The travertine barriers are created by the deposition of calcium carbonate from the mineral-rich waters in a complex biodynamic process that only occurs at a similar scale in a few other places around the world (including several other world heritage sites, such as China’s Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou Valleys). The lakes occupy a relatively small area within the park (where tourism activities are concentrated), but the park hinterland is extensive and supports a diversity of fauna and flora in its forest and grassland habitats. Most importantly, protection of the upstream hinterland ensures that the complex biodynamic processes, water quality and other environmental conditions required for the ongoing processes of travertine formation are protected.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Plitvice Lakes National Park is of ‘significant concern’. The IUCN report notes a number of threats to the site, particularly problems over water quality and a trend of rapid eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) which could upset the delicate biodynamic processes involved in travertine formation. The report also notes concerns over the rapid expansion of tourism facilities within (and around) the property which may also affect the site’s sensitive hydro-geological system, and the visual integrity of the site.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description