PRIMEVAL FORESTS IN THE DALES OF THE HIGHLAND STREAMS MALA BELICA AND GEROVČICA
The banks of the almost mystic and rarely visited dales of the highland streams Mala Belica and Gerovčica and the slopes of the surrounding, hard to reach, rocks hide the last remnants of primeval riparian forests (humid forests adjacent to surface water) and buffer forests on inaccessible ridges. These are perhaps the last oases of natural forest types in Gorski Kotar, still untouched by people. Another such forest known for its wide spaces, primeval appearance and other unusual features is the forest in the Bijele and Samarske Stijene Strict Reserve.
The course and banks of Mala Belica, not far from Guče Selo in Gorski Kotar, is a world unto itself. Stands of narrow-leaved willow (Salix elaeagnos); large, chaotically strewn rocks in the stream’s bed; the white shoals of abandoned courses and the high cliffs that tower directly over the dale create an unforgettable landscape and atmosphere in this area. Higher up on the mountain, on the inaccessible rocks surrounding the stream’s source, grows an interesting combination of mountain and sub-Mediterranean species of trees and shrubs, herbaceous plants and even mosses. This area became a part of the Natura 2000 network because of the ladybell (Adenophora liliifolia), a rare and threatened species that prefers wet habitats and is protected at the European level. Another important Natura 2000 species in the Mala Belica dale is the ground beetle Carabus (variolosus) nodulosus. Endangered at the European level, this beetle lives in the wet primeval forest near the spring and highland stream.
The area surrounding the spring of the highland stream Gerovčica boasts similar features. The underground channel of the spring of this occasionally water-rich stream breaks out into the light of day at the foot of an imposing, thickly stratified carbonate cliff that rises vertically, 280 metres into the air, near the hamlet of Zamost. From this spot on, where the very cold water pushes its way up through the soil, the Gerovčica is a bubbling, pure highland stream that is visited by birds typical of such habitats: the lively white-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) that dives into the water in search of aquatic insects, and the shimmering, emerald coloured kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) that perches on branches to search for prey and then plunges into the stream to seize small fish). The forest vegetation that grows along the stream bed, squeezed between the massive cliff and the steep lateral slopes, is typical of riparian (streamside) wet woodlands, with a lot of mosses hanging from the branches and trunks of the most different types of trees. There are also many uprooted trees (probably the result of the catastrophic ice storm that hit the forests of Gorski Kotar not so long ago). Because of these features, the forest in places takes on the appearance of primary primeval forest communities. Here woody and herbaceous species of diverse living conditions are intertwined. They range from those adapted to the constant cold, wetness and shade to those that are the exact opposite, warmth-loving and light-loving. For example, along the bed of the stream we can find beech trees, hornbeams, hop hornbeams, field maples, sycamore maples, Cornelian and many other trees and shrubs. On the cliff we can also find rare plants such as the endemic Seselria kalnikensis, which forms a special community of lithophytes.
Topic: People and Events, marking dates relevant to nature protection
Key words: primordial forests, buffer forests, riparian forests, dales of highland water courses
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Marko Randić and Bernhard Kubicki