Serbian Cultural Heritage

The Tara National Park with the Drina River Canyon

The Tara National Park is in the westernmost part of Serbia and represents a mountainous area with exceptionally important geo-morphological, hydrographic and ecological natural values. The total area of the National Park is 19,200 ha with a protective zone of 37,584 ha. The Tara National Park comprises the mountainous region located in a large elbow shaped curve of the Drina River formed by this river in the central section of its course. In morphological terms, the area of the National Park comprises a group of mountain elevations (highest elevations about 1600 m.) and sharp relief intersected by deep cut river canyons. Among them the most prominent is the canyon of the Drina River which marks the Park’s north and northwest borders. Towering limestone walls, tn places over 1000 meters high, form its valley. Much of the area is composed of carbonaceous rocks and abounds in karst morphology and hydrography (sink holes, smaller hollows, pits and caves, dry karst valleys and springs). What makes the Tara National Park especially valuable is the fact that this area is a mountain refugium where relict Tertiary flora and vegetation with complex forest phytocoenoses in which endemics and relicts dominate have been preserved to date.

Habitat conditions on Tara have not significantly changed since the Tertiary to date. As the glacial and interglacial epochs went by, the climatic extremes in the Balkans were -to a large extent mitigated by a section of the large Paratethys – the Pannonian Sea, an arm of which penetrated as far as Mt. Tara via what today is the Drina river valley. Relict habitats on Tara, especially the gorges of the Derventa and Brusnica rivers as well as the Drina river canyon, were a refugium with variegated and diversified Tertiary vegetation. Thirty-five forest communities have been identified, of which four are relicts and were more widespread in the Tertiary era. It is important to point out that over 60% of the territory of the Tara National Park are well-preserved forest complexes of spruce, fir, beech or pine. Parts of these forests rank as the best preserved and highest quality forest complexes in Europe. The greatest value of Mountain Tara and of entire Europe is the conifer species Pancicts spruce (Picea omorica Panc.), which has, since its discovery in 1876, provoked great interest in scientific circles. The spruce is a relict species originating in the Tertiary when it was broadcast across extensive ranges in Europe and parts of Asia. Having survived glaciation, this species receded and at present covers only a small narrow strip in the region of the central flow of the Drina river, in the Balkan peninsula and Europe. In this sense the spruce is an endemic, with a very narrow range. Issues which have still not been clarified in connection with this species are the question of its origin and the reasons of its confinement to such a saall range , as well as whether it is becoming biologically extinct or is receding under the influence of external factors and man.Conifers related to this spruce which appear in North America and Eastern Asia belong to other species. This spruce is considered the most beautiful conifer of Europe. In addition to Pancicts spruce, Tara also bosts Taxus baccata, Ilex aquifolium, Dafne blagoyana, species endangered in most of Europe.We shouid also point out that Pancic’s spruce on Tara is also encountered on a unique peat habitat which is a phenomenon as yet unrecorded for an endemo-relict species. The fauna of this region comprises a large number of species of which some are endangered: bear (Ursus arctos) chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) golden eagle (Aquila chryssetos),etc. It is assumed that before the Slavs came to this area the first inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula were Illyrian tribes while the Romans were not particularly interested in settling this region. There are some material remains in archaeological sites dating back to this period. There are also some medieval finds from 14th and 15th centuries as well as from the period of Turkish rule.