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Gorce National Park

Location, area, history
Gorce National Park covers the central and north-east part of the Gorce range, with its highest peak Jaworzyna Kamienicka(1,288 m a.s.l.). It is located in the southern part of Poland, in Nowy S1cz Province. The Park was established in 1981 over the area of 5,908 ha. Beginnings of nature conservation measures in this area go back to 1927 when "Władysław Orkan" nature reserve was created on Turbacz, within the land of count Ludwik Wodzicki from Poreba Wielka. Today's area of the Park is 7,019 ha, of which 6,610 ha (94.2%) are forests. Strict protection is in place on 2,850 ha (40.6%), including 2,799 ha of forests. The area of Gorce N.P. protection zone is 16,647 ha.

Geology, geomorphology and soils
The Gorce landscape is dominated by gentle, domed hills. River valleys cut deeply into the range forming a shape of an octopus with the central point - the peak of Turbacz. Typical elements of the relief are sandstone rock outcrops present on the northern slopes. There are a couple of small caves formed as a result of rock movements. Geological substrate is built of sediments of the Carpathian flysh of Magura fold nappe. They include sandstone and conglomerate complexes (forming the elevations) as well as shale and sandstone complexes (in the depressions and passes).Gorce Apart from Turbacz, the Park contains also other highest mountains of the Gorce range: Jaworzyna Kamienicka (1,288 m a.s.l), Kiczora (1,282 m a.s.l.), Kudłon (1,279 m a.s.l.), and Gorc Kamienicki (1,228 m a.s.l.), as well as the Front of Turbacz.

Water ecosystems take up 19 ha (about 0.3%) of the Park total area. The Park lies in the heads of the Kamienica river. Along its stretch the river collects many small streams.

944 species of vascular plants, 250 species of mosses, 450 species of lichens, and 116 species of liverworts were found in the entire Gorce area. About 85% of them are present in the Park. Typical for the Gorce are mountainous plants, of whom alpine (12 species, found above the upper border of forests) and sub-alpine species (24 species growing usually on the glades) are the most valuable. Forests cover about 95% of the Park area. Many treestands are over 100 years old. The dominant species are: spruce, beech, European fir, while admixture species include: larch, elm, ash and grey alder. Lower mountain forest zone stretches between 650 and 1,100 m a.s.l., the upper mountain forest zone between 1,100 and 1,310 m a.s.l. Deciduous mountain forest of the lower forest zone is a prevailing forest type. Coniferous alpine forest grows on about 5% of the Park area. 7 forest communities were identified in the Park. The lower mountain forest zone consists of: Carpathian beech forest, coniferous forest with spruce and fir, acidic mountain beech forest, Carpathian alder forest, wet alder forest, and rich fir forest. The upper mountain forest zone is built of spruce forest. Non-forest communities, meadows and glades cover about 5% of the Park area. 35% of vascular plant species of the Park are found here. Non-forest ecosystems contain 16 different plant communities. Some of the meadows and glades are a result of human activity. Reduction of grazing on the glades caused intensified succession of shrubs and trees. This lead to the destruction of many plant communities and the withdrawal of species typical for alpine meadows. Preparatory works are currently conducted to elaborate guidelines for conservation of the most naturally and culturally valuable glades in the Park.

The Park fauna is typical for the Beskidy range. Mountainous, boreal/alpine, and forest birds are largely represented. Birds of prey include: buzzard, honey buzzard, hobby, goshawk, owls (eagle owl, Ural owl, tawny owl). Gamebirds are represented by hazelhen, black grouse, capercaillie. Among other species the most interesting are: black stork, nutcracker, raven, dipper, and other, including rock pipits. There are about 30 species of mammals, among which the most valuable are large predators e.g. wolf, lynx, brown bear, and the most common - red deer, roe deer, and wild boar. Interesting species are representatives of Myoxidae - common dormouse, fat dormouse, and forest dormouse. The following amphibians can be found here: spotted salamander which is functions as the Park symbol, 4 species of newts, common frog, European toad, and Bombina variegata. Reptiles are represented by sand and common lizards, blind-worm, adder, grass-snake. The most abundant but yet the least known group are invertebrate.

Material culture and tourism
First settlements in the Gorce area are dated at 12th Century. The process of forests removal and creation of grazed glades lasted till the end of the 18th Century. The largest damages of forests took place in the 19th Century when primeval forests in easily accessible places were massively felled. Part of spruce forests of the upper mountain forest zone are seriously weakened and susceptible to damage caused by strong winds and forest insect pests, especially spruce bark beetle. Restructuring of treesands and preservation of glades, also for cultural reasons, are the main problems of the Park.
The Gorce, including the Gorce National Park have many monuments of local architecture. Local population still maintains some customs. On the glades one can see shepherd's huts, often having a status of material culture monuments. The oldest sacral monument in the Park is the chapel on Jaworzynka Kamienicka glade, built in 1904 by Tomasz Chlipała, called Bulanda. There are many legends associated with the chapel and its constructor, who was a well known head shepherd and conjurer.
The Park landscape is natural and the level of human interference is low. For this reason the Park is a very interesting site for tourism. The Park is well prepared to welcome visitors, however their numbers are still low. Because of its location (relatively high elevation), the Park can offer many sites where beautiful panoramic views can be enjoyed over the neighbouring mountain ranges, the most attractive of which include the Tatra, Babia Góra, and Pieniny mountains and many visual channels.