Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst
Slovakia, Inscribed in  1995
Criteria : viii

Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst

Learn more about the state of conservation of this natural World Heritage site by scrolling down to read assessment summaries.More details can be found by navigating to the "Full references" tab, where conservation issues, benefits and projects are cited alongside values, threats, and protection and management.Sources of information are listed under references.

Finalised on 15 Jun 2014
Conservation Outlook

Good

The conservation outlook for the karst features of the site is good. Only about 1% of the caves are open for visitation and careful monitoring programmes are in place. Protection and management of the karst areas is relatively effective both in Hungary and Slovakia and on transboundary level. However, potential threats, such as pollution from agricultural activities in the area, require monitoring and careful planning, including development of an integrated management of the entire water catchment. There are some concerns regarding protection of the above-ground terrestrial biodiversity of the site.

Values

Good Trend: Stable
Current state and Trend of values
Good

More than 99% of the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst is preserved in its original natural condition and is well protected. The other 1% has been substantially modified as “show-caves” to allow human use, which includes 300,000 visitors annually (SoOUV, 2013). These caves are also in good condition and monitoring programmes are in place.

Threats

Low Threat
Overall Threats
Low Threat

Current threats to the site’s values (large number of visitors, associated litter, and illegal garbage disposal in the surrounding area) are relatively low but together add up to a source of concern for the conservation of the site´s values. Potential threats from increasing number of visitors, as well as pollution from agricultural activities in the area, require monitoring and careful planning, including development of an integrated management of the entire water catchment.

Protection and Management

Effective
Overall Protection and management
Effective

Protection and management of karst features is effective in both countries. An integrated management plan has been prepared for the transboundary site. The administrative bodies in two countries also carry out joint projects including research and monitoring. However, there are some concerns regarding protection of above-ground terrestrial biodiversity of the site.

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Assessment Information
Finalised on 15 Jun 2014

Values

More than 99% of the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst is preserved in its original natural condition and is well protected. The other 1% has been substantially modified as “show-caves” to allow human use, which includes 300,000 visitors annually (SoOUV, 2013). These caves are also in good condition and monitoring programmes are in place.

Good

World Heritage Values
Good Trend: Stable

Remarkable diversity of caves types and important evidence of geologic history
Good Stable

The site is distinctive in its great number (with 712 recorded at time of inscription) of different types of caves found in a concentrated area. Geological processes causing karst features to be buried by sediment and then later reactivated or exhumed provide evidence pertaining to the geologic history of the last tens of millions of years. Relicts of pre-Pleistocene karst (i.e. more than about 2 million years old) are very distinct in the area, and many of them show evidence for sub-tropical and tropical climate forms. These include rounded hills that are relicts of tropical karst later modified by Pleistocene periglacial weathering. This suite of paleokarst features, showing a combination of both tropical and glacial climates, is very unusual and is probably better documented in the Slovak Karst than anywhere else in the world. These caves are also noted for having the world's highest stalagmite, aragonite and sinter formations and an ice filled abyss, which considering the territory's height above sea level, is a unique phenomenon for central Europe (SoOUV, 2013).

Other Biodiversity values
Data Deficient Trend: NA

Important cave biodiversity
NA Trend: NA

Above-ground biodiversity
NA Trend: NA

Threats

Current threats to the site’s values (large number of visitors, associated litter, and illegal garbage disposal in the surrounding area) are relatively low but together add up to a source of concern for the conservation of the site´s values. Potential threats from increasing number of visitors, as well as pollution from agricultural activities in the area, require monitoring and careful planning, including development of an integrated management of the entire water catchment.

Low Threat

Current Threats
Very Low Threat

Despite the strict conservation activities, the fact that the caves are visited by such a large number of visitors might eventually lead to some damage and pilferage. However, the level of threat is very low.

Solid Waste
Very Low Threat

Elimination of illegal garbage disposal and building debris in the surrounding settlements is necessary to prevent pollution of the water in the caves system (SoOUV, 2013) .

Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
Very Low Threat

More than 99% of the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst is preserved in its original natural condition and is well protected. The other 1% has been substantially modified as “show-caves” to allow human use, which includes 300,000 visitors annually (SoOUV, 2013). Despite the strict conservation activities, the fact that the caves are visited by such a large number of visitors might eventually lead to some damage and pilferage (pers. observations).

Water Pollution
High Threat

There is a serious pollution problem which is contaminating cave waters and threatening the park's ecosystem. This arises from the increased use of pesticides and fertilizers in the surrounding areas and from tourist's vehicles and nearby industry (IUCN, 2000).

Potential Threats
Low Concern

There is a potential risk of pollution of the cave system from agriculture activities on the arable land in the area. Protection of the unique geological features of the site requires integrated management of the entire water catchment.

Other
Low Threat

The cave system is exceptionally sensitive to environmental changes, including agricultural pollution, deforestation and soil erosion. Maintenance of the integrity of active geological and hydrological processes (karst formation and the development or evolution of stalagmites and stalactites) requires integrated management of the entire water catchment area (SoOUV, 2013).

Protection and management

Protection and management of karst features is effective in both countries. An integrated management plan has been prepared for the transboundary site. The administrative bodies in two countries also carry out joint projects including research and monitoring. However, there are some concerns regarding protection of above-ground terrestrial biodiversity of the site.

Effective

Protection and management

Research
Highly Effective

In Slovakia,Slovak Academy of Sciences and Slovak Speleological Association are involved in the research activities. Research in Hungarian caves is undertaken by the Hungarian Academy of Science in collaboration of the Aggtelek National Park Directorate. Research on biodiversity values of the site is, however, limited.

Monitoring
Highly Effective

Regular monitoring of the caves’ stateand development is carried out by the Aggtelek National Park Directorate in Hungary and the Slovak Caves Agency (Periodic Report, 2006)

Tourism and visitation management
Highly Effective

Interpretation of cave protection, cave values and cave benefit for local people is very effective. There are a lot of materials available in both countries. A tourism management plan is available on both countries (Periodic Report, 2006).

Education and interpretation programs
Highly Effective

Both countries have good education and interpretation programmes in place (Periodic report, 2006).

Sustainable use
Effective

The current levels of visitation appear sustainable, however, careful monitoring is required to ensure conservation of the site’s values.

Staff training and development
Effective

In Slovakia, there are 15 administrative staff members and 18 cave guards . In Hungary, the Aggtelek National Park Directorate is comprised of 60 staff members (Periodic report, 2006). Speleological staff in both countries receive regular training.

Sustainable finance
Effective

In both countries the national parks receive budget from the state which appears adequate.

Boundaries
Highly Effective

The site's northern and southern boundaries are defined by the geological borderline between karstic and nonkarstic rocks, whilst the western and northeasternmost points comprise Jelsava town and Jasov village, respectively (IUCN, 2000).

Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Data Deficient

No recent Committee decisions.

Management effectiveness
Highly Effective

Protection of the caves appears effective (pers. obs.)

Management system (for transboundary/serial properties, integrated management system should also be described/evaluated)
Highly Effective

In Slovakia, management of the caves system is implemented by the Slovak Caves Agency in Liptovský Mikuláš. Management of terrestrial ecosystems is implemented by the Authority of the Slovak Karst National Park in Brzitín. Aggtelek Karst is administered by the Aggtelek National Park Directorate. The administrative bodies in two countries carry out joint projects including research, protection and monitoring (SoOUV, 2013). An Integrated Management Plan has been prepared for the transboundary site. Permanent monitoring and control of caves’ condition is carried out by Speleological Guardian Service (Speleologická strážna služba).

Integration into regional and national planning systems (including sea/landscape connectivity)
Effective

Both national parks are well integrated into the regional systems of protected areas.

Legal framework
Highly Effective

All of the caves are State-owned and their protection is guaranteed by the Act no. LIII. 1996 on nature protection in Hungary and by the Slovak Constitution no. 90/2001, and the Act of Nature Protection and Landscape no. 543/2002 in Slovakia, irrespective of ownership or protection status of the surface areas (SoOUV, 2013). The Aggtelek Karst (Hungary) was first declared a protected landscape area in 1978 under decision No.8/1978 of the President of the National Authority for Environment and Nature Conservation (OKTH), and in 1985 was designated a national park by law-decree No.7/1984 (XII.29.) OKTH (IUCN, 2000). The Slovak Karst Landscape Protected Area was established in 1973 and in 2002 the Slovak Karst National Park was established (Act No. 543/2002). The protection arrangements are considered highly effective in Hungary and sufficiently effective in Slovakia (Periodic Report, 2006).

Relationships with local people (including stakeholder relationships, participatory management, rights, and access to benefits and equity)
Effective

There is one sizeable settlement (Silica) and two hamlets within the Slovak protected area and two villages (Aggtelek and Jósvafő with approximately 1,100 inhabitants) inside the Aggtelek National Park's boundaries (SoOUV, 2013).

Overall assessment of protection and management

Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern

Management programs are mainly focused on the internal threats. The few threats from outside the site, such as water flow from arable agriculture lands, have not been addressed to any extent.

Overall assessment of protection and management
Effective

Protection and management of karst features is effective in both countries. An integrated management plan has been prepared for the transboundary site. The administrative bodies in two countries also carry out joint projects including research and monitoring. However, there are some concerns regarding protection of above-ground terrestrial biodiversity of the site.

Best Practice Examples

Additional Information

Key Conservation Issues

Issues

Large number of visitors
Local

Careful monitoring needs to be sustained to prevent from negative impact from tourism.

Surface activities
Local

Key agriculture stakeholders are poorly involved in site management. An integrated management of the entire watershed is necessary to ensure that the caves are protected from pollution in the long-term.

Benefits

Health and recreation

Tourism generates considerable economic benefits.

Projects

Active Conservation Projects

N0 Organization/ individuals Brief description of Active Projects Contact Details
1 Aggtelek National Park Directorate Several conferences, symposiums and workshops Aggteleki Nemzeti Park Igazgatósága (Aggtelek National Park Directorate)
2 Slovak Caves Administration Organization of Conferences, Symposiums and Workshops Správa Slovenských jaskýň (Slovak Caves Administration)

Compilation of potential project needs

N.O0 Organization/ individuals Brief description of Active Projects Contact Details
Data is not available
Rn0 References
1 Baross G. (ed.) 1998: Az Aggteleki Nemzeti Park (Aggtelek National Park). — Mezőgazda Kiadó 519 p. (in Hungarian)
2 Székely K. (2003): Magyarország fokozottan védett barlangjai (Strictly protected caves of Hungary) . — Mezőgazda Kiadó 426 p. (in Hungarian)
3 http://anp.nemzetipark.gov.hu/erzekeny-termeszeti-teruletek
4 IUCN (2000). Advisory Body Evaluation.
5 Periodic report, 2006.
6 WHC (2013). Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value.
7 UNESCO, 2010: World Heritage Sites. A Complet Guide to 890 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO Publishing. Firefly Books. New York, U.S.A. 840 pp.
8 Bella, P. and Holúbek, P., 1999: Zoznam jaskýň na Slovensku (List of Caves in Slovakia). Bratislava: Ministerstvo životného prostredia SR, 268 pp.
9 Bella, P. (ed), 2000: Výskum, využívanie a ochrana jaskýň (Research, using and conservation of Caves). Zborník referátov z vedeckej konferencie. Liptovský MIkuláš.
10 Vološčuk, I. and Tomaškinová, J., 2011: Ekologický, vedecko-výskumný a environmentálny potenciál krajiny a ekosystémov Svetového dedičstva Slovenský kras (Ecological, Scientific-Research and Environmental Potential of Landscape and Ecosystems of the Slovak Karst World Heritage). Banská Bystrica: Matej Bel University, Faculty of Nature Sciences, 132 pp. ISBN 978-80-557-0291-9.
11 Vološčuk, I. et al., 2011: Dynamika sukcesných procesov, štruktúry a ekologickej intregrity ekosystémov Slovenského krasu (The Dynamics of succession processes, structure and ecological integrity of the Slovak karst ecosystem´s). Banská Bystrica: Matej Bel University, Faculty of Nature Sciences, 240 pp. ISBN 978-80-557-0296-4.
12 Jakál, J. (ed.), 2005: Jaskyne svetového dedičstva na Slovensku (The Caves of the World Heritage in Slovakia). Liptovský MIkuláš: Správa slovenských jaskýň, 159 pp. ISBN 80-8064-235-4.

Site Description

The variety of formations and the fact that they are concentrated in a restricted area means that the 712 caves currently identified make up a typical temperate-zone karstic system. Because they display an extremely rare combination of tropical and glacial climatic effects, they make it possible to study geological history over tens of millions of years.

ⓒ UNESCO