Lurë National Park

Lurë, Albania

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The Lurë National Park (Albanian: Parku Kombëtar i Lurës) is a national park in northeastern Albania, spanning an area of 12.8 km2 (4.9 sq mi), encompassing as well the eastern section of Kunora e Lurës. The park was established in 1966 to protect the various ecosystems and biodiversity. The altitude vary from 1,500–2,300 m (4,921–7,546 ft).[4] The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the park as Category II. Nevertheless, it is described as an important Bird and Plant Area, because it supports significant bird and plant species.[5][6]

In behalf to a great variability in elevation, Lurë National Park is densely populated in vegetation. Higher plant life consists mainly of both coniferous and deciduous trees, particularly around the shores of the lakes. The most common tree native to Lurë is the european beech along with silver fir, black pine, red pine and bosnian pine. Especially protected is the balkan pine, which is threatened with extinction and only common in the west of the Balkan Peninsula. The southern section of the park has a meadow of multicolour flowers and several coniferous trees, which is called the Field of Mares, offering pristine views over the landscape. In terms of phytogeography, the park falls within the Pindus Mountains mixed forests terrestrial ecoregion of the Palearctic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub.

The park shelters numerous species. Most important wildlife inhabiting the park includes the european brown bear, eurasian lynx, eurasian wolf, european pine marten, roe deer and western capercaillie.[7] Small mammals include the red squirrel and edible dormouse.[8] The twelve glacial lakes within the national park were formed during the ice age.[9] They are located in the northeastern part of the nation in the Dibër County at an elevation between 1,200 and 1,500 m (3,937 and 4,921 ft). Each lake carries a name associated with its most characteristic feature.

According to Albanian poet Gjergj Fishta, “Him/her who has not seen Lura, he/she has not seen Albania”, meanwhile British renown traveler Edith Durham has been quoted as follows: “When I came up the Qafë Lurë, I saw such a beautiful field, that I had never seen in any place of the Balkans”.

However, following the fall of communism in the 1990s, the area suffered massive deforestation from illegal logging and forest fires that severely affected ecosystems. In fact, it is estimated that as far as 50% of the park’s area has been destroyed. In 2014, the Government of Albania launched a controversial rehabilitation campaign including reforestation, roadwork, and the putting of new signs.[10][11]

Local stakeholders have criticized the project as merely superficial. In the meantime, non-governmental organizations are trying to revitalize the park by contributing in the planting of trees and removal of debris around the lakes, some of which are drying up. Nature is also helping by naturally spreading seeds of new trees which are growing at different areas of the park. Accommodation consists of several family run hotels and guesthouses near the park in Fushe-Lure. The area around Lura features traditional tower houses, the once industrial mining town of Kurbnesh, Ottomam mosques, and a recently renovated Catholic Church. The region is also home to Albanian Independence signatory Dom Nikollë Kaçorri.

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