Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn (2001)
Switzerland

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This is the most glaciated part of the Alps, containing Europe's largest glacier and a range of classic glacial features such as U-shaped valleys, cirques, horn peaks and moraines. It provides an outstanding geological record of the uplift and compression that formed the High Alps. The diversity of flora and wildlife is represented in a range of Alpine and sub-Alpine habitats and plant colonization in the wake of retreating glaciers provides an outstanding example of plant succession. The impressive vista of the North Wall of the High Alps, centered on the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks, has played an important role in European art and literature. 

Switzerland 2003. World Cultural Heritage. Landscape around the Jungfrau, Aletsch, and Bietschhorn.

The region straddles the border between the Cantons of Berne and Valais and stretches from the Finsteraarhorn, taking in the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the Aletsch Glacier and the Bietschhorn, to parts of the Lötschen and Baltschieder Valleys. 

The total area covers 539 square kilometers.  

The region features unique fauna and flora, ranging from the Alpine to the virtually Mediterranean of the Rhone Valley, see samples of stamps below. 

  • Switzerland 2003.  UNESCO-issue featuring the landscape around the Jungfrau, Aletsch, and Bietschhorn. 

 

The JAB region provides an outstanding example of the formation of the High Alps which resulted from uplift and compression during the Tertiary geological period 20-40 million years ago. Within an altitude range from 900m to 4,274m, the region displays 400 million year old crystalline rocks thrust over the younger autochthonous (rocks formed in situ) calcareous sediments due to the northward drift of the African tectonic plate. Added to the dramatic record of the processes of mountain building is the great variety of geomorphic and glaciological features found in the site. Classic examples of U-shaped glacial valleys, cirques, horn peaks, valley glaciers and moraines are found in abundance. The JAB region is the most glaciated area in the Alps and incorporates the Aletsch glacier, the largest and longest in western Eurasia. It is thus of significant scientific interest in the context of glacial history and ongoing processes, particularly related to climate change. 

Switzerland 1992. World Cultural Heritage. Vegetation in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #1 of four.

The oldest trees in Switzerland, especially the Swiss pine, which can live up to 800 years, grow in the Aletsch Forest.  

But it also bears witness to 500 million years of the Earth's history, with traces of major geological and glaciological processes. 

  • Switzerland 1992 (Pro Juventute).  Swiss Pine. 
Switzerland 1992. World Cultural Heritage. Vegetation in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #2 of four. Switzerland 1992. World Cultural Heritage. Vegetation in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #3 of four. Switzerland 1992. World Cultural Heritage. Vegetation in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #4 of four.

Within its altitudinal range and its dry southern/wet northern exposures, the JAB region provides a wide range of alpine and sub-alpine habitats. On the two main substrates of crystalline and carbonate rocks, a variety of ecosystems have evolved in the absence of significant human intervention. Superb examples of ecological succession exist, including the distinctive upper and lower treeline of the Aletsch forest. The global phenomenon of climatic change is particularly well-illustrated in the region, as reflected in the varying rates of retreat of the different glaciers, in turn providing new substrates for ongoing ecological succession. 

Switzerland 1943 and 1944. Alpine Flora in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #1 of five. Switzerland 1943 and 1944. Alpine Flora in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #2 of five. Switzerland 1943 and 1944. Alpine Flora in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #3 of five. Switzerland 1943 and 1944. Alpine Flora in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #4 of five. Switzerland 1943 and 1944. Alpine Flora in the Aletsch Forest. Stamp #5 of five.

Although only partly related to this world cultural heritage site, I cannot resist presenting this fascinating panoramic view of the peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in the Bernese Oberland, issued by Switzerland 2006. Jungfrau, on the stamp far right is included in this site. Showing more than the eye can see from a single visual angle satisfies our basic need to gain an overview and get our bearings - a need that was also felt by the many tourists who began to explore Switzerland's mountains back in the 19th century. 

Switzerland 2006. Panoramic view of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

The impressive landscape of the JAB region has played an important role in European literature, art, mountaineering and alpine tourism. The aesthetics of the area have attracted an international clientele and it is globally recognised as one of the most spectacular mountain regions to visit. The impressive north wall of the High Alps, centered around the Eiger/Mönch/Jungfrau and extending 20km in length, is a superlative scenic feature. On the southern side of the alpine divide, tectonic forces and glacial erosion have resulted in a collection of spectacular peaks and a valley system which supports the two longest glaciers in western Eurasia. 

Sources: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Switzerland (on this website). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Switzerland-section, for more information about the individual properties, 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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