Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions of Europe

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 30, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Mar 25, 2022
Learn about the Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions Of Europe.

Beech trees have spread from isolated sites to cover entire forests in Europe.

The beech forests of Europe are spread over 19 countries. This expansion of this tree is credited to the tree's easy adaptability and higher tolerance to different climatic, geographical, and physical conditions.

Because of the wide presence of these trees throughout centuries, this site is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is currently the largest UNESCO World Heritage site that has been expanded progressively over the past thousands of years.

Today, it covers 94 sites in 19 countries. The first inscription of a biosphere reserve happened in 2007. Since then, there have been three extensions.

However, in several sites, human interactions have posed a serious threat to the integrity and authenticity of this region. Climate change also poses a risk to the species and habitat of this area. That's why several measures have been taken to preserve this site.

These beech forests have thrived across different geographic and climatic conditions for ages. Did you know that these trees are said to have survived the Ice Ages?

After the last Ice Age, about 11,000 years ago, they started growing outside the refuge areas and eventually have covered large natural corridors across the European continent. Today, the species composition of these forests has a mix of old trees and newly evolved beech species. They are an invaluable genetic reservoir of tree species.


The European Beech is extremely versatile and has adapted to varied physical, geographic, and climatic conditions. After the last Ice Ages, where it survived in small parts of Southern Europe, it has sprawled in the mountains as well as the lowlands beside the Baltic Sea.

It can grow in rich calcareous soil as well as nutrient-poor sandy soils. It thrives in dry conditions as well as humid zones. That said, each forest site showcases a different pattern based on the soil, climate, and other ecological conditions.

The lowest beech forest included in this list of forest sites is on the German island of Rügen. The Jasmund National Park is only 0.001 mi (1.6 m) above sea level. On the other hand, the highest site stands 1.18 mi (1,900 m) above sea level at the Monte Pollino National Park in Italy.

The varied forest sites along with open areas, thickets, cliff faces, and seasides have inspired painters to create picturesque landscape art. Apart from the trees, they are also sites for many beautiful lakes.

Carpathians Region

A large section of the Primeval Beech forests is spread over the Carpathian region. This is why the region is named separately in the heritage site listing.

These forests extend from the Chornohora ridge and Rakhiv mountains in Ukraine to the Vihorlat Mountains in Slovakia. It covers a 115 mi (185 km) long axis. These trees are part of the last remaining virgin forest in Europe's temperate latitudes.

These unique terrestrial ecosystems of the Carpathian region cover 77,971.6 ha (192,672 acres). Of this, only 29,278.9 ha (72,350 acres) is categorized as the actual preserved area. This includes forests in the Prešov and Zakarpattia regions. The remaining is considered a buffer zone.

70% of the Carpathian site falls in Ukraine. It includes the Nadsiansky Regional Landscape Park and the Uzhanian National Nature Park. These two Ukranian parks with the Bieszczady National Park, Cisna-Wetlina Landscape Park, and San Valley Landscape Park in Poland, and the Poloniny National Park in Slovakia are together known as the East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve.

World Heritage Site

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathian were first inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2007. It includes 10 sites that run along a 185km axis from the Bukovské Vrchy and Vihorlat Mountains in Slovakia to the Rakhiv Mountains and the Chornohirskyi Range in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Carpathians include two biosphere reserves and nine national parks.

In 2011, the protected area was extended to include the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany. With the extension, the tri-national property was renamed the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

The world heritage site was extended again in 2017 to include forests in nine additional countries. It was renamed the Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions Of Europe. The extension was evidence of the tree's tolerance to varied ecological and climatic conditions and its flexibility.

In 2021, a third extension brought beech forests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czechia, France, Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, and Switzerland into the protected area. It now includes 94 components spread across 18 countries.

These beech forest habitats have survived the Ice Ages

Protection And Management

Unfortunately, large sections of the beech forests of Europe have been lost to tree felling. Beechwood is used for timber, flooring, furniture, and more. Since the categorization of these forests as protected areas, there has been a general ban on tree felling in coniferous forests that are located above a certain height.

To allow the forests included in the protected area to evolve with minimal human interference, forest habitats surrounding national parks, nature parks, and biosphere reserves are integrated as buffer zones. These zones are regularly monitored for changes in ecological conditions and the way the forests adapt to this change.

The forest sites are protected by a Joint Management Committee and a coordination office. They are working on protecting and enhancing the forest's integrity through logging and forest management approaches but have yet to create consolidated management approaches.

Other Miscellaneous Facts

Only a few sections of these complex temperate forests are open to visitors. The Stužica is one of the only three sites in Bukovské vrchy (Slovakia) to have accessible hiking trails.

Trees in these forests can live up to 100 years. They are home to mammals like wolves, brown bears, bats, rare birds like capercaillie and black grouse, insects and moss, lichen, mushrooms, and other organisms.

The largest component in this heritage site lies in Uholka, Ukraine, within the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. It is spread over 11,860 hectares of forested land.


Where are the Carpathian forests?

The Carpathian forests extend along a 115 mi (185 km) long axis from Ukraine's Chornohora ridge and Rakhiv mountains to Slovakia's Vihorlat Mountains.

What are the ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians about?

The Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions Of Europe are complex temperate forests known for beech trees.

Why is ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians important?

These forests are important as the extreme adaptability and tolerance of the beech trees allowed them to survive the Ice Ages and slowly spread over Europe.

Where are the beech forests in other regions of Europe located?

Apart from the Carpathian region, these forest reserves can be found in several other countries. The famous spots include France, Germany, Italy, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland.

Why and when was the ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe was declared as a World Heritage Site?

The Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions Of Europe were first inscribed as a protected site in 2007 and then extended in 2011, 2017, and 2021.

These forests are considered globally significant, especially in the northern hemisphere, as the trees have survived the Ice Ages and adapted to tolerate different geographical, climatic, and physical conditions.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

Read full bio >