The largest serial World Heritage property gets even larger: Unesco World Heritage Series “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” is extending with 6 additional States Parties.
The Unesco World Heritage Series “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” is proud to announce its extension with 6 additional States Parties (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czechia, France, North Macedonia, Poland and Switzerland). This extension adds 15 new protected areas to the network. And more precious forest areas in other countries could follow. The entire World Heritage Site comprises the few remaining European primeval beech forests and centuries-old European beech forest areas, which are almost unaltered by humans.
This World Heritage series is currently the largest serial World Heritage property. With 94 sites in 18 countries, it is the only World Heritage Site globally that connects so many component parts. It covers areas in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia& Herzegovina, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Czechia, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Ukraine. This requires collaboration across boundaries and illustrates the close relationship of the beech forest with European culture.
It all began in 2007 with the "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians", ten areas in the Slovak Republic and the Ukraine – thus a transboundary World Heritage from the very beginning. With the inscription of the “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” on the World Heritage List in 2011, our World Heritage Site was extended by five component parts. In 2017, 63 additional areas in ten countries were added.
Each area is globally unique in its composition of climate, soils, flora, and fauna. The European Beech is exceptionally adaptable to different climatic, geographical, and physical conditions. It is a very competitive species and asserts itself almost everywhere: from rich calcareous to nutrient-poor sandy soils, from mountains to lowlands, and from humid to dry conditions. Our World Heritage Site reflects nearly the entire spectrum of beech forest types from the mountains to the sea.
Also globally unique is the expansion history of the beech. Its success story begins 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glacial period. Back then, a thick layer of ice-covered large sections of Europe. Beech forests had only survived as small remnants in Southern Europe. When the ice melted, the beech began to expand northwards from its isolated refuge areas in the South. This process is still ongoing today, even though the ice age is long gone. This phenomenon, the re-colonisation of large sections of a continent by a single tree species and the still ongoing expansion of the European beech, is globally unique.
Despite the dominance of a single tree species, the beech forest is the preferred habitat of many thousand species of flora, fauna, and fungi. Beech forests are shady and seem dark in summer and may even appear to be species-poor compared to some mixed deciduous forests. This, however, does certainly not apply to a beech forest in its natural state. Beech forests with a high proportion of old growth and standing and lying dead wood provide an ideal habitat for many species of flora and fauna. Beech forests are estimated to harbour up to 10,000 species of animals.
It is thus a World Heritage with a future. A steadily evolving Masterpiece without borders.