The Albanian beech forests belong to the Moesian-Balcanic beech forest region, which extends across South-East Europe.
In the 1920s, large parts of Albania were still covered by beech forests. However, during the communist period (1944–1990) and especially in the 1980s, the forests were overexploited. Due to the economic isolation of the country and the resulting need for self-sufficiency, firewood and timber were extracted from the forests on a large scale. Today, only 1.1% of Albania's forest area consists of old-growth beech forests. They are unique, almost natural areas, which have not been significantly affected by human activities, and which have a high ecological value.
The most important remnants of primeval beech forests in Albania include Lumi i Gashit, a Strict Nature Reserve in the planned Albanian Alps National Park in the country’s north, and the Rrajca core zone of the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park in the southeast of the country. The remoteness of these areas, the difficult access to them due to lacking infrastructure, and their location in the former Iron Curtain exclusion zone are the main reasons why impacts on their forests have been limited and why even some sections of their primeval forest survived.
While Lumi i Gashit is situated on limestone, Rrajca is based on ophiolite crystalline rocks from the Paleozoic Era. The different subsoils determine the different ecological conditions. This explains the different outcomes of the ongoing postglacial, biological, and ecological evolution of terrestrial ecosystems and the expansion of beech.