UNESCO World Heritage

The UNESCO committee approved the extension of the World Heritage site "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany" on 7 July 2017 in Krakow. A total of 63 beech foests in 10 European countries were inscribed in the World Heritage list. The extended World Heritage site is now called "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe".

This is a fantastic success for nature conservation. Now, these invaluable beech forests, which can only be found in Europe, can be preserved as heritage of mankind for posterity. We would like to thank Austria's dedicated team, who has done the groundwork and coordination for the extension of the joint World Heritage site.

Natural beech forests have been declining in all of Europe and constitute a rarity nowadays. In order to guarantee the protection of the last remnants of unique primeval and ancient European beech forests, the UNESCO committee has completed the existing World Heritage site, which includes five beech forests in Germany, with beech forests in Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Austria, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine. The chosen areas represent further variants of the European beech forests that had yet not been represented in the hitherto existing World Heritage site. The individual areas vary a lot in their size, from 6.5 ha of an Atlantic beech forest near Brussels to one measuring 5,100 ha in the Romanian Carpathians. With the extension of around 61,000 ha, some 100,000 ha of beech forests now enjoy special protection as a World Heritage site now stretching over 12 countries.

· a table listing the sizes and countries of the new component parts

· a map showing the location of the World Heritage site's component parts

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians

The Carpathian Mountains are home to the last remaining large-scale primeval beech forests in Europe. Since the end of the last Ice Age, the forests here have been able to develop undisturbed. Mighty beech trees up to 50 metres high dominate the structurally rich forests. The dynamics of the primeval beech forests, the natural comings and goings, are able to play out entirely free from anthropogenic influences here. Lynxes, wolves and bears all inhabit this fascinating beech forest wilderness, where the complete diversity of species, structures and processes has been preserved. Globally endangered species of fauna, fungus and flora have been able to preserve their natural gene pool.

Since 2007, UNESCO has recognised ten component parts in the Slovak Republic and the Ukraine as the World Natural Heritage “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians”. These areas, located in mountainous and sub-alpine altitudes of up to 1,940 metres, are primarily representative of mountain beech forest.

The Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

By extending this property to include the beech forests of Germany, the protected areas represented the various different forms and locations at all altitudes, and reflected their unique dispersion history in the Post-Glacial Period.

Germany’s beech forests are considerably younger, and only a few parts have remained largely free from anthropogenic influences. They are home to a rich diversity of species. Beech forests, with their high proportion of old trees, standing and fallen deadwood, and natural hollows provide ideal habitats for hole-nesting birds, bats and many other living creatures that breed and shelter in them. A large part of this species diversity does not come into its own until the beech forest has reached maturity.

Before a renewed extension in 2017, the joint tri-national World Heritage site was known as “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”.