UNESCO World Natural Heritage

“Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”

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 now represent the various different forms and locations at all altitudes, and reflect 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.

The joint tri-national World Heritage site is now known as “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”.

Beech forests inscribed in the World Heritage List (orange dots); particularly promising search areas for further beech forests (red areas)
Beech forests inscribed in the World Heritage List (orange dots); particularly promising search areas for further beech forests (red areas)

The Vision

A UNESCO World Natural Heritage “Europe’s Beech Forests”

Protecting our valuable beech forests more effectively must remain a top priority in the future. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee linked the inscription of the German component parts as World Heritage to a commitment to a European process that will ensure the conservation of Europe’s most valuable beech forests within the framework of a joint world heritage property. Germany, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine are fully committed to this process.

As such, the extension of the Slovak-Ukrainian World Natural Heritage property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians” to include the “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” will lend additional weight to European-wide endeavours to protect our beech forests, as well as acting as an incentive for other countries to effectively protect their remaining beech forest assets.