New report ‘Virgin forests at the heart of Europe’

The new report ‘Virgin forests at the heart of Europe‘ (2021) provides an overview of the importance, distribution, situation and future of the last remaining large-scale virgin forests in Europe, with a particular focus on Romania.

Virgin forests are of vital importance as reservoirs of evolutionary genes and refugia for highly specialised species which depend on consistent long-term habitat and environmental conditions only found there. Further, virgin forests provide a unique source of practical and economically knowledge for managed forest ecosystems, as well as information on long-term trends in environmental change. However, these forests are at risk of disappearing.

Most people usually associate deforestation with tropical rainforests of the Amazon and Borneo, but this report clearly shows that the destruction of virgin forests is also happening right here, on our doorsteps. The Carpathian forests, some of the last remaining wilderness in Europe, are disappearing with alarming speed. 

The incredible value of Romanian last virgin forests

Romania is home to two-thirds of the EU’s remaining virgin and quasi-virgin forests, which are among the most diverse and species-rich forest ecosystems in Europe. Thus, these remaining forests in the Romanian Carpathians are of extremely importance as European natural heritage.

In 2017, UNESCO World Heritage Committee included Romania’s primeval beech forests in the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe‘. These beech forests of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania are unique because of their large size, of several thousand hectares. Further, the many sites and altitudes they are found, provide exceptional ecological diversity.

Challenges and opportunities for  forests in peril

The inscription in the World Heritage List obligates each involved States Party to guarantee the integrity of its sites and ensure their protection against deterioration and damage.

However, the report gives insight to the underlying causes for (partly illegal) logging activities in protected areas in Romanian virgin and old forests, which include corruptive elements and the lack of interventions from the side of the EU. In some cases, violations even were reported in the context of World Heritage component parts. The authors demand that it must be a pan-European concern to protect the last coherent virgin and old forests in the more central parts of Europe.

Fortunately, in Romania, there is a huge potential for initiating sustainable development, especially in the regions of the Romanian World Heritage component parts, to generate benefits for the local society.

The BEECH POWER project, among others, addresses the creation of a sustainable model to improve the buffer zone management and protection around World Heritage beech forests. Specifically, BEECH POWER has the objective to enhance the quality and effectiveness of protected area management by involving stakeholders, public authorities and communities. To support and empowering the component part management (teams), the project partners and a large group of experts develop related tools and strategies.

These forests are a natural heritage of invaluable ecological value, and we all share a global responsibility to stop the pressures placed on them. Follow and support BEECH POWER to help us initiate ecosystem-based solutions for sustainable development in the regions of these unique World Heritage beech forests!