it / en

Stories

Read more

From deadwood, the forest comes to life
Unlike managed and cultivated forests, old-growth beech forests are characterized by the presence of trees in different growth stages. In these dynamic and constantly renewing ecosystems, old and senescent trees facing a slow and relentless decay caused by natural disturbances lead to the accumulation of large amounts of deadwood which... read more
On the “skin” of beech trees
The tree bark is the outermost layer of trees, through which they interact with the surrounding environment. Besides, it protects them from water loss and from parasites, pathogens, and predators. It is constantly evolving and, especially in intact forests, is often home to an amazing variety of organisms and microenvironments.... read more
Beech trees at the service of the environment
Beech forest ecosystems are home to a variety of environments and habitats making them true treasure troves of biodiversity. They are outdoor scientific laboratories of outstanding value for the reconstruction of the climatic history of the territories where they have settled and of the communities inhabiting them. Besides, a healthy... read more
The hidden world of the forest
The beech forest floor is home to a surprising biodiversity. If you look closely, you will see that it is formed by various layers. The most superficial layer is the litter, which mainly contains plant material such as leaves, branches, fruits, and animals. Under it, the decay litter consists of... read more
Ecosystem engineers
When you enter a beech forest, your first impression may be of a dull and scarcely populated environment. But if you look closely, you will discover a true treasure trove of biodiversity. The silence of beech forests – especially in spring – is broken by the several songs of the birds inhabiting... read more
The “lungs” of beech trees
While walking in a beech forest, you might have the impression to be in a Gothic cathedral, since the place is shady and wet. In spring, the thin, furry, and bright green leaves of beech trees gradually become thicker and dark green, and the impenetrable foliage of the tree crowns... read more
Journey to the Ancient Forests of Italy

Journey to the Ancient Forests of Italy

In August 2020, I was asked to document in pictures the Italian old-growth beech forests inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A complex task, but even more so, an extraordinary experience. Photographing a forest may seem rather easy: trees don’t run away. However, the reality is far more complicated. Portraying an old-growth beech forest is about showing its many particular features, the peculiarities of the vegetation, the abundant fauna, the complex interactions among the organisms that are part of it.

Despite the common features they share, the forests I visited proved to be extremely different one from the other: sometimes, soft and delicate colors revealed quiet atmospheres; other times, dramatic colors and strong contrasts conveyed liveliness and dynamism. The animals inhabiting the forests and the complementary plants contributed to their amazing uniqueness. I had the feeling I could appreciate the different “character” of each beech forest: for instance, in Foresta Umbra, while walking among the calcareous stones and the thousand-year-old yew trees, I had a feeling of austerity and complexity. On the contrary, the beech forest of Oriolo Romano – a little jewel set in a highly anthropogenic landscape, but still protected by shrubs and other trees all around – seemed to be shy and, in its bird-twittering silence, almost trying to conceal itself from the loud intrusion of the surrounding cities. From the top of the mountain, the beech forest of Monte Cimino brazenly overlooked the towns down below, while in Foreste Casentinesi, in Abruzzo, and in Pollino, the beech forests seemed to come out from fantasy sagas: in their lushness, they didn’t care about what surrounded them, on the strength of the entire mountains they cover, their turbulent streams, the multitude of insects, mammals, and birds they offer shelter to!

My personal perceptions went hand in hand with the nature discoveries these environments continuously offer. The series of unexpected meetings – the rare Italian Cave Salamander in Foreste Casentinesi, or the group of Tawny Owls singing just a few meters away in the cold freezing night under Coppola di Paola mountain, or again the bear overturning stones in search for insects together with her cubs in Abruzzo – represents only a very small part of the incredibly rich variety of fauna living in these beech forests. When I saw Rosalia alpina coming out from the holes of dead trunks or bats such as the Brown Long-eared Bat and the Western Barbastelle using the cavities of big trees as a shelter during the day, I realized it was an unbelievable opportunity, but also a major technical challenge.

The elements to portray were many, and they required a wide range of photographic equipment: from wide-angle lenses to show the majesty of the tree canopy, to medium telephoto lenses to capture the perspectives of a succession of big tree trunks. For shy animals, I had to use long telephoto lenses, while for the smallest animals I used a macro lens. Photographing in a forest poses some problems, the main ones being the strong light contrast and the nearly permanent shortage of light. Therefore, to lenses and cameras I had to add flashes, lighting, and tripods. Lugging around this heavy equipment along steep trails for several hours has not always been easy, but the emotions I lived have richly rewarded the efforts!

It has been an experience way more engaging than I expected. All the occurrences and adventures, difficulties and satisfactions have contributed to increase my knowledge and, most importantly, an awareness I hope to convey in my pictures: the conservation of these unique treasure troves of life, biodiversity, and wonder is an absolute necessity. Their inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List highlights the great respect we need to show for these delicate and extremely precious environments.

Francesco Lemma

The Lone Fox - Nature Photography

Francesco Lemma
Photo by Francesco Lemma
Francesco Lemma in Pollino Park - photo by Pino Di Tomaso
Photo by Francesco Lemma
Francesco Lemma
Photo by Francesco Lemma
Photo by Francesco Lemma
Photo by Francesco Lemma
Francesco Lemma

Partners

Logo Unesco
Logo MIBAC

Project financed by funds identified under Law No. 77 of 20 February 2006 "Special measures for the protection and fruition of Italian sites of cultural, landscape-related, and natural interest, inscribed on the World Heritage List”, placed under UNESCO protection.