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.
Unesco Site - Ancient roots
The selection of the European old-growth beech forests took place on the basis of criterion IX, according to which the nominated sites shall «be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals».
The chosen forests form an ecological network consisting of 64 areas, whose exceptional nature depends first of all on the capacity of the Beech Tree to dominate a myriad of different environmental conditions in Europe, from the plains to the main mountain ranges. The beech forest, a largely widespread ecosystem in Europe, has been intensely exploited by man throughout history and the serial site of UNESCO brings together and safeguards various ancient forests almost or totally undisturbed by man that can still be found in some areas of our continent.
Old-growth beech forests are not only of great value, but they are also essential to understand the history, the evolution, and the range of distribution of the Beech Tree. They have developed in a few hundred years after the end of the last glacial period starting from a few isolated areas in the Alps, Carpathians, and Pyrenees through a still on-going process. Their continental-wide expansion was possible thanks to the adaptability of the Beech Tree and its tolerance of a variety of climatic, geographical, and physical conditions.
These forests witnessed the climate and human history events of the latest centuries and can tell us a lot about them, they can illustrate the complex ecological dynamics existing between the species populating them, as well as offer instruments and models to make forecasts and undertake future management plans. Today, as we are aware of the importance of beech forests, it is our responsibility to protect their integrity and guarantee the evolution processes characterizing them.
In this transnational network, besides its natural value, Fagus sylvatica represents a species with a great symbolic and cultural value, historically linked to the development of the European peoples. The Italian name faggio, in Latin fagus, has Indo-European origins and probably refers to edible fruits; also, the English name “beech” and the German name “buchen” are linked to the Indo-European root (bhak-šati = to eat). The Beech Tree, with its wide distribution, covers great part of the European territory and is an ecosystem of great symbolic value for transnational environmental policies. Locally, the high symbolic, historic, and cultural value of these forests is witnessed by their importance in the eyes of the local populations, who have respected and preserved them also in adverse climatic conditions and during difficult historical periods like the two world wars, handing them down to us.