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 - The Italian beech forests
As is known, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites (53 to this day), the vast majority of which have been designated for their outstanding cultural importance. Only 5 sites have been selected for their natural features: out of them, 3 sites have been inscribed on the list for geological and landscape reasons (the Dolomites, Mount Etna, and the Aeolian Islands), and one for its paleontological relevance (Monte San Giorgio). On 7 July 2017, UNESCO inscribed on the World Heritage list some Italian old-growth beech forests, the very first case of purely natural heritage areas.
As a matter of fact, during its 41st session held in Krakow, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee approved the extension of Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians to other regions of Europe. The site, now called Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, was born in 2007, when ten beech forests of the Carpathians between Slovakia and Ukraine were inscribed on the list as Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians.
In 2011, the property consisting of the early ten beech forests was extended by adding five old-growth beech forests in Germany, with the recommendation for all the other European countries to submit a joint proposal by 2015, in order to include their old-growth beech forests in the network. This process resulted in the inclusion of a total of 64 beech forests in 12 European countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine.
Italy is home to six sites: the forest of Cozzo Ferriero in Pollino National Park, Foresta Umbra in Gargano National Park, the old-growth beech forest of Monte Cimino in Viterbo Province, Monte Raschio forest in Regional Natural Park Bracciano-Martignano, the beech forests of Valle Cervara, Selva Moricento, Coppo del Morto, Coppo del Principe, and Val Fondillo in Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park, and Sasso Fratino Strict Reserve in Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park.
For Italy, the nomination process was coordinated by Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park and by the researches from the University of Tuscia. The importance of the Italian beech forests in this serial property is given by their continent-wide uniqueness: in fact, our country is home to the oldest beech trees in Europe, with a heritage of trees older than 400-500 years scattered all over the country. Some of our beech forests, even if less widespread, equal the natural features of the primary beech forests of the Carpathians. Moreover, in Italy it is possible to find the southernmost component parts of the serial site, situated in areas representing some of the most significant glacial refuges for the species and home to unique genotypes adapted to warm-dry climates, whose preservation is crucial to understand the current climate change adaptation. Finally, some of our beech forests distinguish themselves for the presence of some of the highest beech trees in Europe (45-50 meters of height) and for their greatest arboreal biodiversity.