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Extension to the Joint World Heritage Property “Primeval Beech forests of the Carpathians (Slovak Republic and Ukraine) and the Ancient Beech forests of Germany (Germany)”

Date of Submission: 02/02/2015
Criteria: (ix)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Regions: Emilia-Romagna, Toscana, Abruzzo, Lazio, Basilicata, Puglia
Ref.: 6045
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The future nomination, which is subject of this Tentative List entry, represents an extension to the World Heritage property “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine, WHC ref-no 1133bis). This property was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee first in 2007 as “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, Slovakia and Ukraine” and extended in 2011 by the component parts “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (Germany) to the present serial transnational site. The future nomination (its name will be decided at a later stage of the process) is of serial, transnational character and consists of 33 components parts in 12 State Parties. The component parts represent an outstanding example of undisturbed, complex temperate forests, its postglacial expansion process and exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European Beech across a variety of environmental conditions. They contain an invaluable genetic reservoir of Beech and many species associated and dependent on these forest habitats.

Name(s) of the component part(s)

1.c  Name(s) of the national component part(s):

 

1.d  State, Province or Region:

1.e Latitude and Longitude or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates:

 

“Sasso Fratino” (1 forest in Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park)

Region Emilia-Romagna – Province of Forlì-Cesena

Region Toscana – Province of Arezzo.

 

“Sasso Fratino”:

11.7897 E, 43.8450 N

 

Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park – 5 forests: “Valle Cervara”, “Coppo Vademogna”, “Coppo del Principe”, “Coppo del Morto” and “Val Fondillo”

 

Region Abruzzo – Province of L’Aquila

 

Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park:

13.7720 E, 41.8267 N

Tuscia low-elevation beech forests on volcanic soils – 2 forests: “Monte Cimino” and “Monte Raschio”

 

Region Lazio – Province of Viterbo

“Monte Cimino”:

12.2033 E, 42.4083 N

“Monte Raschio”:

12.1581 E, 42.1732 N

 

“Cozzo Ferriero” (1 forest in Pollino National Park)

 

Region Basilicata – Province of Potenza

Pollino National Park:

16.0887 E, 39.9040 N.

Gargano National Park – 1 forest: “Foresta Umbra-Falascone” 

 

Region Puglia – Province of Foggia

Gargano National Park:

15.9822 E, 41.8114 N

 

Description of the component part(s)

As above referred, the part components, or clusters, cover six Italian Regions and are mostly located within National Parks that provide the buffer zone in case of more forest sites included within the same component. The proposed core areas cover in sum 2,421 ha, so distributed:

Name of the

Component part

Forests

Extension

 Core

area

Buffer surrounding the

 forests (PA name)

Buffer

area

Sasso Fratino

781 ha

Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park

31,217 ha

Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park

(5 forests)

Valle Cervara

100 ha

Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park

49,715 ha

Coppo del Morto

100 ha

Coppo Vademogna

350 ha

Coppo del Principe

200 ha

Val Fondillo

200 ha

Tuscia low-elevation beech forests on volcanic soils

(2 forests)

Monte Cimino

62 ha

Natural Monument

100 ha

Monte Raschio

100 ha

Bracciano & Martignano Regional Park

16,682 ha

Cozzo Ferriero

80 ha

Pollino National Park

171,320 ha

Gargano National Park

(1 forest)

Foresta Umbra-Falascone

448 ha

Gargano National Park

118,229 ha


Hereby it is offered a description of any cluster according to their geographical location and PA related management. In brackets, it is remarked the number of forest sites related to any component part as already mentioned in the previous tables.

“Sasso Fratino” (1) – Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park The component part lies within the Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park, covering about ~36’000 ha along the Tuscan-Romagna Apennine ridge. The Park is outstanding for the great variety of plant and animal life, including elements of great scientific interest thanks to the large forest cover, the peculiar biogeographic position between the Alps and Apennines, the existence of diversified environments and the scarcity of human inhabitants. The nominated beech forests is the Sasso Fratino Integral Nature Reserve, founded in 1959 as the first strict reserve in Italy, which covers more than 700 ha. The site has been awarded by the European Council with the European Diploma of Protected Areas. Sasso Fratino covers a large elevation range (600-1600 m asl), characterized by a steep slope and uneven morphology. Although some marginal areas were harvested in the past (76 years ago), the oldest part of the Reserve has remained untouched. The beech-silver fir mixed forests, representing the main and oldest part of the Reserve, belong to Cardamino chelidoniae-Fagetum. Acer pseudoplatanus, A. platanoides, Ulmus glabra, Tilia platyphillos, Fraxinus excelsior and Taxus baccata are also present. In the upper parts of the Reserve we find a pure beech forest, with the occasional presence of Acer pseudoplatanus and Sorbus aucuparia, belonging to the Galeopsi-Fagetum association. At lower elevation (but above 800 m asl) we find a mixed beech-fir forest with Quercus cerris, Q. petraea, Q. pubescens, Acer opalus, A. campestris, Sorbus torminalis, Ostrya carpinifolia, Carpinus betulus, Fraxinus ornus and Corylus avellana.

"Valle Cervara", "Coppo Vademogna", "Coppo del Principe", "Coppo del Morto" and "Val Fondillo" (5) – Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park

The National Park was first established in 1922 as a private initiative, becoming a state institution by law the following year. Within its area of about 50’000 ha, there are more 2000 species of superior plants. Among the floristic peculiarities, Iris marsica, an endemic species blooming in May-June, stands out. There are several multicolored orchids: the most beautiful, big, and rare is the Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus). Two interesting pines are present: the black pine of Villetta Barrea (Pinus nigra var. italica), a relict drought tolerant ecotype probably dating back to the Tertiary period; the Swiss mountain pine (Pinus mugo), a glacial relict covering the vegetation strip between the beech tree wood and the high-mountain grassland. Also, the National Park houses a great variety of animals, which lived in the past over a much larger area of the Apennines: 60 species of mammals (including Ursus arctos marsicanus, Canis lupus, Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata, Cervus elaphus), 300 of birds (including Aquila chrysaetos), 40 of reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and numerous species of insects, including important endemic species. Since 1967 it has been awarded by the European Council with the European Diploma of Protected Areas. The beech forests cover more than 60% of the Park, generally between 900 and 1900 m elevation. The floristic component of the beech forest is made of characteristic species of the association Cardamino kitaibelii - Fagetum sylvaticae: Cardamine kitaibelii, Cardamine enneaphyllos, Cardamine bulbifera, Prenanthes purpurea, Adenostyles australis, Actaea spicata, Galium odoratum, Polystichum setiferum and Mycelis muralis. The old-growth cluster is composed of 5 mountain and high-mountain forests: Valle Cervara, Coppo Vademogna, Coppo del Principe, Coppo del Morto, Val Fondillo. The five selected sites have limestone substrates, and range in elevation from 1400 to 1850 m asl. Their climate regime can be described as Mediterranean montane, with cold snowy winters and dry summers. The five sites are within the territory of the park that serves as a buffer zone and then connected both geographically and through the forests of the park that are in continuity.

“Monte Cimino” and “Monte Raschio” (2) – Tuscia low-elevation beech forests on volcanic soils

This cluster includes the two low-land beech forests: “Monte Cimino” and “Monte Raschio” located in the Lazio Region, inside the Viterbo Province. Both ecosystems are relict islands of beech high forests intermingled to a human-modified Mediterranean landscape, included in Sites of Community Importance protecting, among others, the priority habitat “9210* Apennine beech forests with Taxus and Ilex”. Monte Cimino is located at the transition between the low-elevation and mountain belts (~1000 m asl) but, because of its geographical proximity to Oriolo, it has been included in the low-elevation group of selected forests, made of magnificent beech trees (40-50 m height) growing at low elevation (400-1000 m asl) on fertile deep volcanic soils. The survival of these forests in the Mediterranean environment have been made possible thanks to the delicate balance between volcanic soils and the wet microclimate generated by the nearby volcanic lakes and Tyrrhenian sea. Monte Cimino beech forest is managed as strict reserve by the municipality of Soriano nel Cimino, and is candidate like a Natural Monument by the Regional Administration. The vegetation is described as Polysticho-Fagetum aceretosum pseudoplatani, nowaday included in Allio pendulini fagetum sylvaticae. Beech dominates on other trees, represented by few individuals, like sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), wild cherry trees (Prunus avium), growing in gaps created after large trees’ death. It is a historical forest, the highest part of Silva Cimina (Tito Livio, Ab Urbe Condita, Liber IX, 36–39) and probably it was a sacred wood since the bronze age. The forest has not been exploited since the last 80 years, and through time has acquired new ecological and aesthetic value after having reached old-growth status. Monte Raschio beech forest is completely included in the strict reserve of the Bracciano –Martignano Natural Park, created in 1999. The candidate beech forest covers about 60 ha. Its vegetation can be ascribed to Fraxino orni-Fagetum sylvaticae. Beech dominates, while other tree species are limited to gaps opened by dead trees: Acer pseudoplatanus and A. campestre, Ilex aquifolium, Sorbus torminalis and S. domestica, Prunus avium, Ulmus glabra, Quercus crenata.

“Foresta Umbra-Falascone” (1) – Gargano National Park

The Gargano National Park (121’000 ha) is located on the Promontory of Gargano, that penetrates in the Adriatic Sea. It is made of calcareous massif, characterized by numerous karstic phenomena, ranging from sea level up to 1065 m asl. More than 50% of the Park’s territory is characterized by natural vegetation (woods, shrubs and maquis) and numerous Natura2000 sites are included in the Gargano NP, such as 16 Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and 4 Special Protection Areas (SPA). In addition, the territory of the Gargano National Park includes also 2 Important Plant Areas (IPA) and 8 State Natural Reserves. The phytosociological associations recognized in these beech forests are predominantly Anemono apenninae-Fagetum, with many sub-associations present in the complex environmental system. The beech forests of Gargano (4’530 ha) are among those growing at the lowest altitude in Italy, and distinguish for being those more strictly in contact with the Mediterranean termo-xeric vegetation and closer to the sea in the whole Italian Peninsula. The nominated beech forest reserve (Foresta Umbra-Falascone) cover 448 hectares within the Park, and is characterized by a long lasting absence of anthropic interference. The site is strict reserves of the National Park. The beech forests of the Gargano promontory are unique in Mediterranean Europe, as hosting some of the most magnificent yew Taxus baccata and holly (Ilex aquifolium) trees in Southern Europe, making it a unique habitat in Europe (“41.181 Gargano beech forest”).

“Cozzo Ferriero” (1) – Pollino National Park

The Pollino National Park, established in 1993, is the largest protected area in Italy (192’000 ha). It includes two mountain ranges: the Pollino massif and the Orsomarso Mountains. The main geological component is made from limestone dolomite bedrock. The Pollino massif, with five peaks over 2000 meters high, is the highest of all the southern Apennines. The altitude of the mountain ranges combined with the short distance from the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas are decisive factors of environmental variability of the territory. Vegetation varies from maquis to "islands" of alpine vegetation at high altitudes. Forests cover 60% of the territory, and beech forests are prevalent among them (39.6% of the area). Beech is present almost anywhere between 900 and 1900 m above sea level, reaching 2000-2100 m on the Pollino Massif. In Park’s territory it’s possible to identify two main types of beech forests: a more thermophilic (-Fagetum, up to 1500-1600 m), and mesophilic type (Asyneumati-Fagetum, up to the forest line elevation). An important variant of the beech forest is represented by the presence of Abieti-Fagetum, characterized by the abundance of silver fir (Abies alba), once much more widespread over the whole of the Apennines and now largely relict. The beech forests of the Park are enriched by many important relict plant species and some endemic tree species, such as Acer lobelii and Alnus cordata. Yew (Taxus baccata) and holly (Ilex aquifolium) are often present in association with beech at lower elevation, where they can be abundant from develop dense populations and large size individuals. On Monte Pollino old beech trees of ca. 400 years old grow in close contact with very old (800-1000 years) Pinus heldreichii trees, a relict species from the Tertiary. Beech forests of these areas can be attributed to the "Southern Beech", associations grouped by the phytosociological alliance Geranio-Fagion, which includes two types of beech forest: Anemono-Fagetum and Asyneumati-Fagetum. The old-growth forest of Cozzo Ferriero beech forest belongs to the latter type and it is directly managed by the National Park.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” (the title of a finite European nomination will be decided at a later stage of the process) are indispensable to understanding the history and evolution of the genus Fagus, which, given its wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere and its ecological importance, is globally significant. These undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European Beech across a variety of environmental conditions, such as climatic and geological conditions, throughout all European Beech Forest Regions. They comprise all altitudinal zones from the coast up to the forest line in the mountains and further include the best remaining examples of the outer boundaries of the European Beech forest range. Beech is one of the most important elements of forests in the Temperate Broadleaf Forest Biome and represents an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities after the last ice age. The continuing northern and westward expansion of Beech from its original glacial refuge areas in the eastern and southern parts of Europe can be tracked along the natural corridors and stepping stones spanning the continent. More recent changes in the distribution pattern of this species relate to direct influences of human disturbance and the more complex effects of anthropogenic climate change. Both historical and present serial patterns of distribution represent natural evolutionary strategies for adapting and surviving environmental change. The dominance by Beech across extensive areas of Europe is testament to the tree’s genetic adaptability.

“Sasso Fratino” (1) – Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park

This old-growth forest grows on flysch sandstone soils in a peculiar biogeographic area (i.e. the Alpine/Central Mediterranean transition zone). It covers a large and well-preserved altitudinal range (from 600 to 1600 m, i.e. lowland to high-mountain beech forest). This allows, in a single forest, the expression of many different environmental conditions for beech and the associated biodiversity. The large altitudinal transect guarantees the acclimation-adaptation of beech to climate change.

“Valle Cervara”, “Coppo Vademogna”, “Coppo del Principe”, “Coppo del Morto” and “Val Fondillo” (5) – Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park

This cluster is made of 5 old-growth forests located on calcareous shallow soils, from the mountain belt (Val Fondillo, Coppo del Principe) to the upper altitudinal limit of beech range (high mountain forests, Valle Cervara, Coppo Vademogna, Coppo del Morto). These forests enclose the largest stock of very old (>300 years) beech trees in Europe, with thousands of trees older than 400 years and scattered trees with 500-600 years, which underlines the integrity of beech life-cycle, a fundamental bio-ecological process for the UNESCO property.

“Monte Cimino” and “Monte Raschio” (2) – Tuscia low-elevation beech forests on volcanic soils

The old-growth beech forests of Monte Cimino and Monte Raschio, growing at the lower border of beech distribution (450-1000 m asl), are well-adapted to drought as they are the warmest and driest sites within the proposed forests. The presence of these magnificent forests inside the Mediterranean Biome is due to highly fertile volcanic substrates (a distinctive trait within the network), that have permitted a surprising very fast natural recovery rates in the last decades. These old-growth forests are characterized by a high above- and below-ground carbon stock. Monte Cimino distinguishes for holding a magnificent stand where exceptionally tall (50 m) beech trees are found.

“Foresta Umbra-Falascone” (1) – Gargano National Park

The importance of the Foresta Umbra old-growth forest is linked to its biogeographic position. The Gargano Promontory hosts an isolated beech forest growing in peculiar geomorphological sites (karst landscape, e.g. doline) at low-elevation in Southern Italy. Thanks to its position and to the proximity to the Adriatic Sea, it represents one of the most important refuge areas of beech.

“Cozzo Ferriero” (1) – Pollino National Park

The old-growth forest of Cozzo Ferriero is located on calcareous shallow soils, at the upper altitudinal limit of beech range (high mountain forests), characterized by being the southernmost of the network. Its main value is to be located in a glacial refuge area. Further elements for its justification relate to its extreme geographical position (both latitudinal and altitudinal) in connection to beech adaptation to climate change (drought, but also climate extremes in general, e.g. late frost).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The selected Beech forest sites not only represent the full serial diversity found across Europe but are also of sufficient size to maintain the natural processes necessary for the long-term ecological viability of the wider ecosystem. Buffer zones including surrounding protected areas (nature parks, biosphere reserves) will be managed sympathetically to ensure the long-term conservation of the particular character of the designated Beech forest together with its inherent attributes. Other than the extent of forest area and presence of an effective buffer zone key characteristics used in the site selection process included the average age of forest stand and the period of lapse since it was last managed or actively disturbed. The evaluation criteria used in the selection process help to describe the degree of naturalness of a forest, but also provide some indication of the inherent functional capacity of the ecosystem. Finally, where appropriate, special importance was given to connectivity between Beech forests and the surrounding complementary habitats as a perceived prerequisite for ecosystem functioning and adaptation to environmental change.

“Sasso Fratino” (1) – Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park High integrity of the proposed beech forests is given by the large area and the naturalness of the forests. In total, a site of 764,25 ha is designated as IUCN category Ia and is therefore under strict protection. Dendroecological research on some of these old-growth forests showed a well-conserved core part (average age of the dominant stratum: 250 years) with scattered beech trees reaching an age of 400 years. This last large scale remnant of primeval forest is well known and documented in literature as the largest example of undisturbed beech forest in the Northern Apennines, classified as mid-transition old-growth. The proposed World Heritage component part covers the oldest forests within this area including natural adjacent habitats to represent this complex ecosystem mosaic entirely. A permanent management body is in charge of protection and further development of the site. The access to the primeval forest by scientist and visitors is strictly regulated to minimise human impact. This also applies to scientific research that has to fulfil specific criteria to be applicable in the area. Sasso Fratino is included in Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park and represents its oldest and most undisturbed part, proposed to be nominated as World Heritage site. The area is the habitat of a viable populations of the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius, estimated in 8-10 breeding pairs), the only breeding site in the northern Apennines completely isolated from the southern and alpine breeding sites. Other important bird species, linked to old-growth forests, are Certhia familiaris, Phylloscopus sibilatrix and Accipiter gentilis. Also Ficedula albicollis and Lophophanes cristatus have been recently founded inside the protected area. Numerous species of Coleoptera, associated with old forests and dead wood, have been found in the Park, and represent some of the relict sites in the Apennines, remnants of a more continuous extension during the Quaternary glaciations. Some of them today represent important Italian endemic species and are recognized as a species of Community interest. To complete the statement of integrity, we remark that Sasso Fratino is embedded in a large buffer zone of 5’000 ha, that is Casentinesi State Reserves, an area not separated by zones of high human interference such as farmland or settlements and still included in the National Park. The designated site pertains to IUCN category Ia.

“Valle Cervara”, “Coppo Vademogna”, “Coppo del Principe”, “Coppo del Morto” and “Val Fondillo” (5) – Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park

The cluster is made of 5 forests (Valle Cervara, Coppo del Morto, Coppo Vademogna, Coppo del Principe, Valle Fondillo), whose ecological integrity and ecosystem functioning are testified by the presence of fine-scaled forest mosaics, with patches belonging to all the phases of the forest structural cycle. All are characterized by natural frequent low-to-moderate severity disturbance events, mainly provoked by wind. These forests escaped intensive logging because of their difficult access and probably even because of their protective function against avalanches and landslides or because of legal disputes related to the ownership of the stand between neighboring municipalities (as in the case of Coppo del Morto). Valle Cervara is presently the only known example of primary old-growth forest in the Italian peninsula (no sign of past harvesting), and hosts the oldest beech individuals for the northern hemisphere, with several trees exceeding 500 years (maximum sampled age: 560 yrs). The other old-growth beech forests also show very high levels of naturalness: according to historical records and dendroecological investigations, numerous trees have more than 400-500 years. Furthermore various structural (e.g. deadwood volume, snag density) and dendrochronological indicators (e.g. maximum tree age, mean age of the five oldest trees) reveal how two of these stands (Valle Cervara and Coppo del Morto) are close to the steady-state stage of primary old-growth forests. The other forests are classified as late-transition (Coppo del Principe and Coppo Vademogna) or mid-transition (Val Fondillo). Total deadwood amounts are within the range of values reported for Mediterranean mountains (e.g. 30-85 m3/ha). High-mountain beech forests in the Apennines are characterized by slow forest turnover (due to short growing seasons and calcareous substrates), and consequently show lower deadwood values in respect to stands located on more favourable sites. The cluster of old-growth forests covers about 300 ha and is characterized by a complex community with rare indicators species like woodpeckers (7 species) among wich the rare white-backed woodpecker (Picoides leucotos lilfordi) and middle-spotted woodpecker (Picoides medius) and other important bird species linked to old-growth forests like Accipiter gentilis, Ficedula albicollis, Certhia familiaris, dead-wood insects (Osmoderma eremita, Rosalia alpina), lichens (e.g. L. pulmonaria along with the extremely rare L. amplissima), fungi and bats (Barbastella barbastellus). The designated sites pertain to IUCN category Ia (Valle Cervara, Coppo del Principe, Val Fondillo, Coppo Vademogna) or II (Coppo del Morto).

“Monte Cimino” and “Monte Raschio” (2) – Tuscia low-elevation beech forests on volcanic soils

The old-growth beech forest of Monte Cimino (Viterbo province, Latium, 70 km north of Rome, 62 ha, plus a buffer of 100 ha) represents the highest part of the ancient and wild Silva Cimina (Tito Livio, Ab Urbe Condita, Liber IX, 36-39) and it was probably a sacred wood since the bronze age. At present the beech forest is evolving from an impressive single-layer canopy, where trees can reach 50 m in height, to a multi-aged patched structure thanks to gaps opened by fallen trees (wind induced mortality). The forest has been managed for a long time as a low-density grazing forest, but during the 19th century its aesthetic and recreational potential increased because of local community actions, which strongly opposed to any type of silvicultural intervention. As a consequence, cuttings occurred only occasionally in the past, and ended after 1949. Recently, an educational trail was developed inside the beech forest to promote a shared understanding of the ecological, cultural, and scientific relevance of old-growth forests among the general public. The beech forest of Monte Raschio reaches the lowest elevation for the species (400-500 m asl). It is included in the Regional Natural Park “Lago di Bracciano e Martignano”, at the border between the provinces of Viterbo and Roma. The entire forest area covers approximately 200 ha with a significant old-growth core of about 60 ha. These two low-elevation old-growth forests on volcanic soils were intensively managed until a few decades ago but, thanks to their site fertility, they have shown a surprisingly fast restoration of high biomass (carbon) stocks and naturalness attributes after the end of logging. They are both classified as mid-transition (Cimino) and early-transition (Raschio) old-growth forests. As a consequence of past management and bioclimatic position (low elevation environment with fast turnover rates), such stands are not characterized by very old trees as in the case of high mountain belt. Maximum beech age slightly exceeds 200 years, quite a remarkable age for the low-elevation bioclimatic belt, characterized by very fast turnover rates. No human activity or disturbance since decades is demonstrated by continuously formed new canopy gaps, created by windthrows and glaze storms, generating the diffuse presence of deadwood (large snags and logs) and old-growth indicator species (e.g. Rosalia alpina and Lobaria pulmonaria). The candidate forests belong to IUCN Protected Areas category Ia (Monte Raschio, this level of protection is under approval) or III Natural Monument (Monte Cimino, this level of protection is under approval), but managed with a specific management plan as a strict reserve (category Ia).

“Foresta Umbra-Falascone” (1) – Gargano National Park

The high naturalness of the old-growth beech forests of Gargano is highlighted by the occurrence of many important habitats, the most of them indicated as a priority for nature conservation, like 9210* Apennine beech forests with Taxus and Ilex. Among the Picidae (6 species), the occurrence of the rare white-backed woodpecker (Picoides leucotos lilfordi) and middle-spotted woodpecker (Picoides medius), the last one in Italy common only here, is notable. Another very important biogenetic property is represented by the occurrence of an isolated population of the Italian Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus italicus). The occurrence of numerous monumental trees is an indicator both of the naturalness of the area and of the age of the forest. Dendroecological surveys has revealed beech trees of 200-350 years. These forests, covering almost 450 ha, have been classified as early transition old-growth forests. From the point of view of conservation, it is remarkable that these termophilous beech forests (elevation range: 650-800 m asl) have been recognized among the most representative examples of mountain old-growth forests in the Italian Peninsula. The oldest and most undisturbed parts of the national park (IUCN category Ia) are proposed to be nominated as World Heritage site.

“Cozzo Ferriero” (1) – Pollino National Park

The old-growth beech forest of Cozzo Ferriero extends over an area of about 80 ha (altitudinal range 1700-1900 m) in the Municipality of Rotonda (PZ) on the Basilicata side of the Park. The site belongs to the strict reserve of the Park, where the natural environment is preserved in its integrity (IUCN category Ia). The structure of this early-transition old-growth beech forest, from Coppola di Paola to Colle del Dragone, is characterized by a bimodal diameter distribution with the oldest cohort composed of trees with 300-400 years. Human activity has been absent for many decades, as demonstrated by a diffuse presence of deadwood (large snags and logs) and old-growth indicator species (e.g. Lobaria pulmonaria).

Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole

In the selection process of suitable primeval and ancient Beech forests in Europe,  a classification system defining Beech Forest Regions (BFR) in Europe has been developed. Each BFR is characterised by its specific climatic and floristic situation and showing an individual history of postglacial Beech forest development differing in time of first Beech arrival and the different genetic ecotypes of Beech, as Beech was re-colonising Europe after the last ice-age from different refuge areas. It is considered that a finite serial transnational European nomination will include candidates from all BFR. Therefore, the best suitable Beech forest sites in each BFR have been selected to represent the different ecotypes and postglacial development processes in a most representative way. Each component part within one BFR brings specific aspects and significantly adds additional value to the series as a whole. These specific aspects are shown in the following:

“Sasso Fratino” (1) – Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park

This old-growth forest grows on flysch sandstone soils in a peculiar biogeographic area (i.e. the Alpine/Central Mediterranean transition zone). It covers a large and well-preserved altitudinal range (from 600 to 1600 m, i.e. lowland to high-mountain beech forest). This allows, in a single forest, the expression of many different environmental conditions for beech and the associated biodiversity. The large altitudinal transect guarantees the acclimation-adaptation of beech to climate change.

“Valle Cervara”, “Coppo Vademogna”, “Coppo del Principe”, “Coppo del Morto” and “Val Fondillo” (5) – Abruzzo, Lazio & Molise National Park

This cluster is made of 5 old-growth forests located on calcareous shallow soils, from the mountain belt (Val Fondillo, Coppo del Principe) to the upper altitudinal limit of beech range (high mountain forests, Valle Cervara, Coppo Vademogna, Coppo del Morto). These forests enclose the largest stock of very old (>300 years) beech trees in Europe, with thousands of trees older than 400 years and scattered trees with 500-600 years, which underlines the integrity of beech life-cycle, a fundamental bio-ecological process for the UNESCO property.

“Monte Cimino” and “Monte Raschio” (2) – Tuscia low-elevation beech forests on volcanic soils

The old-growth beech forests of Monte Cimino and Monte Raschio, growing at the lower border of beech distribution (450-1000 m asl), are well-adapted to drought as they are the warmest and driest sites within the proposed forests. The presence of these magnificent forests inside the Mediterranean Biome is due to highly fertile volcanic substrates (a distinctive trait within the network), that have permitted a surprising very fast natural recovery rates in the last decades. These old-growth forests are characterized by a high above- and below-ground carbon stock. Monte Cimino distinguishes for holding a magnificent stand where exceptionally tall (50 m) beech trees are found.

“Foresta Umbra-Falascone” (1) – Gargano National Park

The importance of the Foresta Umbra old-growth forest is linked to its biogeographic position. The Gargano Promontory hosts an isolated beech forest growing in peculiar geomorphological sites (karst landscape, e.g. doline) at low-elevation in Southern Italy. Thanks to its position and to the proximity to the Adriatic Sea, it represents one of the most important refuge areas of beech.

“Cozzo Ferriero” (1) – Pollino National Park

The old-growth forest of Cozzo Ferriero is located on calcareous shallow soils, at the upper altitudinal limit of beech range (high mountain forests), characterized by being the southernmost of the network. Its main value is to be located in a glacial refuge area. Further elements for its justification relate to its extreme geographical position (both latitudinal and altitudinal) in connection to beech adaptation to climate change (drought, but also climate extremes in general, e.g. late frost).

Comparison with other similar properties

The occurrence of deciduous forests with trees from the genius Fagus is limited to the Holarctic of Earth’s northern hemisphere. They are found throughout the nemoral zones for climatic reasons and are limited to certain conditions. The genus of beech (Fagus) is a typical element of deciduous forests. It comprises of 14 species that exist under humid climate conditions in the three major Holarctic regions of deciduous forest: in the east of North America, in Europe/West Asia, and in East Asia. It’s counterpart in the southern hemisphere is the cognate Nothofagus genus (Fagaceae) native to the Neotropical, Australian and Antarctic floristic realm. Forests with Nothofagus are already represented in World Heritage Sites of Los Glaciares National Park (Argentine), Lorentz National Park (Indonesia) and Gondwana Rainforest of Australia. Forests with trees from genus Fagus are found outside of Europe in the World Heritage sites of Shirakami-Sanchi (Japan).

In Europe beech forests are represented (beside the existing site of “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”, which is concern of this extension) in the World Heritage site of Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia), Durmitor National Park (Montenegro) and Pirin National Park (Bulgaria). In the National Park of Plitvice Lakes, the outstanding universal value chosen is the lake-system built by travertine barriers (criterion vii, viii and x). The Dumitor National Park was nominated for the outstanding Canyon (criterion vii, viii and ix). In Pirin National Park the outstanding universal value is the natural coniferous forest and its functioning ecosystem as well as the glacial geomorphology of the region (criterion vii, viii and ix). In all three sites, beech forests are covered, but they are not core part of the nomination. The Plitvice Lakes National Park includes the Corkova uvala primeval forest, compost of beech, silver fir and spruce forest. This forest is of high scientific and natural value. The proposed new sites are more important for representation of on-going ecological processes, climatic adaptation of Fagus sylvatica and diversity of site conditions and geo-morphological characteristics of beech forest communities. They meet the sufficient size of minimum 100 ha needed to ensure integrity of the site, while Corkova Uvala primeval forest within Plitvice Lakes National Park has a size of 75 ha. Therefore, values of this primeval forest will be additionally emphasised in the future management of the existing world heritage site and presented as complementary to the Ancient Beech Forests serial site.

All in all this extension is of crucial importance for the long term conservation of European beech ecosystems. The size of the component parts as well as their spatial distribution cover a variety of environmental conditions and the genetic diversity of beech. No other already existing World Heritage Site unites these features, which makes the extension to a unique project in terms of conservation of the ancient beech forests of Europe.