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Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe - extension (Italy)

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The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The future nomination, which is subject of this Tentative List entry, represents an extension to the existing World Heritage property of the “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” (Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine, 1133ter). This property was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee first in 2007 as “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians”, extended once in 2011 by the “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” and extended another time in 2017 by the “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” to the present transnational site.

The future extension corresponds to the decision 41 COM 8B.7, where future extensions toward a finite series are noted. With this extension 37 component parts in 10 European States Parties add new values to displaying the history and evolution of the European Beech.

Together with the already inscribed component parts in 12 European States Parties the component parts of this extension will represent an outstanding example of relatively undisturbed, complex temperate forests and exhibit a wide spectrum of 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, which are associated with 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:

“Pollinello” (Extension of Cozzo Ferriero component, Pollino National Park)

Italy Region Calabria– Province of Cosenza

E16 11 25 N39 53 46

“Foresta Umbra” (Gargano National Park)

Italy Region Puglia – Province of Foggia

Gargano National Park:

E15.9822, N41 8114 

“Valle Infernale” (Aspromonte National Park)

Italy Region Calabria – Province of Reggio Calabria

E15 57 44 N38 07 56  

“Foresta del Cansiglio”

Italy Region Veneto – Province of Belluno

E12 24 37  N46 4 55 

Description of the component part(s)

As above referred, the part components cover three Italian Regions. The proposed core areas are so distributed: 

Pollinello (Extension of Cozzo Ferriero component, Pollino National Park)

The Pollino National Park, established in 1993, is the largest protected area in Italy (192000 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 Pollinello large patches of old-growth beech stands survived from the past harvesting campaign; here beech tree of more 600 years old (the oldest beech studied in the world) grow in close contact with very old (800-1200 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 Pollinello belong to the latter type and it is directly managed by the National Park.

Foresta Umbra
(Gargano National Park)

We propose to expand the previous core area of the already inscribed Foresta Umbra component (n. 31, c. 182 ha), by adding the nearby old-growth forests of two adjacent public properties (Region and State, up to c. 1073 ha). The already inscribed component pertains to two State Reserves (Foresta Umbra and Falascone), 700-800 m asl, entirely within the Gargano National Park. This component is important for hosting old and extremely tall trees, in a biogeographically unique area, isolated from the rest of the Apennines, where beech forests are growing at some of the lowest altitudes in Italy, in strict contact with the Mediterranean thermo-xeric vegetation.

This new proposal expands the previous core area, exalting both the old-growth forest attributes and its biogeographical importance. The proposed extension includes the old-growth beech forest hosting the tallest (45 m) and oldest trees in the area (360 years old), and including recently discovered monumental lianas (Hedera helix L.) growing together with beech for c. 100 years. This forest also possesses a different aspect with a largely different disturbance regime from the inscribed ones. In addition, the extended area occupies a larger altitudinal range, going down to 400 m asl in the Strict Reserve Sfilzi, home to the only natural water spring present in the mountain part of the Gargano Promontory. Forests here are interested by a shift from pure to mixed beech communities, where beech grows together with Mediterranean woody plants (e.g. Laurus nobilis, Arbutus unedo, Pistacia terebinthus, Ficus carica).

Valle Infernale (Aspromonte National Park)

It is a part of the State Forest of the High Aspromonte that extends for  2871 ha between Cima Montalto (Max Altitude 1956 m asl) and Torrente Aposcipo (min 600 m). Valle Infernale is managed by the Carabinieri Forest Service; the area includes pure and mixed beech stands. The state forest is protected and belongs to the Aspromonte National Park (64153 ha), established in 1994. Aspromonte National Park is situated in the southern part of the Apennines in Calabria. This strip of granitic-crystalline origin resembles a giant pyramid. The area is near the sea and reaches 2,000 meters of height with its many mountain peaks and plateaus of marine sedimentary origins. The Park territory, deeply marked by a number of watercourses, is also characterized by numerous species such as the Wolf, the Peregrine, the Eagle Owl, and the Goshawk, and by wide forests of beech tree (here at the rear edge of its range), silver fir, black pine, holm oak, chestnut tree, and Mediterranean maquis. A couple of rare species live here: Bonelli's Eagle and the tropical fern Woodwardia radicans. Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Park is enriched by considerable historical, artistic, and archaeological aspects, evidences of the archaic, classical, Greek, medieval, and modern culture.

Foresta del Cansiglio

Cansiglio forest covers most of the homonymous plateau that is part of the Venetian Pre-Alps. The Cansiglio plateau overlooks the high Veneto plain and acts as a link with the Dolomites to which it is connected through the Alpago basin. The Cansiglio consists of a knee syncline that gave rise to a large plain surrounded by gentle slopes uninterruptedly covered by the forest. The rocky substratum is composed of marly rocks and limestone cliffs, strongly caressed. The mesoscale morphology is characterized by the presence of large uvals (Pian del Cansiglio, Val Menera) and by frequent dolines. The climate is of the oceanic type and is characterized by the phenomenon of thermal inversion that means that the beech and the mixed beech and fir woods overpower the present norway spruce, together with the pastures, on the bottom of the large uvales. The mesoscale morphology is characterized by the presence of large uvals (Pian del Cansiglio, Val Menera) and by frequent dolines. Completely the Cansiglio forest covers about 10,000 ha, in two regions (Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia) and three provinces (Belluno, Treviso, Pordenone); the forest of greater historical and naturalistic value is state property and covers about 6,500 hectares, of which 2200 pure beech forest with a high trunk that represents about 40% of the forest area. The beech is present both in pure highland woods between 1000 and 1600 m of altitude (mountain beech and mountain) , which in mixed forests with white fir and spruce in formations attributable to the piceo-beeches and to the soils of the soils mesic (1483 hectares). From the XVth century the beech forest of Cansiglio was demanialized by the Republic of Venice.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (ix): The property is indispensable for the understanding of 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 largely undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibit comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European beech across a variety of environmental gradients, such as climatic and geological conditions, throughout much of the European beech forest range. Forests are included from all altitudinal zones from the coast up to the forest line in the mountains and, furthermore, include the best remaining examples from the range limits of the European beech forest. Beech is one of the most important features in the Temperate Broadleaf Forest Biome and represents an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities since 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 natural corridors and stepping stones spanning the continent. The dominance of beech across extensive areas of Europe is a living testimony of the tree’s genetic adaptability, a process which is still ongoing.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The selected component parts represent the diversity found across Europe in terms of different climatic and geological conditions and altitudinal zones. Inclusion of these components representing the variability of European beech forest ecosystems across these different environmental conditions contributes to the integrity of the property as a whole in terms of the full representation of the ecological processes that convey the OUV of the property. However, each component part also needs to demonstrate integrity at the local level by representing the full suite of natural forest development processes in its particular geographical and ecological setting within the series. All component parts are of sufficient size (> 50 ha) to maintain such natural processes necessary for their long-term ecological viability.

All component parts have buffer zones of various configurations including surrounding protected areas (national parks, nature parks, biosphere reserves and others). These buffer zones will be regularly reviewed to ensure protection under changing environmental conditions such as climate change. The boundaries of buffer zones are, where possible, aligned with existing protected area boundaries. Special emphasis was given during the zonation of the new component parts to ensure effective ecological connectivity between beech forests and the surrounding complementary habitats to allow natural development and adaptation to environmental change. 

While the history of distribution and expansion of beech across Europe demonstrates an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems since the last Ice Age, more recent changes in the distribution pattern of beech across Europe relate to direct influences of human disturbance and the more complex effects of anthropogenically induced climate change. To effectively protect the components of the property from negative influence, a comprehensive analysis of threats has been undertaken.

Pollinello (Extension of Cozzo Ferriero component, Pollino National Park)

The old-growth beech forest of Pollinello extends over an area of about 100 ha (altitudinal range 1620-2000 m) in the Municipality of Morano Calabro (CS) on the Calabria 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 old-growth forest is very complex because of long history of forest development in an extreme environment. Here patches of pure beech stands are in close contact with old Pinus heldreichii trees that is regenerating under the canopy of beech in rocky, windy and snowy sites. AS expected in a old-growth forest, the structure of the beech stand is characterized by a rotated sigmoid diameter distribution. Pollinello hosts the oldest beech individuals for the northern hemisphere, with several trees exceeding 600 years (maximum sampled age: 620 yrs) in the primeval part of the forest. The other old-growth beech stands also show very high levels of naturalness: according to historical records and dendroecological investigations, numerous trees have more than 400-500 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).

Foresta Umbra
(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 (Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi) and middle-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocoptes 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 200-360 years. These forests 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: 400-800 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 are proposed to be nominated as World Heritage site. The proposed extension includes two strict reserves, one owned by the State (Riserva Sfilzi), the other by the Region (Particella Pavari).

Valle Infernale (Aspromonte National Park)

The high naturalness of the old-growth beech forests of Valle Infernale is highlighted by the occurrence of many important habitats, the most of them indicated as a priority for nature conservation in Europe, like 9210* Apennine beech forests with Taxus and Ilex and 9220* Apennine beech forests with Abies alba and beech forests with Abies nebrodensis. Thanks to the geographic position (a complex oro-Mediterranean terrain) the beech comes in contact with many other deciduous and evergreen tree species (e.g. holly, maples, oaks, pines and many other taxa of the Mediterranean dendroflora).  The forest covers a steep rocky valley (Butramo river) where patches of untouched old-growth stands still persist in different compositional  and structural phases. The area is characterized by complex forest ecosystems with the occurrence of complete trophic chains, including populations of the Italian Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus italicus) and wolf (Canis lupus). The occurrence of numerous monumental and old trees is an indicator of the naturalness of the area; dendrochronological surveys have revealed that beech, fir, oak and pine trees are 200-400 years old. This forest, covering almost 200 ha, contains numerous patches belonging to early transition old-growth forests while other past disturbed patches have been not harvested at least since ’60. From the point of view of conservation, it is remarkable the wide environmental gradient from mixed termophilous beech forests (elevation range: 650-800 m asl) to pure beech stands in mountain environment. The oldest and most undisturbed, structurally complex parts of the State Forest (IUCN category Ia) are proposed to be nominated as World Heritage site.

Foresta del Cansiglio

The beech forest of Cansiglio is an ancient state forest, now managed by the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions and a small part by the Italian state. Extensive municipal forests extend around the ancient core of the state forest. It is part of the Natura 2000 network (SIC IT 32300077).The chosen area is located in the province of Belluno, on the western side of the Cansiglio plateau, in the municipality of Alpago. In this area, which falls within the Alpine Biogeographical Region for about 500 hectares, the beech forest is pure. The habitat is the 9130(NN2000) consisting of a typical mountain beech forest, falling within the phytoclimatic belt of Fagetum, a warm and cold sub-zone.

Faunistically the Altopiano del Cansiglio is very rich, hosting among others the wolf, the wild cat, the capercaillie, the francolin of the mountain and one of the richest populations of deer of Italy.In the pure beechwood of Cansiglio there are isolated large specimens of silver fir, protected as monumental trees. Of great importance is the lichenic component, given the interest of the Lobarion alliance that covers the bark of the oldest vines. Finally, there are some remarkable botanical presences, such as the Cystopteris sudetica fern.

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 characterized 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 exotypes 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:

Pollinello (Extension of Cozzo Ferriero component, Pollino National Park)

The importance of adding the Pollinello beech forest in a cluster with Cozzo Ferriero is linked to the very high naturalness level of the former stand, at the altitudinal limit of beech ecology in Mediterranean environment (2000 m asl). The two components are located in a wild and remote landscape; they will be connected by a large strict protected buffer area making this high mountain beech ecosystem a special site for conserving bio-ecological processes at the upper and southern altitudinal limit of beech range (high mountain forests in the Mediterranean region). Another relevant value is to be located in a glacial refuge area. In conclusion, the main element for its justification relate to high level of natural processes in marginal ecological and geographical position (both latitudinal and altitudinal limits) that testify the exceptional capacity of beech to adapt to extreme climates (including climate change, e.g. drought, but also cold temperature extremes, like late frost) in a glacial refuge area.

Foresta Umbra
(Gargano National Park)

The importance of the Foresta Umbra old-growth forest is linked to its biogeographic position and proximity to the Adriatic Sea, making it an important refuge area for beech. The Gargano Promontory hosts isolated beech forests, growing in peculiar geomorphological sites (karst landscape, e.g. doline) at low-elevation in Southern Italy, where nonetheless beech can reach remarkable age (360 years) and size (45 m). This extension will not only add to the existing Property the old-growth forest hosting the oldest and tallest trees, including a unique case of long-term interaction between beech and 100 years old Hedera helix lianas, but will also significantly expand the core area to reach beech forests growing at some of the lowest elevation for Mediterranean areas, where beech can mix with many other tree species, included those typical of the warmer Mediterranean vegetation. The ecological importance of the area is also testified by the presence of the only water source of all the mountain part of the Gargano Promontory, a key resource for this Mediterranean environment.

Valle Infernale (Aspromonte National Park)

The importance of Valle Infernale beech forest is linked to its Southern biogeographic position, at the rear edge of the beech range. Thanks to the proximity to the Ionic Sea, it represents one of the most important Mediterranean refuge areas of beech, candidate to become the Southernmost component of the Unesco serial site. The forest represents a complex eco-functional entity characterized by the persistence during the Quaternary of a well-conserved dendroflora. In this era of global change the beech forest of Valle Infernale has a strategic role in monitoring tree acclimation and adaptation to the changing climatic conditions. The presence of different structural and compositional phases, with trees belonging to the whole ontogenetic cycle – from seedling to senescent stages as testified by the high number of  beech trees with 200 years and older –, will permit to monitor the ongoing ecological process at the frontiers of warm/dry environment (rear edge) in relation to climate variation and past land use.

Foresta del Cansiglio

The large and historic beech forest of Cansiglio is recognized as the most important beech forest of the Italian Alpine arc. It represents the optimum of the forest formations known as "typical mountain beech forest", well preserved and managed (regional state forest). The structure of this formation is multiplan and rich in both the herbaceous and the shrub component. The Cansiglio plateau is also characterized by the presence of prairies of high naturalistic value as evidenced by the presence of priority habitats (NN2000) such as the 6230 and by numerous peat bogs, of absolute biogeographic importance even of which high type active classified priority habitat7110 (NN2000).

Comparison with other similar properties

The comparison with similar properties has already been provided in the nomination dossiers 1133 (2007), 1133bis (2011) and 1133ter (2016).