Italian land and nature: The Ancient Beech Forests

Feb 16, 2019 455

Ten ancient Italian beech forests which extend from Tuscany to Basilicata are recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage for their exceptional naturalistic value and the incredible biodiversity that characterizes them.
The Italian Ancient Beech forests protected by UNESCO fall within the context of the transnational environmental site of the "Primeval forests of the Carpathian beech and other parts of Europe".

Italian wild forests have been selective for their organic and ecological uniqueness. This prestigious award takes an even greater value if one considers that in comparison to the 54 UNESCO Italian sites, only five have been awarded recognition for natural aspects: the Aeolian IslandsMount San GiorgioEtna, the Dolomites and of course the Ancient Beech.

The ten naturalistic sites protected by UNESCO are Casentinesi forests in Emilia Romagna; the forests of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park in the villages of Villavallelonga, Lecce in the Marsi, Pescasseroli and Opi in Abruzzo; the forests of Monte Cimino and Monte Raschio in Lazio; the Umbra Forest in the Gargano National Park in Puglia; the Cozzo Ferriero Forest in Basilicata in the Pollino National Park.

Sasso Fratino which is in the Foreste Casentinesi National Park in Emilia Romagna, is the first Integral Nature Reserve in Italy, set up in 1959 in order to preserve one of the few foliage of the forest that we have virtually intact, thanks to its rich shape of rugged rocky slopes to the almost total lack of access routes, which have prevented human colonization over the centuries. Its territory extends over the fortified slope of the Apennines ridge in the municipalities of Bagno di Romagna and Santa Sofia (Forlì-Cesena): 784 hectares surrounded by the National Park of Foreste Casentinesi. Inside, it has come to the discovery of old beech for more than 500 years, making Sasso Fratino one of the 10 oldest deciduous forests throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Access to the Reserve is prohibited, while visits to the surrounding area are possible thanks to the Park's trail network.

The Beechwoods of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park are those of "Val Cervara" in the municipality of Villavallelonga, "Moricento" in the municipality of Lecce in the Marsi, "Coppo del Morto" and "Coppo del Principe" in the municipality of Pescasseroli, "Cacciagrande "In the municipality of Opi. We speak of more than a thousand hectares, which are home to some of the most important forests in Europe, populated by various species of fauna, such as Piccolo, Picchio Dalmatino, Rosalia Alpina beetle, Wolf and Bruno Marsicano bear, rare flowering mushrooms and mosses that colonize the fallen trunks. In the beech of Val Cervara, situated between 1600 and 1850 meters, there are exceptional specimens that reach even 560 years, not only are the oldest beech trees in Europe but also the oldest in the whole northern hemisphere . The largest site is located in the reserve area of Val Fondillo, in the areas of Cacciagrande and Valle Jancino. It is the only watery forest in the Park where water is present - crossed by several streams. A magical place: imposing plants overhang valleys filled with cavities. In such densely populated forests there are rare species elsewhere, such as appenninous chopped salamander.

In Lazio, the Forests of Monte Cimino, in Soriano in Cimino, grows on an ancient volcano and has an amplitude of approx. 60 hectares covered with beech Fagus sylvatica, with specimens of majestic dimensions, some of which reach forty meters in height, creating the so-called "catwalks". These large trees favored the presence of a large number of wild animals including hare, wild boar, hedgehog, horn and wild cat, as well as birds of prey and peaks, and constitute a key habitat.

Also in Lazio, a little further south, the "Faggeta vetusta" of Monte Raschio, near Oriolo Romano, is located within the Regional Nature Park of Bracciano-Martignano, at 542 meters above sea level, a fairly low proportion compared to other beech trees, but whose favorable conditions of the soil, of a purely volcanic origin, have favored its development.

In Puglia, within the Gargano National Park, the Umbra Forest embraces the municipal territory of Vico del Gargano, Vieste and Monte Sant'Angelo. It covers an area of 10,500 hectares with an altitude ranging from 832 mt of Mount Iacotenente to 165 mt above sea level in the Cartate area. The Forest. strain residue of "Nemus Garganicum" which covered the entire promontory, is a deciduous formations among the largest in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It's composed of beech, oak, maple and holm. Among them is the Leccio of Vico del Gargano, fifty meters high with a five-meter circumference standing in front of a Cappuccini monastery, and it seems that  Fra 'Nicola da Vico planted it,  who died in 1719.

The Cozzo Ferriero Beech Forest at Rotonda (PZ) in the heart of the Pollino National Park extends over 70 hectares and develops on an area between 1700 and 1750 s., near the border between Basilicata and Calabria. In this area, monumental beams are grown, which have reached the age of about 500 years, typical of the most mature phases of forest dynamics. This forest, which is the southern most beech forest of Europe, is of fundamental importance in the studies of climate change.

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