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About project

The REMOTE (REsearch on MOuntain TEmperate) Primary Forests project is a long-term international collaboration based on a network of permanent sample plots in the forests of central, eastern, and southeastern Europe. Since 2010, our international team has developed a system for monitoring select remaining primary forests in the region. These primary forests play a key role in providing habitat for many rare species and other important ecosystem functions. From our network of systematic permanent inventory plots we collect extensive data on forest structure and long-term dynamics of individual trees. Dendroecological analyses, that is analyses of past tree growth based on tree rings from individual trees across tree, stand, and landscape levels, are a key part of our work. We have built one of the largest dendroecological databases in the world including thousands of individual trees. Our overall goal is to contribute to the long-term scientific understanding of those unique remaining primary forests. At the same time, we hope to contribute to the protection of those remaining primary forests because they are threatened from many sides.

General objectives

Forests of the Carpathian and Dinaric Mountains are among Europe’s most substantial carbon reserves, the last refuges for numerous endemic European species, and they also provide subsistence to millions of Europeans. The general objective of this project is to better understand the developmental dynamics, disturbance regimes, forest structure and biomass patterns, and biodiversity in the remaining primary forests in the region. We aim to conduct novel, multi-scale analyses to disentangle tree-level (size, age, competition), site-level (soils, topography), and regional-level (temperature, precipitation, drought) factors that drive historical variation in growth and disturbances.

About the Carpathian Mountains

The Carpathian Mountains represent the second largest mountain range in Europe, an area of approximately 210,000 km2, stretching across eight European countries: Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, Czech republic, Poland, Hungary, and Serbia. For a long time, forests in the Carpathians were protected from human influence due to their remote location and poor accessibility. Lowland forests, as well as forests located at lower elevations of the Carpathian Mountains, were cleared because of their suitability for human settlement and agriculture. This process took place in different regions of the Carpathians in various historical periods but mainly throughout the Middle Ages (between 500 and 1500 AD). The mountain forests located deep in the steep valleys and on the mountain ridges remained mainly intact at that time. Until a few decades ago, a relatively continuous mountain forest cover was maintained in the Romanian and Ukrainian (partly also in Slovakian) regions of the Carpathians because it was still not operationally or economically viable to conduct logging in these forests. Recently, however, due to the introduction of modern harvesting technologies, widespread destruction of many previously undisturbed sites has occurred across the Carpathians. As a result, primeval forests are currently relatively rare in the Carpathians and they make up only a small proportion of the total forest cover. In spite of their scarcity, the size of primeval forests is still decreasing, mainly due the unawareness of their exact location (imprecise mapping) and the lack of effective protection measures. Our research in the Carpathians focuses on beech, mixed beech-fir, and spruce forests.

About the Dinaric Mountains

The Dinaric Mountains are approximately 700 km in length and 200 km in width; they range from the northwestern to the southeastern areas of the western Balkan Peninsula. The Mountains cover regions of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Serbia-Kosovo, Albania, Slovenia, and Montenegro. The Dinar Mountains are known for karst areas where a significant part of the mountains were formed by carbonate rocks (e.g., limestone) precipitously shaped by water. Although the area is bleak, it was originally covered by forests. The Western Balkans have historically been a strategic location, even as far back as antiquity - important trade routes used to cross the land and several powerful states used to intersect there. The colonization and related deforestation in the region began around 6000-6500 B.C. The original forests had undergone extraction and burning for settlement foundations, pasture, and metal mining (particularly iron). Ship construction was one of the main reasons for the disappearance of forests by the shores. We can trace the first attempts to protect these valuable forests back to the 12th century, but the measures were largely ineffective. Significant achievements in protecting and restoring forests occured in the 19th century.1 However, the original forests have already been destroyed or at least completely changed since that time. The last of the true primary forests are scattered in the most isolated places throughout the Dinar Mountains. It has been a long time since the forests formed continuous complexes; only residues are preserved nowadays. The forests are predominantly beech-fir forests, of which the largest and most famous are Peručica in Bosnia (1,434 hectares) and Biogradska Gora (about 1,600 hectares) in Montenegro.2 Nowadays, there are even bigger areas of critical forests unknown to the general population. Those areas are usually found outside protected areas, or they are poorly protected, and therefore are in danger of  deforestation. Our research in the Dinar Mountain range focuses on beech and mixed beech-fir tree forests.

1. Kranjc, A. (2009). History of deforestation and reforestation in the Dinaric Karst. Geographical Research, 47(1), 15-23.
2. Supplementary Information on the Nomination “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” as extension to the existing Natural World Heritage Site “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” 41 pp. 

Goals

  • Conduct spatial and temporal analyses focusing on various aspects of disturbance regimes in the primary forests of central, eastern and southeastern Europe. Perform dendrochronological studies not yet performed within this geographical range.
  • Raise awareness of practitioners and the public regarding the importance of primary forests and the many services they provide, and provide science-based information and guidance on forest management for key stakeholders, forest managers, and conservationists.
  • Utilise science-based information from primary forests to help guide the application of ‘close-to-nature’ forest management principles in suitable commercial forests. Ensure that natural disturbance regimes common to primary forests are considered as a template for ‘close-to-nature’ forest management in selected commercial forests. An important part of the application of our findings will be focused on the conservation of preserved old-growth forest localities.