Primeval forests given formal protection in Slovakia


The Slovakian government voted this month for the establishment of a new cross-country nature reserve to protect old-growth forests.

Following a petition launched last year by WWF Slovakia and the NGO OZ Prales, and signed by over 30,000 people, the Old Growth Forest Reserve includes 76 state-owned forests covering a total area of almost 6,500 ha across Slovakia.

Ural Owl is one of many species that resides in the primeval forests of Slovakia (Jon Mercer).

The two organisations spearheaded efforts to map old-growth forests from 2009-2015 and found that more than 10,000 ha remained in Slovakia, out of which one third was insufficiently protected.

"When in 2017 WWF Slovakia entered into negotiations about the protection of old-growth forests in Slovakia, the topic was impassable for many foresters or officials," explained Miroslava Plassmann, director of WWF Slovakia, warning that the "global loss of diversity we are witnessing nowadays is historically the largest and fastest ever."

The new natural reserve, which will become effective on 1 December, is in line with the European Union's biodiversity strategy and the Carpathian Convention aiming to make "all of the EU's remaining primary and old-growth forests … strictly protected."

"Under the Carpathian Convention, Slovakia made a commitment to identify its natural and old growth forests," said Marian Jasik, a conservation expert from OZ Prales. "In addition to all those involved in mapping and ensuring the protection of forests, I would like to thank all foresters who perceived the protection of old-growth forests as our commitment to future generations."

With approximately 40% of its territory covered in forest, Slovakia is one of the most forested countries in Europe. One of Europe's largest primeval forests, Bialowieza, is partly located in neighbouring Poland and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.