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Nature's Beauty

European Beech: Magnificent Ecosystems of Bountiful Life

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The European beech tree, also known by its scientific name, Fagus sylvatica, is one of the most important organisms in the history of European ecological development. Since the last ice age and during the 12,000 years that followed, European beech forests have continually expanded to become the predominant tree species on the continent. These trees play a crucial role in supporting the existence of a multitude of flora and fauna, including human beings.

Their continuation is made possible largely due to valuable pockets of UNESCO World Heritage-listed “Ancient and Primeval European Beech Forests,” which now span over 18 European countries. This ongoing process was initiated in 2007, with the first inscription of the “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians” in Ukraine as a World Heritage Site.

The success of European beech trees as a species is mainly due to its durability. The tree is able to adapt to a variety of climatic conditions, from the balmy heat of the Mediterranean to the austere chill of the Baltic. The average lifespan of a tree is between 100 and 300 years, and they can potentially reach an age of around 600 years. Their finely textured hard wood of pale pink or brown is dressed in a silvery smooth bark, which can sometimes feature beautiful ripples or ridges, creating an overall shimmering atmosphere of vertical majesty. Walking in a European beech forest is truly a blessed experience as we soak up the ambience emitting from these noble trees.

The European beech made its multi-millennial trek across the vast and geographically varying landscapes, accompanied by a great variety of plants, fungi, and insect-people. The migration of the European beech across Europe is considered a biological phenomenon that rarely occurs on our Earth. Ancient and primeval European beech forests are rich examples of biodiversity. Entire ecosystems of life are perpetuated by the continuous cycle of growth and decay of its wood. However, the European beech’s prolific expansion northward has still been slowed by the expanse of the Baltic Sea and, more recently, the effects of climate change. Beyond that, an increase in the incidence of forest fires also threatens the existence of entire European beech forest ecosystems.
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