Carpathian Forests, Europe

Carpathian Forests, Europe

The continent's largest remaining primary forests

The Carpathians hold Europe’s largest remaining tracts of primary and old-growth forests. They are a stronghold for brown bear, wolf, lynx, as well as lesser known endemic species and habitats.

Frankfurt Zoological Society

The Frankfurt Zoological Society is an international conservation organization. Its mission to conserve wildlife and its habitats in protected areas and areas of outstanding wilderness – by people, for people. It operates out in the natural areas themselves, supporting our partners in carrying out the practical conservation work.
Frankfurt Zoological Society

About the Carpathian forests

Forests cover of the Carpathian Mountains is over 10 million hectares (about the size of Iceland) across the Ukraine, Romania, Poland, and Slovakia. Whilst forests in Romania have been subject to massive illegal logging, forests in Ukraine remain largely intact and the potential for protection (and need thereof) is both high and urgent.

The use of wood-based bioenergy in the European Union, which increased 260% since 1990, pose the largest single threat to the Carpathian forests. With the current rules & public subsidies, 250% increase in demand is projected by 2027.

Carpathian Mountains extent

Extent of the Carpathian Mountains forests in Eastern Europe

What's at stake

There are an estimated 330,000 ha of primary forest in the Carpathian region, in addition to much larger tracts of old-growth forests. The annual carbon sink potential of the overall Carpathian forests is estimated at 10 million tonnes with an estimated 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the Carpathian forests alone.

Romania has already lost 400,000 ha of its forests due to illegal logging. Forests in Slovakia and Poland are increasingly threatened by European Union biofuel demands. At least 1 million m3 of Ukrainian timber is already illegally exported to EU markets annually. Even so, Ukraine still holds the most intact forest tracts of the Carpathians.

Whilst the effects of climate change have decimated spruce plantations throughout the Carpathians, natural forest ecosystems have shown considerably higher resilience. Forest management must be adapted.

Forest carbon content (above and below ground biomass): Carpathian Forests

Forest cover (million ha)Primary forestTotal forest carbon (tonnes)Primary forest carbon (tonnes)
Carpathian Forests11.23%1.73 billion66.5 million

Current activity

Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and its national partners support 18 protected areas (PAs) across the Carpathians (total areas approx. 500,000 ha). Our focus is on improving the standards of protected area management, extensions and new designations, equipping park administrations (mainly rangers) to better carry out their tasks, and instituting world-class environmental monitoring systems.

FZS and its partners are leading on research projects to better understand the biodiversity and climate change mitigation value of the Carpathians. The focus of this research is always to inform better conservation.

On a European scale, FZS and the Wild Europe Initiative have begun undertaking advocacy work aimed at eliminating the logging pressure placed on the Carpathians by the EU’s biofuel policies.

The expanses of the Carpathian forests

Fire salamander, native of the Carpathian forests

Up-scaling protection

Large protected areas are the last bastions of large-scale and long-term forest protection. They should be expanded and provided with technical support (budget estimate all countries: $500,000 a year).

New designations will be supported (approx. 200,000 ha) in the region of all four target countries through data collection, mapping, ecosystem services research and targeted advocacy work ($150,000 a year).

Awareness raising, lobbying and advocacy work are desperately needed to combat the bioenergy challenge. The project will target a change of subsidy policy within the EU aimed at stopping the use of primary and old-growth forests as biofuels, both in Europe and globally ($150,000 a year).

Research articles from case study

Policy brief: Conservation connectivity and the biodiversity-climate nexus

Connectivity between conservation areas is vital for protecting and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems and can play a key role in supporting national responses to climate change, in Australia and around the world. Through a National Conservation Corridors Framework Australia could meet both climate and biodiversity outcomes and protect First Nations cultural heritage.
Beech Tree

Policy brief: The economic value of the world’s forests

Our planet’s forests provide many benefits to society’s continued well-being yet are subjected to ongoing loss and degradation. These activities provide financial benefits but unless we understand the value of what is lost when the forests are cleared and degraded, we will not be able to make informed decisions about their use and management.
Using forest biomass for energy is now widespread. Picture: Getty Images

Burning forest biomass for energy is a climate own goal

Data from Europe shows that there has been a major increase in the intensification of logging in Europe over the past five to seven years and this could prevent many European nations reaching their emissions reduction targets under the Paris and Glasgow agreements. The same process is now being pushed heavily by certain forest industry lobbyists and government agencies in several Australian states, including Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
Rainforest canopy

How much is that forest worth? The economic value of global forest ecosystems

The number of studies on valuation of forest ecosystem services is increasing over time, but limited in covering important regions and forest types. The values are diverse in nature for different forest features and ecological zones. The economic value is greatest when the ecosystem services are considered together, instead of when individual extractive uses are used in insolation.
Sunlight through forests

Economic values of the world’s forest ecosystem services

Economic studies published between 1990 and 2018 from primary forests around the world were reviewed to create a database of forest values. This database represents a 'meta-analysis' of the economic values of global forest ecosystem services in a readily comparable measure.