More than 8,000 hectares of Italian forests have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, demonstrating the richness and uniqueness of Italy’s natural ecosystems and the effectiveness of the conservation efforts of the country’s protected areas. This was decided on 28th July by the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, which, during its work held in Fuzhou, China, in videoconference mode, accepted the favourable recommendation made by the IUCN, recognising the special ecological characteristics of other Mediterranean beech forests in Italy, located in the national parks of Aspromonte, Gargano and Pollino, with the new forest complexes of Pavari-Sfilzi, Pollinello and Valle Infernale.
This recognition seals the international initiative followed by the Italian Ministry of Ecological Transition, with the operational coordination of the Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise National Park, in cooperation with other European countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland), for the extension of the transnational natural site of the Ancient Beech Woods of Europe. The extension, in fact, has allowed the inclusion in the UNESCO serial site of Mediterranean forest ecosystems dominated by beech trees located in the southernmost (Aspromonte), golden Mediterranean/subalpine (Pollino) and lowest altitude (Sfilzi) sectors of the ‘Ancient Beechwoods of Europe’ network.
“UNESCO today extends the largest and most articulated forestry site and network on the continent, in which Italy is an absolute protagonist, demonstrating the excellence of our natural heritage and the widespread knowledge of our managers and foresters,” comments the Italian Minister for Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani.
Thanks to the integral protection guaranteed by the integral reserves of the national parks in close synergy with the Carabinieri forestry, the natural life cycles of the trees are preserved in these beech forests, making the old-growth forest more resistant to global changes: these forests are, in fact, real natural laboratories where trees are adapted to survive hot, dry summers, thus contributing to the mitigation of climate change.
Italy is among the few countries that have obtained, first from the assessment body and then from the Unesco committee, a fully favourable opinion on all the proposed extensions, without specific recommendations on their management or conservation status.
Overall, today’s award certifies a model of governance of protected areas of excellence based on the conservation and restoration of forest ecosystems, made possible by a long and consolidated collaboration between national parks, forestry police, universities and local communities, and by the commitment of the Ministry, which has launched a national plan in the field of forestation that envisages the creation of resilient urban forests in 14 metropolitan cities for the planting of 6.6 million trees. It is a model that confirms Italy’s leadership in the fight against climate change and the loss of biodiversity, both at a global and European level, as demonstrated at last week’s G20 summit in Naples.