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Slovakia – a country of primeval forests

Updated 28.04.2023
Published 28.04.2023

Forests are an integral part of Slovakia's image and have shaped the country's history. Their status and significance is reflected in the fact that in 1952 April was designated Forest Month. At least 40 percent of Slovakia's landmass is covered in trees. Stretching out over a relatively small area and providing a variety of natural conditions, Slovakia’s forests are highly diverse – ranging from lowland to montane – and many are of European significance.

One such forest is the Badínsky primeval forest reserve, also known simply as Badín, in Central Slovakia. It was declared a protected area back in 1913 and is one of the country’s oldest forests.

The Badín biotope consists primarily of rare fir and beech trees with some spruce, maple, ash and elm as well. Almost untouched by human activity, it is a beautiful diverse forest. Badín is a fine example of the natural evolution of a beech forest. Scientists come here to study the mechanisms of a habitat largely unaffected by human activity.

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​​​​​​​In this unspoilt forest the fir trees have been growing for around 400 years and the beech trees for more than 200 years. The tallest fir tree measures 46 meters, but some of the dead trees are even taller.
Prince Charles, now the British King, visited Badín in 2000. (Photo: TASR)

​​​​​​​It occupies a special place in his heart and so forestry experts from the Technical University in Zvolen grew 50 elm seedlings that were then sent to his residence in Highgrove, near Bristol in England, via diplomatic post.

​​​​​​​A number of charities in the UK came to hear of these Slovak trees and asked if the forestry experts could send them a few plants too. Almost 20 years later King Charles III invited the experts from Zvolen to come and see his elm trees for themselves.

​​​​​​​The Slovak elms from Badín may well be key to reintroducing the elm in the UK. In the 1960s and 1970s more than 20 million trees in the UK were lost to Dutch elm disease.
Slovakia has a long forestry tradition, dating back to 1770 when Maria Theresa, ruler of Habsburg, was advised to look after the forests, rather than simply allowing them to be exploited. She decided to open a Department of Forestry at the Mining Academy in Banská Štiavnica, a UNESCO town not far from Badín. It was among the first such departments in the world.
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​​​​​​​Eastern Slovakia is another part of the country where primeval forests have survived intact. Poloniny and Vihorlat are two such UNESCO World Heritage sites. Poloniny forms part of the most densely forested part of the country, where tree coverage is around 80 percent, while Vihorlat is a forest in a volcanic mountain range of the same name. Both forests are predominantly beech.

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​​​​​​​Although Slovakia is a small country, it has nine national parks and soon another park will be joining the list – the riparian forest that straddles the river Danube.