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Cozzo Ferriero (foto Pierluigi Rottura / Archivio Ente Parco Pollino)
foto Gregorio Cerezo

The old-growth beech forest of Cozzo Ferriero, in Rotonda (Pz), in the heart of the Pollino National Park, was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7 July 2017 in Krakow during the work of the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Commission.

This recognition, to date, has been awarded to the beech forests of 18 European countries including Italy: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, France, North Macedonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine, all within the new transnational site called "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe", European beech forests developed since the end of the Ice Age that extend from the Alps to the Carpathians and from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean, showing that they are able to adapt to different climatic, geographical and physical conditions.

The Cozzo Ferriero beech forest is located along the ridge that runs from Coppola di Paola to Cozzo Ferriero, in Basilicata, in the municipality of Rotonda (Pz). It covers about 70 hectares and is spread over a sub-flat area between 1700 and 1750 metres above sea level, near the watershed that marks the border between Basilicata and Calabria. The main exposure is west.

The area is geologically characterised by carbonate rocks with a prevalence of dolomitic limestone, on which moderately deep soils have formed, with a loamy to silty-clayey texture, referable to Typic Hapludolls. In this area, monumental beeches, which have reached an age of approximately 500 years, vegetate, typical of the most mature phases of forest dynamics, with the presence of trees with a wide range of diameters, well distributed in space and an accumulation of standing and fallen dead trees, typical of ancient beech forests, in which the absence of significant impacts linked to human activities for a sufficiently long period of time has allowed natural dynamics to express themselves, giving rise to cenoses that are structurally complex and rich in biodiversity.

The stand consists of 496 trees, 284 of which have a diameter of 17.5 cm or more. The distribution of the trees in diameter classes clearly shows the presence of two distinct groups of trees: a first group consisting of small trees, the number of which decreases as the diameter increases, and a second group with trees over 30 cm in diameter. The latter presents the classic bell-shaped pattern, typical of even-aged stands. Remarkably, there is a break in the distribution of diameters. In fact, trees with diameters in the 20 and 25 cm classes are missing. This absence probably indicates that the regeneration processes began around 45 years ago, a period of time that was not yet sufficient for the trees to distribute themselves in all diameter classes from 5 to 25 cm. It is evident that plants less than 20 years old are completely absent, confirming that the regeneration process has practically stopped or is only present in those cases in which a disturbance event has determined a gap within which beech juveniles with heights varying between 1.5 and 3 m and diameters between 1 and 4 cm have established themselves. The average plant measures 43.8 cm in diameter and 22.5 m in height, while the dominant height is 26.5 m. The basimeter area and volume per hectare, referred to the theoretical area of the site, amount to 69.89 m2 and 971.9 m3 respectively, testifying to the favourable conditions of the station and the high productive capacity of the species. Trees of the lower diametral classes are generally of good to fair shape. The stem is generally straight and free of malformations and the crown is contained and inserted rather high up.

The distribution on the ground is not uniform and appears concentrated, especially where there have been breaks in the canopy that have favoured the establishment and affirmation of juveniles. The trees in the second group, the larger ones, present a fairly regular distribution on the ground. The trunks are of fair to good shape and show no obvious signs of malformation or pathogen attack. The crowns are averagely expanded and their average diameter is 5.7 m, corresponding to an area of 25.3 m2. Litter is present fairly uniformly over the entire area with a thickness of no more than 2-3 cm.

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