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Eastern Europe: along the Adriatic coast of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, northern Italy, Slovenia, and Yugoslavia

The Dinaric Mountain range spans several countries of Eastern Europe and is covered by mixed forest with an outstanding variety of deciduous oak trees. These forests are among the largest and most continuous tracts of forested habitat remaining for large carnivores in Europe. The flora has a relatively high endemism rate with many relict and restricted range species. Faunal diversity is high, and a number of IBAs (Important Bird Areas) and threatened SPECs (Species of European Concern) are encompassed within the region. Human impact remains high in this ecoregion, mainly due to the socio-economic and political instability of most countries in the region, where illegal logging, illegal hunting, and uncontrolled plant harvesting have recently destroyed extensive forest areas that had remained virtually untouched until current times.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    22,500 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats

Location and General Description
The Dinaric Mountain mixed forests ecoregion encompasses the northwest-southeast Balkan mountain ranges, from the eastern Alps to the northern Albania massifs. Climatically, the ecoregion is characterized by an average annual rainfall of 1,500-2,000 mm. Of particular interest is the extremely heavy rainfall of the Prokletije range on the border between Albania and Montenegro (over 3,000 mm annually). Snow frequently falls during winter and average temperatures in January are below zero (from -10 º C to 0 º C). July average temperatures range between 15 to 20 º C.

The great Alpine upheaval and folding in Tertiary times threw up the main Dinaric mountain ranges. From a geological point of view, these mountains are formed largely of Secondary and Tertiary rocks of limestone, dolomite, sand, and conglomerates. The Inner Dinaric mountains are located in Western Serbia and Northern Montenegro, while the Outer Dinaric ranges are located for the most part in Montenegro and in the bordering area of Serbia towards Albania. In the Inner Dinaric ranges, Triassic limestone substrates prevail, with frequent plutonic intrusions, while the outer ranges have a more complex structure, characterized by the abundance of dolomites and ultrabasic rocks. The most important karst areas are at the karst of Lelic, on Mt. Giljeva and Mt. Pester, bordering parts of Mts. Zlatibor, Zlatar, and Tara. The longest cave in Yugoslavia (Pecina nad Vrazjim Firovima) and the 2nd longest Serbian cave (Usacki Pecinski Sistem) are located in this region, at Pester.

The wide altitudinal range of this ecoregion results in two major forest zones: a conifer zone, which characterizes the highest elevations (average altitudinal range of 1,200-2,500 m), and a mixed broadleaf zone that occurs at the medium elevations and lowlands.

The dominant canopy tree species of the mountain conifer forests are spruce (Picea abies), silver fir (Abies alba), and black pine (Pinus nigra). One Tertiary relict and endemic spruce species (Picea omorika) occurs on certain mountain massifs of Bosnia-Herzegovina (e.g. Veliki Stola? Mountain). Mixed fir, spruce, and beech (Fagus sylvatica) forests frequently appear all along the Dinaric Mountains.

Broadleaf beech and mixed oak forests dominate at medium and low altitudes in deep soil and humid slopes, valleys, and canyons. These forests are distinguished by an outstanding diversity of deciduous oak species including Quercus frainetto, Q. pubescens, Q. cerris, Q. robur, and Q. petraea, as well as other deciduous broadleaf species such as Carpinus betulus, Fraxinus excelsior, Ulmus minor, Tilia spp., Sorbus spp., and Acer spp. Canyons support important Tertiary relict species like Forsythia europaea, and Syringa vulgaris.

Biodiversity Features
The endemism rate of the ecoregion’s mountain ranges exceeds 10 % of the total flora in some areas. Many plant taxa related to these forest ecosystems have a very restricted distribution range (i.e. Velebit Mountain range), and are included as threatened species in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants.

The ecoregion host a very high faunal diversity, mainly with regard to its birds. A few examples are capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), and kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). The region encompasses several IBAs (Important Bird Areas) and threatened SPECs (Species of European Concern). Large carnivores such as brown bear (Ursus arctos), lynx (Lynx lynx), and wolf (Canis lupus), as well as large herbivores like roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), maintain significant populations in the mountain ranges.

Current Status
The mountain ranges of this region have had low human populations, and tall forests still prevail widely throughout. A significant number of pristine large forest stands remained quite untouched until very recently. Rapid and intense forest degradation in the form of illegal logging, pollution, and fire took place during the recent Balkan conflicts that led to the division of the Former Yugoslavia into a number of independent republics. Overexploitation of forests is ongoing in certain areas due to the political instability of most countries in the ecoregion.

Types and Severity of Threats
Human impact remains high in this ecoregion, mainly due to the socio-economic and political instability of most countries in the ecoregion, where illegal logging, illegal hunting, and uncontrolled plant harvesting have already destroyed extensive forest areas-- including those within certain protected areas.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
This ecoregion is equivalent to the DMEER (2000) unit of the same name. It includes the lowland-colline subcontinental meadow steppes and dry grassland vegetation, and lowland-colline lime oak forests of Eastern Europe (Bohn et al. 2000).

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Shackleton, D.M., editor, and the IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group. 1997. Wild Sheep and their Relatives. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

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Water, K.S., and Gillett, H.J., editors. 1998. 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Compiled by WCMC. IUCN, Publication Service Unit, Cambridge.

WWF. 2001. The Mediterranean forests. A new conservation strategy. WWF, MedPO, Rome.

WWF. In preparation. Mediterranean Forest Gap Analysis Database. WWF, MedPO, Rome.

Prepared by: Pedro Regato
Reviewed by: In process


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