European-Mediterranean Montane Mixed Forests

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Reservoir in Retezat National Park, Carpathian Mountains, southeast Romania.
© WWF-Canon / Andreas BECKMAN

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 8 terrestrial ecoregions: Appenine deciduous montane forests; Carpathian montane conifer forests; Crimean Submediterranean forest complex; Dinaric Mountains mixed forests; Rodope montane mixed forests; Mediterranean conifer and mixed forests; Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests; and Alps conifer and mixed forests.

These forests cover parts of more than 24 different nations, encompassing a wide-ranging collection of conifer and mixed forest blocks and providing home to a rich assortment of creatures.

The major mountain areas of this ecoregion are the Alps, Pyrenees, Balkan, Rhodope Massifs, and Carpathian Mountains. The cool temperatures of these mountain regions make them a better habitat for conifer species than hardwoods.

Appenine forests shield such rare gems as the lady’s slipper, an orchid found in only 2 locations in the central mountains, and the Marsican brown bear, which is seldom seen.

Crimean Submediterranean forest complex links western and eastern Europe and thus harbors a broad range of biodiversity. For example, 2,000 plant species grow in the eastern-most part of the ecoregion - and over 100 of them are endemic.

Czars and other Russian nobility chose the Crimea as their vacation spot as this is a land of spectacular beauty, including montane pine forests, waterfalls, caves, craters, grottoes, and rocky beaches. The forests of the Dinaric Mountains are among the largest and most continuous tracts of forested habitat remaining for large carnivores in Europe.

With about 3,500 vascular plant species, 64 species of mammals, and hundreds of bird species, the Pyrenees are considered one of the most important hot spots for biodiversity in Europe.

Size:
460,000 sq. km (178,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Coniferous Forests

Geographic Location:
Southeastern Europe

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Notable tree species include the Spanish juniper (Juniperus thruifera), Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Balkan pine (Pinus heldreichii), Mediterranean cyprus (Cupressus sempervirens var. sempervirens), and the Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica). Among the best-known mammals of this ecoregion are 2 species of chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica and R. rupricapra) - horned, goat-like creatures. The Marocano fir - with its thick, twisted, and forked trunk - is found only in the Rif Mountains of Morocco.

Alpine chamois climb nimbly over steep and rocky areas, while southern chamois favor grassy alpine meadows and low, forested slopes. Other mammals include 2 species of ibex (Capra pyrenaica and C. ibex), wolf (Canis lupis), brown bear (Ursus arctos), European river otter (Lutra lutra), and the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus).

This region is also home to many birds of prey, including the black vulture (Aegypius monachus), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), and a bold and ferocious falcon called the saker (Falco cherrug).

An unusually high number of amphibians for this latitude are found in the Crimea, as well as many endemic mollusks and insects. It is also rich in endemic plants - between 240 to 300 species can be found.

About 4,500 species of vascular plants, 800 species of mosses, 300 liverwort species, 2,500 species of lichens, and more than 5,000 species of fungi are found in the Alps mixed forests as well as about 21 species of amphibians, 15 species of reptiles, hundreds of bird species, and 80 species of mammals.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Paul BARRUEL
Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca adalberti) drawing.
© WWF-Canon / Paul BARRUEL

Featured species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Chris Martin BAHR
Griffon vulture or Eurasian griffon (Gyps fulvus), Austria.
© WWF-Canon / Chris Martin BAHR
The Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) is 95 - 110 cm long with a 230 - 265 cm wingspan. It is a typical vulture in appearance, with a white bald head, very broad wings and a short tail. It has a white neck ruff and yellow bill. The buff body and wing coverts contrast with the dark flight feathers. It breeds on crags in mountains in southern Europe, North Africa, and Asia, laying 1 egg. Griffons may form loose colonies, possibly mating for life, and does not migrate.

This species, like other vultures, possesses great powers of flight. Griffon vultures may cruise for 6 or 7 hours covering 100 miles looking for food. When 1 vulture drops to a carcass, others see it and congregate. It is not unusual to have 50 vultures waiting around a kill for a chance to feed. This vulture grunts and hisses at roosts or when feeding on carrion. It feeds its young, not by carrying food to them in its talons, but by disgorging from its maw part of what it had swallowed.

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Threats
Logging, overgrazing, air pollution, acid rain, poaching, predator control, and industrial development provide the greatest threats to this ecoregion. The expansion of towns, villages and trans-alpine communication systems also pose threats to the integrity of habitats. Tourist traffic can be heavy, and visitors have been guilty of over-collecting orchids. Especially along the Crimean coast, tourism has degraded many areas through construction activity, soil compaction, and littering.

More than 11 million people live in the Alps. The mountains here are popular tourist destinations and are also the site of power plants, industry, and agriculture, all of which contribute to air and water pollution.
WWF’s work
WWF works with its partners throughout the EU for the implementation of Natura 2000 and the Habitats and Birds Directives. As a member of the European Habitats Forum, a coalition of NGOs working for the implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives (www.iucn.org/places/europe/rofe), WWF provides input and advice to the European Commission, particularly relating to the implementation of the Habitats Directive and the establishment of the conservation network.

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