Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is the most common tree species in Albania. Beech forests occur at 800 to 1600 m elevation in northern Albania, from 1 000 to 1 800 m in the middle part of the country and from 1 200 to 1 900 m in the southeastern part of the country. They provide important wildlife habitats for various sensitive species such as bear, wolf, fox, wild boar, marten and Balkan lynx.
The Gashi forests of Lumi i Gashit Strict Reserve and Rajca Forests of Shebenik Jabllanica National Park are the parts of the Albanian beech forests which have been included in the shortlist of 33 untouched beech forests. UNESCO wants to complete the European network of authentic beech forests. Earlier, forests in the Carpathians and Germany were already recognised. Aside from the Albanian forests, forests in Belgium, Slovenia, Romania, Italy, Poland, Austria, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine and Spain are also eligible for recognition.
In order to support this process and in line with the Green Belt Initiative, PPNEA together with EuroNatur has started the project "Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development at the Green Belt Albania”. The most important target group tackeled by this project are the local populations of two large protected areas: the Shebenik-Jablanica National Park and the intended Albanian Alps National Park. Thereby a special focus lies on the people of those villages and summer settlements who are dependent on the use of the core zones until now. The main project steps will be:
- Comprehensive dialog with the responsible administrations of both selected model regions as well as with the local population in order to identify the current state;
- Reprocessing of the current state and documentation in a comprehensive report;
- Development of scenarios for improving the achievement of the conservation objectives as well as the living conditions of the local population;
- Reprocessing the scenarios and documentation in a comprehensive report;
- Identification of suitable exemplary pilot projects for optimizing the achievement of the as well as the improvement of living conditions for the local population;
- Concrete implementation of exemplary pilot projects for optimizing the achievement of conservation objectives as well as the improvement of living conditions for the local population;
Currently PPNEA staff has developed a meeting with local stakeholders in Tropoje, for the region "Lumi i Gashit”. The aim was to inform the local community about the project in order to focus the people of those villages and summer shepherds in order to conserve the primary beech forests.