baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

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Perućica Nature Reserve, Bosnia and Herzegovina

This reserve (13 km 2 ) is a part of Sutjeska National Park and is known as one of the best primeval forests in Europe. The national park forests outside Perućica are logged by national park staff, but most of Perućica itself is old-growth forest with no evidence of human disturbance apart from a few small patches of young forest where grazing occurred in the past 1 . The preservation of the virgin forest is a result of the lack of road connections until recent times 2 . Now there is a bumpy road running along the edges of the reserve.

Annual precipitation is approx. 2000 mm, 15 % of which falls during the three summer months 2 . Elevation is 600–2372 m. Average annual temperature is 8–9°C at 700 metres and 5–6°C at 1300 m 2 . The lowest area in the northwestern end of the reserve is a steep gorge which is currently almost impossible to enter: the only entry point with slightly gentler slopes would be through Sutjeska Canyon, which is the only part of Perućica suspected of having land mines from the Bosnian War 3 . At higher elevations, gentler and steeper slopes alternate.

The most abundant tree is Opens internal link in current window Abies alba (European silver fir) followed by Opens internal link in current window Fagus sylvatica (European beech) and Opens internal link in current window Picea abies (Norway spruce). Unlike in Central Europe, where roe deer over-population prevents A. alba regeneration 4 , herbivores here are controlled by healthy predator populations 3 ; consequently A. alba seedlings are plentiful. The forest is heavily stocked; as much as 1870 m 3 /ha of living wood have been measured in a small research subplot 2 . In the steep lower-elevation gorge, more drought resistant broadleaf trees dominate, e.g. Quercus spp. (oaks), Opens internal link in current window Carpinus orientalis (oriental hornbeam), Opens internal link in current window Ostrya carpinifolia (hop hornbeam) and Tilia tomentosa (silver linden).

Many European dendrologists remember Perućica as the place where the tallest P. abies has been measured. The tree in question was 63 metres tall, measured by Prof. Hans Leibundgut in 1954 2 . The measurement is so old that it has certainly been made using the tangent method, which often results in over-measurement 5 . However, the forest has plenty of very tall conifers: the measurements by Jeroen Philippona*, Michael Spraggon and myself in Opens external link in new window 2012 and by Jeroen in Opens external link in new window 2013 with Nikon 550 laser instruments, gave the maximum height of P. abies as 57.8 metres and that of A. alba as 54 metres. P. abies of about 55 metres are not rare in favourable sites, with A. alba being regularly a few metres lower than P. abies . However, during these trips we had the opportunity to thoroughly explore only a relatively small number of the potential height record groves, so there may well be P. abies exceeding 60 metres. Unfortunately, Prof. Leibundgut did not publish the location of the tallest tree, and the national park administration does not know the tallest trees. Currently, the tallest reliably measured P. abies is 62.26 m and is located in Slovenia 6 .

Entrance to Perućica is allowed only with a guide. Camping is not allowed.

* Jeroen’s www-site:


1 Nagel, T. A. & Svoboda, M. (2008): Gap disturbance regime in an old-growth Fagus-Abies forest in the Dinaric Mountains, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Can. J. For. Res. 38 : 2728-37.

2 Leibundgut, H. (1982): Europäische Urwälder der Bergstufe. Haupt.

3 Lalović, V., Sutjeska National Park, pers. comm. (2012)

4 Schütt, P. (1991): Tannenarten Europas und Kleinasiens. Birkhäuser.

5 Bragg, D. C., Frelich, L. E., Leverett, R. T., Blozan, W . & Luthringer, D. J. (2011): The Sine Method: An Alternative Height Measurement Technique. The Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Research Note SRS-22.

6 Opens external link in new window /d0efbeed55a0d93f499ac407099560f5/

Official site :

Fagus sylvatica (European beech) - Abies alba (European silver fir) forest. Elev. approx. 1500 m.
Abies alba (European silver fir) - Fagus sylvatica (European beech) forest at approx. 1400 m.
Grove of about 55 m tall Picea abies (Norway spruce) and 35-39 m tall Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple). 55.4-metre P. abies , left. 54-metre P. abies , foreground. 39-metre A. pseudoplatanus , mossy tree beyond author. Also Fagus sylvatica (European beech) saplings. At the confluence of Perućica and Prijevorski creeks at 1050 m.
Perućica Valley from approx. 1300 m. Maglić Mountain (2386 m), left. Mainly Fagus sylvatica (European beech), Abies alba (European silver fir) and Picea abies (Norway spruce). Pinus nigra (European black pine), left, and atop bare rock face, lower right.
57.4-metre Picea abies (Norway spruce, girth 340 cm), to right of Michael Spraggon. 52-metre Abies alba (European silver fir), left foreground. Behind it with top visible 54-metre A. alba (girth 400 cm). Young Fagus sylvatica (European beech), right. Elev. 1050 m.
Picea abies (Norway spruce), height 49 m, girth 534 cm, at approx. 1500 m. Other trees: Abies alba (European silver fir) and Fagus sylvatica (European beech).
Abies alba (European silver fir), height 52 m, girth 526 cm, at approx. 1400 m. Other trees: A. alba and Fagus sylvatica (European beech).
51.8-metre Abies alba (European silver fir) at approx. 1400 m.
Pinus nigra (European black pine) grove at 1300 m. Also Abies alba (European silver fir), and Fagus sylvatica (European beech) foliage.
Perućica Valley from 1305 m. Pinus nigra (European black pine) foliage, foreground.
Ostrya carpinifolia (hop hornbeam) grove. Also Abies alba (European silver fir) saplings.