Badínsky Prales National Nature Reserve, Slovakia

The core area (the actual virgin forest, 30 ha) of Badínsky Prales has been protected since 1913 and is located on a gentle northeast-facing slope at elevations of 690–875 m; the core area is surrounded by a buffer area (123 ha) 1. Mean annual temperature is 5.3–5.8°C and annual precipitation 850–950 mm; the bedrock is formed by andesite2. Soils are among the best in the Western Carpathians3.

Originally the forest consisted of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and European silver fir (Abies alba), almost 50% of each3. However, exposure to sulphur dioxide, particularly between 1970 and 1990, likely from the nearby industrial city Banská Bystrica, caused a fir decline4. A strong reduction of the emissions during recent decades has improved the vitality of fir but red deer (Cervus elaphus) over-population has prevented new fir re-generation to replace the dying trees2. In 1977 the proportion of fir was 24%, in 1987 18% 3 and in 2008 only 11% 2. Since then, the proportion of fir has decreased further, many parts of Badínsky Prales being almost pure beech forest today (photo right). Few sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and wych elm (Ulmus glabra) grow in the old-growth forest, too. The forest has often been disturbed by winds, the locality being vulnerable to storms3. In 1947, a windstorm made a 6-ha gap in the virgin forest2. The windthrow was colonized by pioneer trees, particularly goat willow (Salix caprea), and some common aspen (Populus tremula) and silver birch (Betula pendula); later the mature forest species beech and some sycamore maple entered3 and today goat willows have mostly fallen (photo below). The windthrow area has been and remains an excellent place to study natural secondary succession and Badínsky Prales is generally very well studied.

Old windthrow area. Goat willow mostly fallen, beech invading the area

Badínsky Prales has plenty of large beeches, the largest reaching girths up to almost 500 cm and heights up to approx. 45 m. Fir reaches approx. 50 m in height. The wood volume, approx. 800 m3/ha, is high for a broadleaf forest2. Due to the intensive mortality of silver fir in the second half of the 20th century, there was a huge amount of dead wood, 414 m3/ha in 2007 5. Today the fallen fir trunks have already mostly rotted away. Undergrowth is sparse.



  2. Kucbel, S. et al. (2010): Canopy gaps in an old-growth fir–beech forest remnant of Western Carpathians. European Journal of Forest Research 129(3): 249-259.
  3. Korpel’, Š. (1995): Die Urwälder der Westkarpaten. Gustav Fischer Verlag.
  4. Saniga, M. & Schütz, J.-P. (2001): Dynamik des Totholzes in zwei gemischten Urwäldern der Westkarpaten im pflanzengeographischen Bereich der Tannen-Buchen- und der Buchenwälder in verschiedenen Entwicklungsstadien. Schweiz. Z. Forstwes. 152 10: 407–416.
  5. Kucbel, S., Saniga, M., Jaloviar, P. & Vencurik, J. (2012): Stand structure and temporal variability in old-growth beech-dominated forests of the northwestern Carpathians: A 40-years perspective. Forest Ecology and Management 264, 125–133.