Codrul Secular Șinca, Romania

The reserve is also called Șinca Veche for the commune centre. The core area contains 3.4 km2 of the north-facing gentle to steep slopes of the Ţaga Mountains1. The area had remained unaffected by human influences due to its inaccessibility, but in the 1970s a forestry road was constructed through what later became the reserve1. The surrounding valleys have been logged since then1. The area of the reserve, too, was to be logged but was preserved because the forest was thought to be exceptional2. No felling has been done in the core area2. It is completely surrounded by a buffer area (4.5 km2) 1 where some logging has been done2. In 2017, Șinca was added to the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe World Heritage Site.

The virgin forest consists of two opposite small mountain valleys, the boundaries mostly following the crests. The above-mentioned road along the main valley divides the forest into the larger western and smaller eastern valleys, altitudes ranging between 790 and 1400 m 1. Annual average temperature is 4.5–6.5°C and the annual precipitation 800–1100 mm (maximum in June1), depending on altitude3. The bedrock consists of schist and the soils are fertile1.

The forest is composed of European silver fir (Abies alba) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica), almost 50% of each (photo below). At the highest elevations, there is also a small proportion of Norway spruce (Picea abies) 2. Due to the north-facing slope and shade casting fir and beech, the forest is very shady. The undergrowth is sparse, including blackberry (Rubus sp.) and wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), for example.

Silver fir – beech forest. Plenty of beech regeneration

1170 m3/ha of living wood has been measured in Șinca1. The reserve includes all the development stages and has a large quantity of deadwood both on the ground and still standing, in all stages of decomposition1. The oldest firs and beeches are about 500 years old1.

It has been claimed that Europe’s tallest individuals of both silver fir and beech grow in Șinca1. The heights differ from one source to another: The fir would be 62.0 m 3, 62.5 m 1 4 or even 65 m 5 and the beech 51 m 3 or 55.1 m 1. The measurements were made by the University of Suceava1 2, using an ultrasonic hypsometer4, probably Vertex, which is routinely used by foresters and forestry researchers. Such instruments are capable of measuring distances only with a transponder attached to the tree trunk, so the distance from the measuring place to the tree top is impossible to measure, only the angle. Thus, the measurement is reliable only on level ground and if the top is exactly above the base. Consequently, it is not surprising that my measurements in 2019 with a TruPulse 200X laser gave greatly differing results: The fir was 51.7 m and the beech slightly over 40 m. The canopy around the beech was so dense that I may not have found the highest shoot; nevertheless the tree is definitely much lower than announced. However, I found a truly tall 48.1-metre beech that the University had not noticed at all. It is clearly visible from the trail on a steep slope at 950 m altitude. I want to emphasize that such huge errors are not uncommon when measuring with ultrasonic instruments or clinometers. Unfortunately, many height “records”, particularly older ones, derive from wrong methods. Vertex is an excellent and fast instrument when measuring stand average heights but it should never be used for measuring potential record trees. One benefit of the exaggerated tree heights may be that they have contributed to the preservation of the forest. Nevertheless, the tallest fir at 1090 m altitude is a fine specimen with a perfect form and a girth of about 4 m (photo right). The thickest tree in the reserve is a fir with a girth of approx. 450 cm, well known to the administration. This fir has a broken top and may have been taller than the current tallest tree. All the trees mentioned above grow in the western valley. Europe’s tallest and thickest known silver fir grew in Biogradska Gora National Park. The tallest known reliably measured beeches are around 50 m tall6.

The area has a dense population of brown bear (Ursus arctos); wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx) and wildcat (Felis silvestris) also live there2.

Șinca can be visited only with a guide from the forestry office, Ocolul Silvic Pădurile Sincii. The contact details can be found at http://www.padurilesincii.ro/contact/ . Even the road through the reserve may not be used without a special permit2.



  1. Apostol, J. et al. (2016): Romania: Codrul Secular Șinca. In Kirchmeir, H. & Kovarovics, A. (eds.): Nomination Dossier to the UNESCO for the Inscription on the World Heritage List.
  2. Ghircoias, N., Ocolul Silvic Pădurile Sincii, pers. comm. (2019)
  3. Bolea, V. et al. (2011): Arborii excepţionali din făgeto-brădetul de la Şinca Veche (Munţii Ţaga, Braşov). Revista de Silvicultură şi Cinegetică 28: 36–41.
  4. Olaru, M. (2013): A fost descoperit cel mai înalt brad din România. Unde se află şi cât de mare este acest colos?
  5. Manole, C. (2016): Raiul de la facerea lumii: Pădurea virgină de la Şinca.
  6. https://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/