Primeval forest structures and biodiversity: A Swiss-Ukrainian research cooperation

The Ukrainian Carpathians harbor still more than 200 km2 (20’000 hectares) of primeval forests, most of them are within the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR). An outstanding example of such a forest undisturbed by man is the primeval forest of Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh (approx. 100 km2), which was inscribed to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List in 2007, together with some other primeval forest relicts in Slovakia and Ukraine.

Beech forests are among the most important forest types of Switzerland. Their structure and biological diversity have been altered, however, by centuries of intensive forest management. Primeval beech forests do not exist anymore in Switzerland. The primeval forests of the Carpathians, which are similar to many forests in Switzerland with regards to tree species composition and growth conditions, are therefore of high interest to WSL as research and reference objects.

The WSL has been collaborating with the CBR and other Ukrainian research institutes and universities since 1999. The general aims of this research cooperation are:

  • to network experts and to encourage collaboration and scientific exchange in the field of primeval forest and biodiversity research;
  • to carry out joint research projects to obtain new insights into the structures, dynamics and diversity of natural ecosystems undisturbed by man;
  • to harmonize research and inventory methods to facilitate the exchange and comparability of data and results;
  • to strengthen the mid-level academic staff and promote young researchers;
  • to raise publicity and awareness of the Ukrainian primeval forests to ensure their long-term protection;
  • to foster a sustainable, nature-oriented forest management.

Cooperation project with Ukrainian forest research institutes

With the support of the State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, WSL was able to launch a new project with Ukrainian forest research institutions which will last until 2024. The project builds on the successful collaboration between Swiss and Ukrainian researchers since 1999. It focuses on issues regarding primeval forest research, where the unique primeval beech forest Uholka-Shyroki Luh is the focal point, but also incorporates research into the use of sustainable resources. The project will once again enable an intensive exchange between Swiss and Ukrainian researchers.



  • Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR), Rakhiv
  • Ukrainian National Forestry University (UNFU), Lviv
  • Ukrainian Research Institute for Mountain Forestry (URIMF), Ivano-Frankivsk
  • Uzhgorod State University, Biological Department
  • M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  • Institute of Ecology of the Carpathians, Lviv


Financial support

2021-2024: State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI

2017-2020: State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI

2008-2012: State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI

2005-2008: Swiss National Science Foundation SNFS (SCOPES Institutional Partnership IB74A0-111087)

2002-2003: Swiss National Science Foundation SNFS (SCOPES Institutional Partnership 7IP 062590)

2000-2003: Velux Foundation

Projekt Team


Swiss partners:

  • Centre for Development and Environment, CDE, Bern: Dr. Heino Meessen
  • University of Bern, Institute of History, Eastern European History, Bern: Prof. Dr. Julia Richers 


Ukrainian partners:

  • Ukrainian National Forestry University (UNFU), Lviv: Prof. and Vice-Rector Vasyl Lavnyy, Lecturer Mykola Korol, Lecturer Dr. Lyudmyla Maksymiv, Ihor Soloviy 
  • University of Ivano-Frankivsk: Lecturer Yuriy Shparyk 
  • Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR), Rakhiv: Prof. Fedir Hamor, Mykola Rybak, Myroslav Kabal, Ruslan Hleb, Vasyl Pokynchereda
  • FORZA, Agency for Sustainable Development of the Carpathian Region, Uzhgorod Lesya Loyko, Radmila Ustych, Nataliya Voloshyna
  • National University of Live and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, Kiev: Prof. Ivan Lakyda
  • State Museum of Natural History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv: Dr. Volodymyr Rizun
  • Uzhhorod National University, Lecturer Dr. Maxym Chumak


Previous projects

Understanding the dominance of beech trees in the primeval forest of Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh

Beech forests provide important ecosystem services. In the primeval forest of Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh, 97% of the tree layer is composed of beech. The reasons for this extremely pronounced dominance are examined in this project.

Change inventory Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh

A partial repetition of the sample plot inventory of 2010, where 314 plots were measured, will allow representative conclusions about the temporal change of the forest structure, the regeneration, the tree composition and the deadwood in the primeval beech forest of Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh.

Remote sensing Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh

In order to quantify the vegetation in its 3D structure and to be able to model the topography of the surveyed area, a LiDAR aerial survey will be carried out during spring of 2017.

Forest structure in the spruce-fir-beech primeval forest of Chornohora

In order to invest in the infrastructure and basis for future research in the area of forest dynamics, new permanent plots will be established in mountainous mixed primeval forests with spruce, fir and beech.

Structure and management of secondary spruce forests

On the basis of a field experiment started in 2005 where various silvicultural interventions are being tested, this project examines how pure secondary spruce forests can be converted into mixed mountain forests.