The Carpathian Mountains are one of Europe’s largest mountain ranges, extending over 1,500 kilometres across Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, with smaller branches reaching into Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Serbia. They form a green backbone between Central and Eastern Europe, sustaining the continent’s largest remaining tracts of primeval forest and harbouring nearly half of its large carnivores.

The forests and associated habitats of the Carpathians are some of the most species-rich in the temperate zone, showing influences from the alpine, arctic-alpine, Mediterranean, and Asian regions. There are several reasons for the development of such a great biodiversity. One of them is the fact that the Carpathians remained largely free of permanent ice during the last ice age, making them a refuge for many species. The heterogeneity of habitats and geology and the isolation from other mountain ranges facilitated the evolution of many endemic taxa, especially in plants.

In the large tracts of primeval forest that still remain in the Carpathians, this diversity of species can persist. Many other areas already lost much of their biodiversity due to human impact. Pristine forests contain up to 20 times more dead wood than managed forests. This is of high importance to the fauna and flora, as about one third of the species living in these ecosystems are reliant on dead wood to a certain extent. Furthermore, the Carpathian forests are also home to significant populations of large carnivores: approximately 8,000 bears, 4,000 wolves and 3,000 lynx are living here.