Forest, forest habitats

Few mountains in Slovakia offer the diversity of forest communities found in Tatra National Park. Podtatranská kotlina basin and the limestone substrate in the Belianske and Western Tatras are characteristic for their exceptionally diverse forest communities; deciduous forests composed of communities of alluvial alder and specific beech species are no exception either.  In addition to these communities, there are also relic pine and bog forests with downy birch. Scrub pine forests are also worthy of attention and reach their highest level of coverage in Tatra National Park of anywhere in the entire Western Carpathians. Norway spruce is the predominant tree species in the forest. One aspect that sets the Tatras apart from any other mountains in Slovakia is the fact that the central part of the High Tatras are completely void of beech and fir are present on a much smaller scale. On the other hand, Scots pine, Swiss pine and larch are all present in large numbers. climatic conditions are largely responsible for the natural distribution of tree species in Tatra National Park. There are a total of five forest vegetative zones in Tatra National Park. Communities in the beech (4), fir-beech (5), spruce-beech-fir (6), spruce (7) and bush tree (8) vegetative zones are found in the park. Today's composition of tree species in the forest is often much different from its original composition as a result of human activity beginning in the 13th century (mining, pasturing, shepherding, etc.).

Forest communities in Tatra National Park are comprised of habitats of Community importance and habitats of national importance. The following habitats are considered habitats of Community importance: Bushes with Pinus mugo and Rhododendron hirsutum, Acidophilous Picea forests of the montane to alpine levels, Herbaceous Picea forests of the montane to alpine levels, Alpine Larix decidua and/or Pinus cembra forests, Bog woodland and Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior. The Abies forests, Abies and Picea forests habitat is the most common habitat of national interest.

Bushes with Pinus mugo and Rhododendron hirsutum (Kr10/4070*)

Stands of bushes form a separate elevation vegetation zone with a width of approximately 200 m that smoothly extends from the upper edge of the spruce forest. Stands of bushes account for approximately 9,630 ha in Tatra National Park. The geological substrate is primarily granite and gneiss; in the Belianske Tatras, there are carbonate rocks and the flora of the forests themselves is more diverse. The soils themselves are thin with evidence of podzolization; humidification is slowed. Dwarf trees are sporadically found together with the stands of bushes; such species include Norway spruce, Swiss pine, rowan and European larch. The herbaceous layer is sparse, with lingonberry, bilberry, woodrush, alpine coltsfoot, Gentiana asclepiadea and others. The stands of bushes naturally disintegrate at thelimit of their range and form islands at the level of alpine uplands and scree. This habitat fulfils an important role as protection against avalanches and against erosion.

Acidophilous Picea forests of the montane to alpine levels (Ls9.1/9410)

The habitat is composed of climate specific spruce forests at the highest montane elevations (upper boundary of the forest) with an absolute predominance of spruce, often with a smattering of larch. The habitat forms the separate, 7th forest vegetative zone. Podzol soils form on a silicate substrate lacking in minerals, with raw humus accumulating on the surface. The herbaceous layer is less diverse in terms of species, with oligotrophic and acidophilic species dominant, including bilberry, lingonberry, Lady-fern, Calamagrostis villosa, woodrush, alpine coltsfoot, Oxalis acetosella and others. The importance of these forests is primarily in terms of their water management and soil conservation functions.

Herbaceous Picea forests of the montane to alpine levels (Ls9.1/9410)

This habitat involved montane zone spruce forests that occur in wetter and more trophically favourable stands than in the case of the acidophilous Picea forests above. They are found on limestone, melaphyre and less commonly on crystalline substrate. Spruce is the dominant tree species and sycamore is also characteristic. The herbaceous layer primarily includes tall nitrophilous species such as Adenostyles alliariae, Alpine Lady-fern, Lady-fern, Austrian leopard’s bane, and others.

Alpine Larix decidua and/or Pinus cembra forests (Ls9.4/9420)

This habitat only covers 400 ha in Tatra National Park. Larix decidua and/or Pinus cembra forests do not form their own vegetative zone in the Tatras as they do, for instance, in the Alps. These tree species are involved to varying extents on the construction of spruce forests with brush undergrowth in the zone between 1,400 and 1,900 MASL and with a width from 40 to 120 meters in elevation. The most typical are forests with Swiss pine and larch that have grown on very loose boulder to block-type debris or slopes with a minimum of topsoil layer, and are often exposed to significant climatic extremes (wind in particular). The undergrowth is often populated with bilberry, lingonberry, small cow-wheat, wavy Hair-grass, crowberry, Calamagrostis villosa and others.

Bog woodland (Ls7.3/91D0*)

Bog woodlands are found on acidic substrate in damp and cool montane elevations with strong gleysol soil coverage. This habitat is found on flat or slightly sloping terrain with a high level of ground water, that drains off very slowly at elevations from 700 to 1,100 MASL. Raw humus with characteristics of peat accumulates on the surface. Spruce is the dominant tree species as it best withstands the conditions of cold gleysol. The stands themselves are irregular and thinly connected while the trees themselves only grow to a low height. Silver fir and rowan are found in drier areas, while poplar, aspen, grey alder, downy birch and willow are common in wetter areas with a thinner spruce canopy. In the herbaceous level of the habitat, wetland varieties which tolerate light, wet and aerated acidic soils are found in addition to the spruce forest species. Dominant species include wood horsetail, Calamagrostis villosa, peat mosses, marsh marigold, meadowsweet, cottongrasses, various kinds of sedges and others.

Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Ls1.4/91E0*)

This habitat is characteristic for its forests of silver alder with a mixture of spruce and other tree species. Such forests are primarily found along the banks of mountain waterways in cold valleys. They are characteristic for their multi-story structure in which young alder trees comprise the predominant species in the scrub storey. Various species that are hardy to continuous or intermittent water logging are found in the herbaceous layer. The habitat is found in the montane zone at elevations of up to 1,200 MASL. Herbaceous species found in this habitat are Calamagrostis villosa, marsh marigold, ground elder, hairy chervil, marsh hawk's-beard and others.

Abies forests, Abies and Picea forests (Ls8)

Fir and fir-spruce forests are relatively widespread in Tatra National Park. The broad range of this habitat is between 300 and 1,300 MASL. The habitat comprises a mixed fir forest, most often with spruce. Low-growing oligotrophic and acidophilic species and ferns are predominant in the herbaceous undergrowth. Beech is missing from these forests for climatic reasons.




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