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Slovenia is characterized by a very high degree of natural diversity. In addition to its varied topography and geology, the continental, Alpine and Mediterranean climates converge in Slovenia. The forest has always been present and important in this environment. Today, we are aware not only of its economic significance but also of its role in conserving the biological diversity of the landscape and alleviating the impact of natural disasters and human pollution; equally it is important in the balanced development of the countryside and as a natural environment for human recreation.

Slovenia is one of the most densely afforested countries in Europe. Forests cover 54 percent of the surface area, or l 094 000 ha, and dominates as much as three-quarters of the landscape. Much of the present forests originate from overgrown farmland, since in 1875 only 36 percent, and in 1947 44 percent of the surface area of Slovenia was covered by forest. According to the objectives of rural development, no substantial increase in forest coverage is expected in the coming decade. Most of Slovenia's forests are in the region of beech (44 %), beech-fir (15 %) and beech-oak (11 %) sites, all of which have a relatively strong productive capacity (Table 1). Thermophile deciduous and pine sites, which account for only about 12 percent of the total surface area of the Slovenian forest land, are poorer or arid.

Table 1

Potential forest sites in Slovenia

Forest sites

Growth coefficient

Area in 1 000 ha


Willow and alder forest


7 508


Oak and hornbeam forest


87 373


Oak forest


33 769


Thermophile deciduous forest


57 935


Pine forest


39 394


Forest of beech and oak


115 165


Beech forest on carbonate parent rock


288 074


Acidophilic beech forest


179 481


Fir forest


49 228


Dinaric fir and beech forest


163 581


Spruce forest


15 471


High-mountain forest


41 525




1 076 474


(The growth coefficient gives the relative capacity for producing organic matter)

The tree species represented in Slovenia's forests changed considerably in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in particular, due to large-scale felling and the simultaneous planting of spruce. Two hundred years of litter collection also had an impact, making soil conditions in the forest worst in the vicinity of settlements and farming districts and leading to the dominance of less demanding species, above all pines.

The pine also became the typical tree species in the Slovenian Karst, where it began to be planted in the nineteenth century in order to provide wind shelter and to revitalize the rocky landscape. The present-day share of tree species in the growing stock is thus much higher than the potential share in the case of spruce and pine and much smaller in the case of beech and other deciduous species (Table 2).

Table 2

Share of the most important tree species in growing stocks of Slovenian forests






Noble deciduous

Other deciduous


Potential vegetation (%)








Present state (%)








The average growing stock is 201 m³/ha and is gradually increasing, while the amount of increment stands at 5.2 m³/ha and is also increasing. Thick trees, which yield new growth of high quality and value as well as contribute to biological diversity and the mechanical stability of the forest, are under-represented in the structure of the stocks. Young stands thus represent 11 percent; pole stands are over-represented (45 %); there are insufficient mature stands (23 %); and above all older (8 %) and selective stands (3 %).

Slovenia's forests are threatened not only by frequent natural disturbances (storms, sleet, etc.), but also by air pollution, fires (especially in the Karst) and in many places by an excessive density of herbivorous fauna.

Nearly a quarter of the necessary felling is thus carried out in order to remove the effects of the above disturbances. In the last few years, filters have been installed at the larger thermal power stations with the result that the harmful impact of CO2 on forests has decreased greatly.

In addition to the diversity of vegetation, Slovenia's forests are also rich in wildlife (Table 3). A large proportion of amphibians and mammals, including stable grown bear and lynx populations, depend on forests. Recently the wolf population has been increasing.

Table 3

Threatened forest dependent species in Slovenia


Forest dependent threatened species

Forest dependent species

Threatened species

All species in Slovenia


























Slovenia's forests lie predominantly on slopes (as much as 64 % of the forest land is inclined at more than 15 degrees). Furthermore, the amount of rock in the forest soil is very large due to the prevalence of karstic limestone. During strong precipitation (the average precipitation is 700 mm on the coast and in Pannonia; 4 000 mm in the mountainous regions), Slovenia's forests thus have important protective and water-retaining functions.

An approximate evaluation of the function of forests shows that the protective function accounts for the largest segment (20 %) of the forest area; the hydrological function (16 %); the natural and cultural heritage-preservation function (14 %); the tourist and recreational function (5 %); and the other functions - climatic, protective, aesthetic, educational, scientific and biotopic amount to 20 percent.

Before the political changes in Slovenia, 65 percent of the forest was in private hands and 35 percent was state-owned. In the last few years, 5 percent of forested land has been returned to the former owners and it appears that only 20 percent will remain in public ownership once restitution is completed. This is mainly in mountainous regions and in forested areas which have traditionally been sparsely populated because of their unfavourable conditions.

Privately-owned forests predominate in all other areas and are mainly the property of local inhabitants. Many people in Slovenia still live in the countryside, although farming and forestry are now only a supplementary source of income for many.

Due to the highly diffused structure of forest ownership (Table 4), the use of timber for domestic needs by households or farms is widespread. The situation is different in mountainous farming regions, where the forest is in many areas indispensable to the local economy and where the owners mainly sell their timber on the market.

Table 4

Property structure of private forests (l990)

Size of forest property (hectares)

Structure (%)

by number of owners

by forest area

less than 1





1 to 3





3 to 5





5 to 10





10 to 20





over 20











Slovenia has a very long tradition of forestry regulations. The first known set of regulations, the Ortenburg Forest Code, was issued in 1406. The Theresa Forest Code for Carniola of 1771 is a very well-known set of regulations governing the sustainability of forest management, particularly for the requirements of an undisrupted supply of timber. Legislation from the socialist period of the recent past retained a number of provisions from the Austrian forestry law of 1852. Following Slovenia's attainment of independence, a new Forest Act appeared in 1993. This act and the Law on the Ownership Transformation of Enterprises, the Law on Restitution and the Law on the Fund for Agricultural Land and Forests have recently had an impact on the transformation of forestry as well as causing profound social changes in general.

2.1 The new Forest Act

The new Forest Act regulates the protection and exploitation of forests with the objective of permanently and optimally ensuring both the ecosystem integrity of the forests and their functions. The Act also regulates the conditions for managing forest trees and groups of forest trees outside forested areas.

Under the Act, forest management plans are drawn up for all forests, irrespective of their ownership, and must be observed by all owners. Forest management plans are framed at the regional and local levels; silvicultural plans, however, are made at the lowest level for the direct implementation of work. The spatial part of the forest management plans link forestry directly with landscape planning, while the Act also determines the influence foresters have on the management of wildlife in the forest environment as a whole.

Forest owners have the right to participate in the planning of forest management but must subsequently act according to the plans by not exceeding the maximum levels of felling. They must also carry out the necessary silviculture measures. In accordance with co-natural forest management, trees must be individually selected for felling following a predetermined pattern.

The Act stipulates that special consent be sought for any depletion of forest land and prohibits all actions which decrease the productivity of forest sites or threaten the existence or function of the forest. Clear cutting is prohibited and the gathering of forest fruits is subject to restrictions (e.g., two kilos of mushrooms per person per day). These fruits are as a rule accessible to all, including non-owners.

In the area of forestry preservation, the Act stipulates, among other things, that chemical substances may be used in the forest only in exceptional cases and devotes considerable attention to protection against forest fires. Strict measures are laid down for the construction of forest roads; a special feature of the Act is that such roads are deemed to be of public importance, which means that they may be used equally by non-owners.

In addition to regulating the status of protection forests and forests with special purposes and the method by which this status is conferred, the Act includes another important provision establishing the Slovenian Forest Service (SFS) for the coordination of forest management.

The conservation and management of wildlife is in part regulated by the Law on the Protection, Breeding and Hunting of Wildlife, which lays down the conditions for the hunting of different animal species and the seasons in which it is permitted. A new law is being prepared which will be linked to the new Environmental Protection Act, which stipulates that wild animals are national property and regulates afresh the rights and duties of wildlife managers.


On the basis of the Forest Act, the Slovenian government has submitted the Forest Development Programme of Slovenia for adoption by the National Assembly. The Programme amounts to a strategic document determining national forest management policy, guidelines for the preservation and development of forests and conditions for its exploitation or multi-purpose use. The Programme determines the following long-term goals.

Attainment of these goals depends greatly on an active respect for the principles of sustainability, natural compatibility and multiple functions in the orientation of forest management. The strategy therefore consists above all of small-scale systems of management which allow for a flexible adaptation to the site conditions and to the natural development trends of the forest. Emphasis is laid on the conservation of the natural populations of forest trees, the conservation and establishment of biological diversity and the strengthening of the forest's growing stocks that all contribute to the ecological and economic stability of the forest. These are achieved also by tending of forests in all their developmental stages and forms, intended to promote the development of vital and high-quality trees.

Realization of the Forest Development Programme is based, among other things, on forest owners' motivation for quality work in forests, that is, it depends on their know-how and economic interests. Since many functions are in the public interest, the state acknowledges this fact by not only financing the operation of the SFS but also on the basis of the plans, providing owners with co-financing for certain forest work to the following extent:

The level of co-financing depends on the degree of emphasis of the ecological and social functions of the forest and on the difficulty of the natural conditions for agricultural and forestry production. Owners of more than 100 ha of production forest (there are very few such owners in Slovenia) are not entitled to co-financing.

Realization of all the projects under the Forest Development Programme would require 0.85 percent of the national budget annually, of which public forest administration would require 0.5 percent. This goal has not been attained in the first years of the operation of the new system.


In addition to private forest proprietors, forest conservation and development is influenced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (Forestry Department), the Ministry of the Environment and Regional Planning, the SFS, the Fund for Agricultural Land and Forests of the Republic of Slovenia, the Biotechnical Faculty (Forestry Department), the Forestry Institute of Slovenia (all publicly funded) as well as the Association of Forest Societies and the Hunting Association of Slovenia (non-governmental organizations).

The SFS is of great importance in ensuring the sustainability of forest management and the preservation of biological diversity. Under the Forest Act, the function of the SFS is to (a) monitor the state and development of forests; (b) protect forests; (c) orient the management of forests, the forest environment, individual forest trees and groups of forest trees outside settlements; (d) orient the construction and maintenance of forest roads; (e) keep records and data bases for forestry; (f) give specialized advice and training to forest owners; (g) provide seeds and saplings of tree and bush species; and (h) assume control of work carried out in the forests if co-financed out of the national budget.

The SFS is organized on the national, regional (14 regional offices) and the local levels (94 local offices) and employs 700 forestry experts who are distributed rationally in such a way as to cover the entirety of Slovenia's forest land. The board of the SFS includes representatives of the government, local communities, forest owners, education and research organizations in the field of forestry, and non-governmental organizations in the fields of nature conservation, hunting and agriculture, all of whom are able to influence the orientation of its operation.

The internal organization of the SFS is characterised by a combination of classical territorial organization (local foresters) and experts operating at the regional and national levels in departments for the planning of the development of forest and forest land, for silviculture and forest protection, for forestry and forest road technology, for wildlife and for relations with forest owners and the general public.

The Forestry Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food is responsible for preparing forestry regulations and supervising the SFS, or rather cooperating with it at an expert level, especially in preparing national programmes. It also administers funding for the SFS and provides subsidies to proprietors and for the purchase of forests, especially those with pronounced ecological and social functions (e.g., protection forests).

The Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Food also cooperates closely with the Ministry of Environment and Regional Planning in regulating matters regarding the state of health of the forest, the protection of rare ecosystems and species within them and the planning and management of protected areas. It is also involved in the planning of research and education programmes, the main responsibility for which lies with the Faculty of Forestry and the Slovenian Forestry Institute, both of which are members of the European Forest Institute.

It should be mentioned that, particularly in recent decades, the Faculty of Forestry has based itself above all on the Swiss model of silviculture and that it has been the centre of ideas and know-how in the area of sustainable and co-natural forest management. The Forestry Institute's research activity is similarly oriented, being directed primarily towards the development of planning with the aid of geographical information systems, the monitoring of the health condition of the forest, the harvesting methods, and ecological and physiological research. In applied research it cooperates closely with the SFS.

The Fund for Agricultural Land and Forests is responsible for ensuring the most effective management of national forests. In this regard it enters into contracts with the most competitive forestry companies. Another of its important functions is to implement policies concerning commercial transactions of forest land.


Forest management in the sense of extracting organic substances, above all timber, is not foreseen or is even prohibited in protection forests, which take up 5.5 percent of total forest area, nor in forest reserves, which take up 1 percent. In all other forests, sustainable and co-natural management is carried out in such a way that the ecological, productive and social functions of the forest are taken into account simultaneously. This balanced method of management is based on the forest management plans.

The Forest Development Programme and forest management plans envisage the felling of 3 million m³ of wood in Slovenia's forests annually until the year 2000, with a gradual increase thereafter. The planned intensity of felling is greater for conifers (1.7 million m3 or 66 % of growth) than for deciduous trees (1.3 million m3 or 50 % of growth) and in the long term will lead to an average national growing stock of more than 300 m³ and a modest increase in the proportion of deciduous tree species, which is in accordance with the long-term goal (Figure 1).

Figure l. Trends in increment and felling in Slovenian forests

Until now the share of log wood has been around two-thirds in the case of felled coniferous wood, and somewhat over a third in the case of deciduous wood. No substantial change in this ratio is envisaged in the future, although there has recently been a conspicuous trend for forest owners to neglect thinning, since this is less attractive economically. The use of deciduous small timber is particularly problematic, since the price of firewood is becoming prohibitively high in comparison with other sources of heating. For this reason and because of the decline in interest on the part of the smallest-scale proprietors in deriving income from the forest, in the last few years only 75.-80 percent of possible annual felling has been exploited, while the emphasis has been on the felling of quality wood.

In parallel with the decrease in felling, less and less silviculture work has recently been carried out in Slovenian forests, with a particular neglect for tending rather than for reafforestation. It is envisaged that the negative trends in this area should be alleviated by the system of co-financing, although it will also be necessary to develop and employ a method of forest management which is less demanding in terms of silviculture works (forest tending with the aid of a mother stand).

Wildlife management has not undergone major changes in the past few years. In the l993-94 season 42 bears, 5 245 deer, 602 mouflons, 2 230 chamois, 45 341 roe deer, 257 fallow deer, 4 334 wild boars, 9 224 rabbits and 36 462 pheasants were shot. Future interventions in the wildlife population will continue to be based on systematic monitoring of the weight of the animals shot and will be guided by considerations of the damage to the environment caused primarily by herbivorous wildlife.


Work in national forests is carried out by forestry companies organized within the Chamber of Commerce, while work in private forests is chiefly conducted by the owners themselves (it is envisaged that the latter should in future be organized within a unitary Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry).

Under the regulations, company employees have to be specially qualified and educated, while forest proprietors' knowledge and qualification for the work are usually weak. Unfortunately for this reason and because of poor equipment for forest work, many accidents occur in the forest, especially among the smaller forest owners (Table 5). The number of fatal accidents is particularly high, being nearly three times as high as the figure for Austria and nearly five times as high as in Germany. The SFS has begun to organize special courses for forest owners, but these are only an initial step.

Table 5

Comparison of forest accidents in Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Sweden (Medved, 1994)


No per 10.000m³

No of fatal accidents per million hectare


private forests




national forests




private forests




national forests




private forests




national forests




private forests




national forests



Slovenia's forests are relatively accessible, since the density of forest roads is 16 m/h and the density of skidding tracks is around 40 m/h. The felling of trees is carried out almost exclusively by means of chain saws, while extraction is carried out by adapted agricultural tractors; in big holdings, however, also by special forest skidders. Cable logging by crane persists only in Alpine regions, where it has a long tradition. Animal skidding is also used, but to a very small extent, primarily for the collection of small timber.


Slovenia's forests have a wide-ranging economic significance inasmuch as:

The direct economic effects of the forests may be assessed by monitoring sales of forest goods, especially wood. As Table 6 shows, sales of timber decreased greatly in 1994, compared to the previous decade, and were worth only 0.75 percent of the GDP.

Table 6

Timber sold by type in 1994 compared to average from 1981 to 1990 (1 000 m³)


1981 - 1990










1 204


1 620



1 045

cellulose wood







mining & other industrial timber















1 822

1 235

3 057

1 201


1 943

Slovenia's foreign trade in timber in 1994 was marked by a negative balance in the case of unworked timber and by a positive balance in the case of milled wood, particularly coniferous (Table 7). Spruce and fir dominated trade in coniferous timber almost completely, while in the case of deciduous timber, the main imports were of beech and poplar, while the main export was beech.

Table 7

Foreign trade in timber in 1994 (1 000 m³)

Mushroom-picking is also economically significant, especially for Slovenia's rural inhabitants. In 1994, 44 companies bought mushrooms at 134 purchase locations. Altogether they bought almost 1 248 tons of fresh mushrooms, 5.5 tonnes of dried mushrooms and 1.3 tonnes of frozen mushrooms and mushrooms in brine. Exports were worth somewhat more than US$ 10.5 million and imports around US$ l.5 million. Due to the strength of the nature conservation movement there is a strong possibility that the export of mushrooms will be prohibited. Proponents of such a measure believe that it would prevent excessive mushroom-picking and the attendant damage to forest ecosystems.

by Aleksander Golob

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