Forêt de Soignes is the first natural heritage in Belgium to appear on the UNESCO list, thanks to its exceptionally old beech trees.
There was already a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the Ancient Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Ancient Beech Forests of Germany. Since then, Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia, Ukraine, Austria, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and … Belgium have been added to the list. For this country, this concerns the three unmanaged forest reserves in the Sonian Forest, to the south-east of Brussels: Joseph Zwaenepoel (Flanders), Le Ticton (Wallonia) and Grippensdelle (Brussels) – 260 hectares in total.
Since the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago, the European beech has spread from a few secluded locations in the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians and the Mediterranean Sea area, in line with a process that is still continuing today. The beech has occupied a prominent place in the Sonian Forest for at least 2,000 years, because it adapts easily to a range of climatological and geographical circumstances. This has allowed a highly extensive range of beech forest flora and fauna to develop here. The oldest areas of the reserves have already gained the appearance of truly ancient woodland after just a few decades. More than 200 varieties of mushroom can only be found on dead beech wood, and the quantities of dead wood and monumental trees in the reserves are already comparable with those in the true ancient beech forests of Central Europe.
Heritage to cherish and to enjoy.