Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:20 pm
by KoutaR

Durmitor National Park is the best-known nature destination in Montenegro. It is a mountainous area at 700–2500 metres above sea level.


The most popular area of Durmitor National Park. The mountains are Kulina (2313 m, left) and Devojka (2223 m, right). The forest is composed of Norway spruce and European silver fir; beech is missing due to forest management. The dark green patches on the high mountains are mugho pine (Pinus mugo) thickets.

In the eastern extension of the park, the Tara River has carved into limestone a canyon which is said to be the second deepest in the world (max. depth 1300m) after the Grand Canyon, though the Colca Canyon in Peru also lays claim to the “deepest in the world” title and the Blue Nile Canyon in Ethiopia is probably deeper than the Tara. Tara is not the only deep canyon in Montenegro: Piva and Platije are equally impressive. European black pine (Pinus nigra) typically grows stunted on steep to vertical slopes.

Crna Poda (elev. 840–940 metres) is a terrace formed in the middle of a very steep slope of Tara Canyon.


Crna Poda, center.

Almost level terrain has allowed deep soil to accumulate and black pine has formed a tall forest. European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is invading the forest, preventing pine regeneration. Now the forest looks like a normal beech forest which has an additional emergent layer of black pine.


Mixed forest of black pine and beech. The pines in the photo are about 45 m tall.

The pines are about 400 years old. Some cut stumps can be seen. Other tree species include sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) and wild cherry (Prunus avium).

The www-site of the park states Crna poda has black pines up to 50m in height. The tallest we measured was 47.4 m (156 ft.) which is a new record for laser-measured trees. The CBH of this tree is 296 cm. It is growing next to the road running through Crna Poda.


47.4-meter black pine, center. Also beech, and sycamore maple foliage (top left).

The thickest single-trunked pine had CBH as 418 cm. Although Crna poda is relatively small, we had not time to explore the whole forest, so it is possible that there are still taller pines. We measured several trees 44–46 m in height. However, the tallest pine (any member of genus Pinus) of Europe does probably not grow in Crna Poda but in Tenerife where a Canary Island pine (P. canariensis) has reached 56-60 m (184-197 ft) depending on the source (the measurement method not known).

The beeches are still relatively young, but some have already reached almost 40m in height.

Two weeks after our visit wildfires burned large patches of the slopes of the Tara Canyon and threatened also Crna poda but firefighters were able to save most of it. There is a video of the wildfires here: ... anak-82657
Fire must be an integral part of these forests, and the existence of Crna Poda’s black pine forest may well be a consequence of an intense fire in the past. Without disturbances beech appears to replace shade-intolerant black pine.

Outside the Tara Canyon the forests of the park are selectively logged and grazed by cattle. We also explored in the Zminje Jezero Prašumski Rezervat (primeval forest reserve, 10 ha, elev. 1500–1600 metres) of Durmitor National Park. Kouta had thought in 2008 that the Norway spruces (Picea abies), he saw there, were very tall, but immediately after reaching the reserve we (including Kouta, now with two and half years of measuring experience) saw that the spruces are not very tall; the tallest was only 49 m, with a CBH of 479 cm.


49-meter Norway spruce. Also beeches. The photo is from Kouta's 2008 trip.

Despite the name the reserve is not primeval forest: it hardly differs from the forest outside the reserve (the most remarkable difference being perhaps the existence of beech) and there are a lot of stumps, openings and young forest. This forest is dominated by Norway spruce, European silver fir (Abies alba) and beech: a very common composition of central and southern European mountain forest.

The Durmitor part of Michael's travelogue can be read here:

Kouta, Jeroen & Michael