Croatia has a long-standing tradition of sustainable forestry that dates back over 250 years. As a result, today Croatia has some of the most extensive, healthy and naturally self-sustaining forests in Europe.            
All of the forests are considered semi-natural. They did not change substantially in the last hundred years, but this does not mean they have not been used by man.

Habitats of European importance in Croatia

Thanks to its location at the crossroads of several different geographic regions, Croatia’s forests are exceptionally diverse. There are over 60 different forest associations covering more than 2 million hectares. But there are also a number of rarer and more unusual forest types listed in the Habitats Directive which also require protection under NATURA 2000.

Multifunction of woods

Many areas have been and will continue to be used sustainably for wood production or as hunting reserves, which not only brings in significant economic gains, but also provides jobs and additional income to thousands of people. Croatian Forests alone have over 9000 employees.

Besides, a forest can play many other important environmental and social functions. Healthy forests, for instance, prevent erosion in mountainous areas, they replenish water supplies and protect soils, they can even help regulate the local climate and absorb CO2 gasses, which is the number one cause of climate change. Forests also offer a wide variety of recreational activities, ranging from hunting and mushroom picking to walking and hiking, which add to their economic value. Not surprisingly, Croatia’s healthy forests are much admired by other countries in Europe.


Altogether, forests cover almost half (47.5%) of the territory of Croatia. Most of this valuable resource is owned by the State and managed by Croatian Forests who practice a form of management that is ‘close to nature’. The trees are also for the most part selectively felled rather than clear-cut, which helps to maintain the forest stands in optimal condition and provides continuous cover over large areas. This type of forest management is not only economically sound: it also puts into value the many other important environmental and social functions a forest can play.


Human activities are the main reason of forest degradation, and it is the common fir that has suffered the most damage, followed by the durmast oak, common oak, common ash, black pine, common spruce and sweet chestnut.

Threats to the forests:

Pollution of air, soil and water, changes in the water course, construction of roads and transmission lines, logging, use of pesticides, not enough care about overall biodiversity, inadequate hunting management, forest fires, failure to enforce legal provisions, macroclimatic changes and climate excesses.

To protect NATURA 2000 sites, some actions are forbidden in designated areas, for example killing or collection of the listed wild plants and animals, or activities which could significantly disturb the species or deteriorate the habitats for which the site has been selected.


Taking decisions together

The decision about how to manage a particular NATURA 2000 site is best made on a case-by case basis. The Habitats Directive recommends developing management plans for NATURA 2000 sites precisely to help establish a dialogue between all interested parties and agree on pragmatic management solutions. They record the conservation needs of the habitats and species, analyse the socio-economic context, and interactions between different land-uses and the species and habitats, provide an open forum for debate and help finding practical management solutions that are sustainable and fully integrated into other land uses.

Promoting multi-purpose forestry

In the following years it will be important for forestry authorities and nature conservationists to try to minimise damaging operations in NATURA 2000 areas. Instead, their multi-functional role must be promoted and strengthened. This applies equally to privately owned forests. The EU’s Rural Development Regulation offers substantial financial support and compensation for income foregone to private forest owners who are willing to carry out nature-friendly activities in their forests.

EU funding

The EU’s Rural Development Regulation offers substantial financial support and compensation for income foregone to private forest owners who are willing to carry out nature-friendly activities in their forests.

EU LIFE funded projects have been used to improve forest management and encourage sustainable development.

Agri-environment schemes provide additional funding for voluntary nature friendly forest practices.

For further information and examples on Good Management practices for Forests in NATURA 2000 sites go to:

Also, download our brochure NATURA 2000 and Forestry in Croatia from our website.