Forests are the most biologically diverse systems on Earth, offering shelter to a variety of plants, animals and microorganisms. The biological diversity (biodiversity) of forests should be regarded as not just trees, but all the plants and animals that find their home in forests along with the intrinsic genetic diversity within.
In Moldova’s forestland, as many as 28 types of forest ecosystems (or forest formations) were identified, some of them being as biologically as economically the most important for the country, such as formations of pedunculate oak, sessile oak, pubescent oak, beech, flooded forest, black locust and many varieties of all these and other species.
The “forest oak with cherry” type is widespread in the north of the country and covers an area of 11600 ha. It is characterized by mono-dominant stands of pedunculate pak (Quercus robur) with high presence of wild cherry (Prunus avium). Its floristic composition includes about 350 species of vascular plants, with 10 rare species. This type of ecosystem is currently under high influence of dry conditions and its natural regeneration is very week.
The type of “sessile oak and pedunculate oak with beech” forest in the central Moldova covers about 160000 ha. Floristic diversity of these ecosystems is the richest in the country and includes over a thousand species of vascular plants. 17 species of plants are included in the Red Book of Moldova, such as: purple toothwort (Dentaria glandulosa), annual honesty (Lunaria annua), spindletree (Euonymus nana), elegant crown vetch (Coronilla elegans), forest peony (Paeonia peregrina), bird cherry tree (Padus avium), service tree (Sorbus domestica), sword-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), lady’s-slipper orchid, (Cypripedium calceolus) etc. The highest diversity of vascular plants is found in the nature reserves Codrii (with 945 species) and “Plaiul Fagului” (with 720 species).
Ecosystems of pubescent oak are present in the south of the country and cover about 7000 ha. Their floristic diversity comprises circa 400 species of vascular plants, some included in the Red Book of Moldova, such as: angelescu cornflower (Centaurea angelescui), greater pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis), wild pear (Pyrus elaeagnifolia), and others (Gymnospermium odessanum, etc.).
Azonal forest ecosystems of willow, poplar and pedunculate oak (which are flooded forest type) of the lower Prut river basin cover an area of 15000 ha. Their floristic diversity comprises about 400 species of vascular plants, including rare species in Moldova, such as: black alder (Alnus glutinosa), white alder (Alnus incana), forest grape vine (Vitis sylvestris), snake’s head (Fritillaria meleagris), southern adderstongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) etc.
Circa 1140 species of vascular plants are recorded in the forestland and forest-steppe areas of the country, which represents over 60% of all plant species in Moldova (i.e. 1832 species of vascular plants) .The plant communities within the ecosystems determine what animal communities exist within those systems. Forest ecosystems of Moldova are inhabited by 172 species of terrestrial vertebrates (47.8% of the total species of Moldova), of these 47 species are mammals, birds - 106, reptiles - 9, and amphibians – 10 species. Diversity of invertebrates is even higer, including more than 9000 speciess with anumber of species listed in the Red Book data of Moldova. Forest ecosystems of the Central Codri are defined by a high compactness index, which creates conditions for the most diverse flora and fauna in the country.
However, forest biodiversity is increasingly threatened worldwide as a result of deforestation, fragmentation, climate change and other stressors. Natural forest biodiversity of Moldova is under huge pressure from various human activities. Improper forest management over the last century caused a decrease in forest genetic resources to Moldovan forests. The decline of the three native oak formations (Quercus robor, Q. petraea, Q. pubescens) in Moldova is heavily accompanied with the intrusion of other non-native species. Both human activity (plant harvesting, mushrooms collection, forest management activities, pollution etc.) and the decline in available food sources (gophers, other small rodents) are continuing to adversely affect the large species of prey birds, such as the large spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), saker falcon (Falco cherrug) etc.
The relationships between humans and forest resources are under risks of deep alteration, unless a rational co-existence with forests is established.