Southern Carpathians: A Wilderness Arc at the Heart of Europe

At the southern end of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, an initiative is underway to create one of Europe's largest wilderness landscapes south of the Arctic Circle. With a backbone of more than 1 million ha of protected areas already in place, large intact forests, a high concentration of biodiversity, un-fragmented landscapes, wild rivers, and large mosaic landscapes still kept open by small scale farming practices, there is a unique opportunity to realise this vision.

The starting point is an area around the Tarcu Mountains Natura 2000 Site, with connections to the Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park, and the Retezat National Park, which together cover around 200,000 ha. The area includes a wide variety of ecosystems—alpine meadows and grasslands, old beech and fir forests, steep cliff formations, and undulating mosaic landscapes with open grasslands intersected by woodlands (Fig. 9.6). However, the numbers of large carnivores and herbivores are depressingly low and, due to poisoning, most scavengers and all vultures are gone. Patches of virgin forest are still threatened by illegal logging.

During the first year, the Southern Carpathians has concentrated on stakeholder meetings, feasibility studies, GIS mapping and planning, and creating a support base for the rewilding concept in the project area through a series of meetings with local people.

The rewilding area is part of the (larger) South Western Carpathians Wilderness Area project[1], run by WWF Romania and covering 11 Protected Areas and the present rewilding area itself, which is promising for further expansion over time of the rewilding activities.

A preliminary inventory of pristine forests areas has been performed in the Tarcu Mountains N2000 area and a request was made to decision makers for their protection. An agreement was reached with the Romanian government on criteria for identification and inclusion of pristine forests in stricter protection status (Ministerial Order). The guidelines for management of forest reserve areas with bark beetle

Fig. 9.6  Alpine meadows and old growth forests in the Southern Carpathians. (Photo credit: Staffan Widstrand/Rewilding Europe)

outbreaks were developed and submitted to the Romanian government, to promote as a key natural process and non-intervention policy. Managers of hunting areas, game and forest managers were approached about initiating non-intervention management measures (e.g. creation of no-hunting areas). Finally a feasibility study of re-introduction of European bison was carried out, with the most suitable area identified and agreed for re-introduction in the Tarcu Mountain Natura 2000 site, to be executed in 2014.

  • [1] erweiterungsbeitrag.admin.ch/en/Home/Projekte/Projekt_Detailansicht?projectinfo ID=222831.
 
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