The creation of protected areas is the most common means of preserving biodiversity. In this respect, Romania is home to a priceless natural heritage.
In fact, out of the 11 types of bio-geographical region across Europe, 5 can be found in Romania, namely continental, alpine, Pannonian, Black Sea and steppe. The diversity of Romania’s plant and animal species can be explained by the fact that the country has vast unaltered forest and alpine habitats along the Carpathian Mountains, as well as some of the larges populations of lynxes, wolves, chamois and bears in Europe.
The steep and sunny slopes in the Carpathian Mountains are home to thousands of plant species, such as a special variety of peony, the Globe-flower,the lady's-slipper orchid, the edelweiss, the snake's head fritillary, the narrow-leaf narcissus, the Hungarian tulip, and the Martagon lily. The Carpathians are in fact Europe’s last haven for plants and animals that are on the verge of extinction. For a more efficient protection of such natural resources, the first protected areas were established in Romania as early as 1932, to cover today 7% of the country’s surface area.
Adam Craciunescu is the director general of Romsilva, the National Forestry Authority, which is responsible for the management of Romania’s protected areas: ”Out of the country’s 28 national and natural parks, with the exception of the Danube Delta, 23 are managed by specialised bodies reporting to the National Forestry Authority. The surface area of the 23 parks accounts for more than 856,000 hectares, of which 556,000 hectares are covered by forests. The parks under the administration of the Forestry Authority account for around 80% of the overall surface area of national and natural parks in Romania. Under the circumstances, we believe that, at least in the near future, Romsilva will remain an important player in this area, namely the management of natural and national parks in Romania.”
While Romania’s natural heritage is impressive, its protected natural areas are under-financed. This is why the management of the national and natural parks for which Romsilva is responsible was decentralised a few years ago to allow the parks’ management easier access to several European and government funds.
Romsilva director Adam Craciunescu explains: ”Given the eligibility criteria for accessing European funding, Romsilva had no other choice but to change its management strategy, even though this entailed a more complicated way of distributing the financial resources required for its activities. As part of the Sectoral Operational Programme for Environment, the Forestry Authority has received funding approval for 25 projects, whose overall value stands at around 110 million lei, that’s more than 25 million euros. Two such projects have already been completed, while the others are soon to be completed. We have created visiting centres for the population in most of our regional offices with a view to making the local population familiar with these parks.”
Starting in 2006, the nature protection in the Carpathians has been supported by an international organisation called The Network of Protected Areas in the Carpathians. For a tighter cooperation among the seven Carpathian countries, the Network will be supervising joint projects to facilitate exchanges between other protected areas in the Carpathians, while at the same time trying to raise awareness about the fragile ecosystems across the entire mountain chain by means of concrete measures, such as the creation of an ecological network to support endangered species.
Adam Craciunescu: “Many of the authorities involved in the network are partners or even leaders of current international projects. Our park authorities hold regular meetings at European level with their counterparts from Italy, Germany, Austria and Hungary. The models created in the early years of managing these protected areas have been recreated both for the newly established structures at national level and for some individual components, such as the financial management at European level in the case of the countries in the Carpathian Convention, such as Serbia, Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Also, Romsilva has been contacted by the authorities in the Republic of Moldova with a view to granting consultancy in the process of organising and developing their system of protected areas.”
The Danube Delta stands out among other protected areas in Romania, both in terms of its surface area, which covers 580,000 hectares, and its biodiversity. The Danube Delta is at the same a biosphere reserve, a Ramsar site, being on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, and World Natural and Cultural Heritage site. Romania boasts 12 wetland areas protected by the Ramsar Convention and has a major contribution to the Natura 2000 Ecological Network for the preservation of habitats and wild bird species.