DBU Mapping Project – Updates

Mapping Romania’s Primeval Forests – DBU Project Updates

Romanian expert partners of the project managed by HFR Rottenburg and funded by German Foundation DBU (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt) have been busy with exploring and mapping primeval forests in several parts of Romania since July 2017. The focus of activities is on the following areas: Poiana Rusca, Bacau, Suceava, Fagaras mountains, Cerna valley / Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park, Valcan and Tarcu mountains. 

Exploration excursion in July 2017
Romanian and German experts visited old growth and virgin forests in Fagaras mountains. Prof. Rainer Luick (Uni Rottenburg and DBU-project leader), Prof. Hans D. Knapp (Uni Greifswald, European Beech Forest Network, co-initiator of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Bech Forests of the Carpathians and other Regions of Europe”), Matthias Schickhofer (photographer / book author and DBU-project coordinator), Dietmar Gross (retired forest director / Germany, forest expert based in Romania), Gabriel Schwaderer (CEO EuroNatur Foundation) and  Romanian experts visited potential primary forest areas in Fagaras and Parung mountains.
They found the intact primeval forest in Boia Mica and Curpanului valleys (joint excursions with residents / forest owners / foresters) and in the area of malaria. Expert studies are under development now. The owners of Boia Mica and Curpanului forests are open minded for the protection of those outstandingly wild forests, if there will be granted compensation.

Wild and pathless Boia Mica valley in Fagaras mountains. The 1000 ha large primeval forest is not under sufficient long term protection yet…
Awesome wilderness of almost unaccessable Laita valley, Fagaras mountains. The lower part of that unique forest ecosystem is not mapped at the moment…
Forest wilderness treasures of Curpanului valley, Fagaras mountains: Nature tourism would provide sustainable and robust economic perspectives, if the forests would be protected.

Scouting and ground thruthing trip in October 2017 

A team of Romanian experts, partnering with the DBU project visited the Cerna valley in Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park and the Valcan mountains. The scouting trip was officially announced to the forest authorities in Baia de Arama and Baile Herculane. The Romanian forest experts went to valleys in Cernisoara area of Domogled National Park and to Arcanu area in Valcan mountains.

They found big intact old growth and primeval forest stands. In particular in Radoteasa, Vlasa, Carbunele, Scacisoara and in upper Vija valleys there are large “virgin” forests, which are not mapped and thus not protected at the moment. In Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park and on the Natura 2000 site Nordul Gorjului de Vest logging of untouched forests is proceeding. According to the actual management plan, in Domogled National Park only 50 percent of the surface is under strict protection, including alpine areas above the tree line.

In Radoteasa, Girdomanul, Iovan (Domogled NP) and Vija (Valcan mountains, Natura 2000 site Nordul Gorjului de Vest) valleys the experts detected active logging which is currently threatening precious stands of primeval forests. In theory, virgin forests are under legal protection by the Romanian Forest Code (2015):“Virgin and ‘cvasivirgin’ forests will be strictly protected and will be included in ‘The National Catalogue of Virgin and Cvasivirgin Forets’”. In order to assist with the implementation of this legal objective, the Romanian DBU partners will develop expert studies and submit them to the respective authorities and to the Ministry of Water and Forests.

Great wilderness of Radoteasa, Vlasa and Carbunele valleys in the heart of Domogled National park. Most of the untouched forest in these valleys is not under strict protection yet, and logging proceeds.
Primeval beech forest in Radoteasa valley, outside the strictly protected zone of Domogled National Park and thus threatened by wood harvesting.
Large virgin beech forest in Valcan mountains. The outstanding forest is not comprehensively mapped yet and not protected.
Primeval beech forest on the slopes of Mount Arcanu. A new road through the wild valley provides access to the precious ecosystem. Wood harvesting in vicinity to the road has started…
Large virgin beech forest in upper Vija valley in Valcan mountains. The forest certainly qualifies to potentially become part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other Regions of Europe” (in case of another serial extension of this site in the future).
Beech forest on the southern slopes of Mount Arcanu with an uninterrupted natural history since the end of the last ice age. The Valcan region would benefit from forest protection as this would provide options for the development of sustainable nature tourism. Wilderness encounters are trending, Romania offers numerous first class destinations – close to the heartland of Europe…

Mapping the the Eastern Carpathians: 946,2 hectares identified
Another team analysed and mapped eight different old growth and primeval forests in the Eastern Carpathians – in Bacau region / Asau commune, in Covasna and Buzau. In total 946,2 hectares of awesome and untouched forests have been identified mapped by mid September. Studies about these forests will due to be submitted  to forest guards and to the Ministry of Water and Forests as soon as they are finalised after notification by the forest owners.
(A detailed list will be published soon on this website.)

Mapping Poiana Rusca / Plesu forest
A team from University of Oradea visited primeval / old growth forests in Poiana Rusca area. The initial focus was on the Plesu forest, close to Rusca Montana. Plesu forest is part of a nature reserve, but has not been added to the “National Catalogue of Virgin Forests” yet.

Here is their report:
“The area covered by Padurea Plesu natural reserve varies according to different documents: 1966.59 ha in forest management plan from Rusca Montană forest subsidiary or 1980 ha according to the management plan of the ROSCI 0219 Poiana Ruscă. The forest subsidiary is included in Forest District Caraș Severin, in Western Romania. Caraș Severin County is known for the most extended area covered by forests in Romania.
The reserve is placed in Production Unit (UP) II Pleșu Negrii. The access road stretches along the Plesu creek and reaches the entrance of the reserve. The former exploitation trails within the reserve are covered by vegetation not being used since the area was put under protection. The creeks which percolate the reserve area are bordered by riparian forests established mainly by Alnus incana, Fraxinus excelsior, Salix alba and a dense mat of Petasites hybridus and Telekia speciosa interspersed with nettles, Urtica dioica as invasive weed. Telekia speciosa is visited by many pollinating insects among them, the lepidopteran Nymphalis vaualbum, a protected species.

Just before reaching the entrance into the reserve there is an old abandoned smelter (since 1720) that is the historical proof of local industry fueled by local forests. Mining for different metal ores, uranium included, marble exploitation, smelters were the main users and causes of logging of the extended forests in Poiana Ruscă mountain range from historical times. The main forest types are mixed forests dominated by beech and fir, in some areas also by spruce, Picea abies with disseminated Carpinus betulus, Acer pseudoplatanus, Ulmus glabra, Sorbus aucuparia and Betula pendula.

Within the reserve there are patches with old trees, individuals of 40m high over 180 years but also patches with young forest stands, recently planted, probably 40 years ago, before the regime of protected area was acquired. Stands qualifying for “Virgin Forest Catalogue”  are mainly at higher elevations, on the upper slopes and are characterized by uneven stand age structure, horizontal mosaicated structure and layered vertical structure, with forest gaps in which natural regeneration occurs. Abundant dead wood is also present as standing dead trees and fallen logs accommodating a rich saproxylic fauna and wood decomposing fungi, being covered by moss and lichens. The presence of abundant moss and lichens on living tree stems and branches, on soil is another characteristic of the investigated area.

The first conclusions based on field observations suggest that forests qualifying for VF and CVF in parts of the management units, more precisely the areas corresponding to upper slopes. Lower slopes, near the exploitation trails show different structure (spatial complexity, age classes, the presence of dead naturally dead wood) and sometimes even composition compared to forest stands vegetating on upper slopes. The steep slopes and elevations were factors that impeded forest interventions keeping these areas natural. Also these areas are more likely to preserve wildlife populations displaced by human interventions in more accessible areas of the reserve. The entire natural reserve is in fact a mosaic of old growth forest remnants, unmanaged or not recently managed areas and areas with more recent interventions, just before the reserve was declared an officially protected area.

Indicators of naturalness found in different forest stands within the reserve are the corticolous lichen Lobaria pulmonaria and wood fungal parasites Sparassis crispa, Polyporus umbellatus and Polyporus lentus. We found tracks and sometimes we spotted bears, deer, wild boars, forest mice, salamanders, squirrels, hedgehogs and forest toads which have demonstrated the diverse and rich wildlife of the area. A comprehensive and long term scientific program is needed for the inventory of biodiversity indicator groups and the study of dendrochronology, spatial structure and age complexity of the tree populations in order to provide sound arguments for conservation and fuel public interest towards old growth forests.” (University of Oradea Team: Dr. Ecaterina Fodor, Dr. eng. Ovidiu Hâruța, Dr. eng. Sorin Dorog)