The Carpathian Mountains of Romania harbour 250,000 hectares of virgin forest, pristine tracts of biodiversity untouched by human activities, which act as a stronghold for a wide variety of species. These unspoilt areas have high scientific, educational and ecological value, yet they equate to less than three percent of the country’s total forest cover.
In this, the International Year of Forests, and with the future of a major part of Europe’s natural heritage at risk, WWF is spearheading a new campaign to obtain total protection for more than 80 percent of Romania’s virgin, or old growth, forest. These areas house iconic species such as the grey wolf, Eurasian lynx and imperial eagle and were historically widespread, but are sadly now severely depleted as a result of poor management.
Virgin forests are complex, dynamic ecosystems built up of seedlings, young, mature and old trees, as well as dead trees and decaying logs, which provide a diverse range of habitats in which many plant, animal and fungus species thrive.
WWF’s Danube-Carpathian Programme in Romania works to protect all forest types, but the scheme recognises the importance of targeting the conservation of virgin forests. Magor Csibi, Romania’s Country Manager for the programme, highlights the urgency in acting now to save these areas of natural beauty: “We will never be able to rebuild this part of nature. Once lost, it is lost forever.”
Historically, Romania’s virgin forests remained untouched, partly as a result of their inaccessibility, and partly due to the low economic value of the wood obtained from old trees. Yet socio-economic pressures in Romania are currently high, and with an ever-increasing demand for wood and development, the country’s virgin forests are becoming more and more vulnerable.
WWF has written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Romania, urging them to make the implementation of effective protection for the country’s remaining virgin forests a priority. The letter also asks for changes to the legislative framework, which would guarantee the protection of this critical ecosystem, as well as compensatory funds for private forest owners.
Magor Csibi is confident that the campaign will be successful: “We expect our initiative to be supported not only by people who wish for a sustainable future, but especially by the authorities who can decide whether to solve this problem or not. I believe that we can obtain 100 per cent protection of our virgin forests.”
An awareness raising campaign for the public has also been launched, which highlights the importance of virgin forests and urges people to sign a petition.
Legend, legacy and life
The forests of Romania, which once inspired the legend of the vampire, are some of the last untouched areas of wilderness in Europe. With their biodiversity, along with their rich and deep-set culture, the loss of these wooded habitats would be a huge blow to the country.
Magor Csibi called upon people to take into account moral, as well as environmental, values: “Considering that we are among the last European nations fortunate enough to have such a treasure, it is our moral obligation to preserve this piece of nature intact and to leave a small piece of wilderness to our children.”
Read more on this story at WWF – WWF acts to save Europe’s last remaining virgin forests.
Find out more about WWF’s forest conservation work.
Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author