Foundation Conservation Carpathia and its partner entity, the Carpathia Forest District Association completed the autumn reforestation of severely degraded lands in the Făgăraș Mountains, adding another 14 hectares to the 73 already planted in the spring, with a total of 375,000 beech, maple, fir and spruce saplings planted. All the forestry works were carried out under very difficult conditions, both in spring and autumn, together with about 200 seasonal workers, organised in small teams, comprising people employed from the neighbouring villages.
In 2020, the specialists of the foundation successfully completed the planting of 87 hectares in the Făgăraș Mountains. During the last nine years, the conservationists have filled the gaps left in the mountains by the aggressive exploitations made 10-15 years ago, with some 2.9 million saplings over a total of about 830 hectares, in the Făgăraș, Iezer-Păpușa and Leaota Mountains. Starting last year, due to the large volume of work, they also resorted to outsourcing reforestation works to a local supplier in the Rucăr area, Argeș County, thus creating more jobs in the neighbouring rural area.
What does ecological restoration imply?
The most visible and popular activity is planting. But few people outside the system know what all the activities are that are involved in reinstating a new forest. Before replanting, an inventory of forest plots is made to find out the existing level of regeneration (how many saplings managed to grow on their own after the massive clear-cut) and to understand the initial composition of the species, so that the measures are best oriented towards the restoration of the original habitats. The lack of species of importance for biodiversity, such as ash, elm, sycamore or yew has led to a degradation of the ecological quality of forests.
In order to restore the original forest ecosystem, the foundation, through its own forest district, cultivates the missing species and plant seedlings lacking commercial value, but which are very important for biodiversity, in its nine nurseries and two greenhouses. Depending on the species, in order to obtain a viable sapling, it may take between three and five years, to which is needed, on average, another five years of tending saplings up in the mountains: monitoring, replacing dead saplings, cutting the grass around them, to prevent suffocation by vegetation that has a faster growth rate.
“Fixing soil erosion is a very important step in ecological restoration: torrential rains washed away the bare slopes, and the ditches on which the logs were dragged turned into ravines up to three meters deep,” says Mihai Zotta, head of CARPATHIA Forest District. “We fill the ditches with the remaining wood of the old exploitations, and, with the help of small excavators, we fill it with soil and restore the natural inclination of the lands, after which we plant, in order to fix it. If justice could not be done for the forest, at least we try to correct the mistakes of others. Nature needs respect. And we, humans, need nature!”
“A very important aspect is the socio-economic one. Over 200 seasonal workers are hired annually for various forestry activities which provides an important source of income for the village. We rely on them – working in the forest is far from being easy and it is normal to be well paid. The funds accessed from the European Commission, through the LIFE Nature project, supplemented by other private grants/donations (OAK Foundation, Mossy Earth, Forests without Frontiers, Zentiva, Agent Green, corporations, individual donors etc.) help us to buy and restore about 100 hectares annually,” continues Mihai Zotta.
Law versus reality
The reality of illegal logging, even after 10-15 years, is harsh. The larger and higher the clear-cuts, the lower the strength of the forest to recover, to regenerate naturally. Ecological disasters exist and can be seen from the satellite and in the field. Forestry legislation states the obligation of owners to plant, if the forest does not recover on its own, within a maximum of two years from the exploitation. But in areas where logging has been illegal, this problem has rarely been raised.
“Most of the time, the calculated damage is strictly related to the cut trees. The damages caused by the side effects by these unsustainable activities are not included, ” declares Mihai Zotta, head of CARPATHIA Forest District. “In our project area, we have most often witnessed soil erosion and clogging of drinking water, aggressive flooding and the reduction of the wildlife habitat. Restoring an ecosystem is the hardest thing, because you can’t put everything back there, no matter how hard we try. We are fighting for a better balance and it seems that we disturb other groups of interest, considering the attacks which are based on influence through words, while in the field there are facts and results.”
About the LIFE Carpathia project
The project is implemented within the project “Creation of a Wilderness Reserve in the Southern Carpathian Mountains, Romania”. The main purpose of the project is the restoration of the degraded habitats and the application of conservation measures over an area large enough to allow natural processes to take place, to benefit biodiversity and local communities.
Financial support from: The European Commission through the LIFE Nature programme (www.ec.europa.eu) and the Arcadia Foundation through the ELP program (Endangered Landscapes Programme, www.endangeredlandscapes.org).
The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the European Union.