One Europe More Nature - Maramures, Romania

New approaches to preserving an old landscape

The area of Maramures in northern Romania is a land of impressive scenery – eagles soar above the mountains, and bears, wolves and lynx still roam the ancient forests.

The area is also home to the headwaters of the River Tisza, the longest tributary of the Danube.

Although the plateau itself is largely uninhabited, it is surrounded by small settlements whose economies are based primarily on the use of the plateau’s natural resources.

The forests of Maramures have long provided people with a range of products and services such as drinking water, wild berries, mushrooms, medicinal plants, building materials and fuel.

The unique patchwork of forest, wetland and grassland on the plateau provides an important ecological function. Working like a sponge, it retains water in the area, thereby reducing floods downstream.

New threats
But the area has problems. Both legal and illegal loggers have started to eat away at the pristine forests, and the majestic Bruna de Maramures cattle, which keep the highland pastures open, are disappearing. Wetlands are also being drained to make way for crops. As a result of these changes, biodiversity is in decline. The natural “sponge” function of the area risks being lost.

The reasons behind these damaging activities are largely economic. In a region where incomes are low and unemployment high, people have little choice but to exploit the few opportunities they see as being open to them, be this by felling trees for timber or giving up farming practices which are proving unprofitable.

It is against this backdrop that the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme is implementing a project to help local people develop new economies which will both generate income in the longer term and preserve the area’s natural values.
 / ©: WWF DCP RO
The rich mosaic landscape of Maramures in northern Romania has been created over centuries -- and could be quickly lost without new approaches to secure its future.
© WWF DCP RO
 / ©: Emil Pop, 2007
The rich mosaic landscape of Maramures in northern Romania has been created over centuries of human cultivation -- and now is threatened by the economic and social changes sweeping the region.
© Emil Pop, 2007

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