WWF celebrates Earth Day in The Green Heart of Europe



Posted on 22 April 2014  | 
Green Mountains -- The Carpathian Mountains in eastern Slovakia, Polana National Park
© Popp & Hackner / WWFEnlarge
Vienna – WWF celebrates Earth Day across 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe with its new initiative The Green Heart of Europe to save and protect the five natural riches of the region – forests, wilderness, large carnivores, rivers and wetlands, and the Danube sturgeon.

“From the Danube basin to the Carpathian Mountains, our region - the Green Heart of Europe - includes many of the continent’s greatest natural treasures. WWF has been working since the 1990s to save it for the benefit of local people and mankind”, says Andreas Beckmann, Director of WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

The WWF Green Heart of Europe initiative covers the largest remaining area of virgin and natural forests in Europe outside of northern Scandinavia and Russia (with the primeval beech forests of Ukraine and Slovakia) and Europe’s most spectacular remaining wilderness areas outside of Russia (including the southern Carpathians and the Danube Delta). The regions shelters two-thirds of the European populations of large carnivores like bears, lynx and wolves.

The Green Heart of Europe also includes most of Europe’s last remaining intact rivers and wetlands, including the globally important Lower Danube Green Corridor and the Mura-Drava-Danube corridor, also known as “Europe’s Amazon”. These waters are home to the Beluga sturgeon - a 7-meter fish that survived the end of the dinosaurs but now teeters on the edge of extinction.

“We, in the CEE region, depend on these natural treasures. They provide us with essential goods and services, from timber and fish to clean water and climate regulation, and the essential “green infrastructure” that secures our livelihoods and well-being”, says Orieta Hulea, WWF’s Conservation Director for Central and Eastern Europe.

But the unsustainable resource use and poorly planned infrastructure cause the loss and fragmentation of forests, wetlands and wilderness. The treasures of the Green Heart of Europe are threatened by

illegal and unsustainable logging of virgin and other High Conservation Value Forests,

construction of roads, ski areas and other infrastructure, some of it illegal and much of it poorly planned,

“wild” building of hundreds of large and small hydro- and wind-power stations, many with limited benefits in terms of clean energy but with massive impacts for streams, rivers and wildlife,

as well as unsustainable agricultural practices.

“We already have many of the tools needed to save the Green Heart of Europe, including

strong legislation, from the EU Water Framework Directive to the EU Timber Regulation;

regional protection frameworks, including the Carpathian and Danube Protection Conventions;

government commitments to protect virgin forests and save Danube sturgeons;

international agreements, including the Lower Danube Green Corridor and Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve;

economic incentives included in EU regional development policies and the EU Danube Strategy,

and growing importance of certification schemes like FSC as well as payments for ecosystem services (PES)

as well as a strong network of partners stretching from the public to the private and non-profit sectors”, explains Andreas Beckmann. “We now need to bring these together and ensure that they are both fully implemented and actively used”.
Green Mountains -- The Carpathian Mountains in eastern Slovakia, Polana National Park
© Popp & Hackner / WWF Enlarge
The primeval beech forests of the Eastern Carpathians in Slovakia and Ukraine are characterised not only by giant living trees but also by deadwood, which is vital to the habitat and ecosystem.
© Juraj Vysoky Enlarge
Brown bear, Central Carpathian Mountains, Romania
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon Enlarge
Danube delta. WWF-Canon / Anton Vorauer
Sturgeons have been of economic importance for their meat and eggs (caviar). 5 of the 6 sturgeon species that were once native to the Danube are extinct or close to extinction, including the gigantic Beluga (Huso huso), which can grow to the size of a small bus. The loss of spawning grounds and disruption of migration routes are among the main threats.
© WWF Austria Enlarge

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