Five countries to mark first-time Carpathian Parks Day
Organized for the first time, Carpathian Parks Day will encompass iconic protected areas in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of protected areas in biodiversity conservation and sustainable socio-economic development as well as to increase tourism and contribute to the financial stability in the region.
“All of the parks taking part in this massive event have something spectacular and unique to offer. If you are a photographer, a biologist, a hiker of simply a mountain lover, you will see for yourself that these parks are genuine treasures”, said Alina Alexa, communications officer at WWF.
Among parks taking part are the Tatra National Park in Slovakia, Apuseni and Bucegi Nature Parks, and Piatra Craiului National Park in Romania, as well as Djerdap National Park in Serbia. Slovakia will have the largest number of parks involved, with 17 parks taking part. The programme for the day varies from country to country and from park to park, but will offer activities including guided tours, school type activities, and trail clean ups.
“Organizing an event like this is extremely challenging, because we are dealing with five countries with different language and different problems, each one having an interesting indigenous culture. But they are all lucky enough to share a very important treasure of Europe: the Carpathians”, Alexa said.
Included in WWF’s “Global 200” ecoregion list, the Carpathian Mountains are noted for their exceptional level of biodiversity, which is unsurpassed in Europe.
The Carpathians host Europe’s largest area of old-growth forests as well as the largest remaining natural mountain beech and beech-fir forests ecosystems. One-third of all European vascular plants (3,988 plant species) can be found in this region, a remarkable 481 of which are endemic.
The unique diversity of habitats of the Carpathians make them a haven for globally threatened species such as the European bison, the Tatra Mountain Chamois and the Imperial Eagle. The Carpathians are the last region in Europe to support viable populations of large carnivores. An estimated 8,000 brown bears , 4,000 wolves and 3,000 Lynx can still be found here.
The region receives twice as much rainfall as the surrounding area, and this freshwater feeds the Danube, Vistula and Dniester rivers and their major tributaries through to the Black and Baltic Sea. More than 80 percent of Romania’s water supply (excluding the Danube) and 40 percent of Ukraine’s water supply comes from the Carpathians.
Furthermore, the Carpathians form a ‘bridge’ between Europe’s northern forests and those in the south and west. As such, they are a vital corridor for the dispersal of plants and animals throughout Europe.
However, these European and global treasures are under threat as a result of the unprecedented change that the region is undergoing as it becomes increasingly integrated into the European and global economy. The ecoregion is undergoing unsustainable logging, overexploitation of large mammal species, habitat destruction from changing land use, habitat fragmentation from infrastructure development and destruction of freshwater habitats from river regulation and flood control.
To help generate high-level political support for sustainable development in the Carpathians, the Danube-Carpathian Summit organised by the Romanian Government and WWF in 2001 led to the development and signing of the Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (Carpathian Convention) in 2003 and came into force in 2006.
The Carpathian Convention is a framework convention and the first significant political step ensuring environmental protection and socio-economic development in the Carpathian Mountains. The Convention obligates the signatories to enhance their efforts to achieve sustainable development of the Carpathian Mountains through a wide range of sector-related activities, such as biodiversity conservation, agriculture, forestry, water management, energy and transport.
“We hope Carpathian Parks Day will become an annual event and as such it will start building a Carpathian protected area identity”, said Alina Alexa.
As part of the event, Romania is hosting an open air photo exhibition of 28 large images from the country’s protected areas. They offer the public a colorful glimpse of the rich life in the wilderness. The images focus on the “gifts” we obtain from nature - fresh air, clean water, health, relaxation.
“Increased awareness will help decision makers, key stakeholders and the general public to better understand the importance of protected areas in terms of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development“, Alexa said.