WWF identified important brown bear corridors between Romania and Ukraine

Posted on 29 May 2014

Almost 500 of these species live in the Maramures region and across the border
WWF and a partner organization have managed to identify six critical areas for connectivity and the related ecological corridors for the brown bear in the Carpathian Mountains along the border of Romania and Ukraine. Maintaining connectivity of habitats is important for the conservation of these large carnivores.

In the past two years five brown bears have been monitored via a radio collar. Infrared cameras with motion sensors were also installed. Field work was supplemented by consultations with foresters, rangers, hunters, protected area managers and local communities. To announce the final results of its findings WWF organized an international conference dedicated to securing ecological corridors of the brown bears, which brought together experts from Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Croatia, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

This was also the official end of the “Open Borders for Bears between Romanian and Ukrainian Carpathians” project, implemented by WWF in partnership with the Ukrainian NGO RachivEcoTur. It covered the provinces of Maramures, Romania and Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpatska regions of Ukraine and aimed to reduce habitat fragmentation, identify the critical corridors and the related reconstruction needs and secure sustainable use of natural resources.

The team identified six critical areas for connectivity in Maramures area by the border of Romania and Ukraine: Cavnic, Huta-Certeze, Leodina-Vișeu-Bogdan Vodă, Săcel-Moisei-Borșa, Hera-Bistra-Popivan and Strâmtura-Glod-Poieni. Maramures is one the areas of WWF's initiative The Green Heart of Europe, which in total shelters two-thirds of the European populations of large carnivores, including bears, lynx and wolves.

“The Maramures region is home to 200-250 brown bears. Across the border in Ukraine additional 180 to 220 species live. To survive, bears need space to feed, shelter, rest and mate but also large areas to move, including favourable corridors that provide habitat connectivity. Human activities and socio-economic development of the region increasingly affect these habitats, especially infrastructure development like roads and other construction like hotels and fences”, says project coordinator Cristian-Remus Papp.

In order to define conservation activities and proper management of bear populations in the region, it was urgently needed to identify favourable habitats and critical corridors that provide connectivity. Then, human activity in those areas should be limited.

The project identified the first functional network of green corridors in Romania and in the transboundary region. Protecting this network is still required to have a healthy and viable population of bears in the Carpathians. There is no methodology in the current legislation for the designation and management of these areas. But future efforts of WWF will focus on the official recognition of these strips as ecological corridors and their legal protection.

WWF is now proposing tools for effective management of natural resources in an area of at least 270,000 hectares to help conserve critical habitats and corridors for bears, and the sustainable development of communities.

Simultaneously, WWF is working with forest authorities and owners for FSC certification. In Maramures alone, 66,000 hectares have been certified and another 50,000 hectares are undergoing the process. Of the total area, 3,800 hectares are virgin forests.

The “Open Borders for Bears between Romanian and Ukrainian Carpathians” project started in 2012. It is funded by the European Union within the Joint Operational Programme Hungary- Slovakia-Romania-Ukraine 2007-2013.
Brown bear
© Mauro Belardi
A map of the ecological corridors identified by WWF “Open Borders for Bears between Romanian and Ukrainian Carpathians” project
A typical forest in Maramures region, Romania
© Dan Dinu, Parcul Naţional Munţii Maramureşului
Brown bear in the Carpathian mountains
© WWF DCP Bohdan Prots