Following the introduction of safe preventive anti-epidemic measures in the Czech Republic, the Centralparks partner Education and Information Centre of Bílé Karpaty Mountains (VIS) was able to respond safely to the demand for excursions from the public.
During the months of May, June and July, VIS organized a total of 9 excursions within the Bílé Karpaty (White Carpathians) Protected Landscape Area, for example to the nature reserve Drahy, as well as to the national nature reserves Zahrady pod Hájem and Čertoryje for various target groups. Visitors had the opportunity to see the cultural landscape of Bílé Karpaty, its characteristic fauna and flora, especially the colourful wildflower meadows with blooming orchids, which offer a unique sight in this period. The main target group consisted of interested public, as well as teachers and local guides. Participants also learned about the Centralparks project, the focus of its actions in the Czech Carpathians and the role of VIS.
The Carpathians are a centre of biodiversity in Europe. Although they contain a high amount of natural and cultural heritage, the general public still only has a little insight about the often hidden or overlooked beauty of this unique mountain range. Today, on the World Environment Day, it is worth to take a look into how the forces of the Earth have shaped the Carpathians and understand more about the uniqueness of their ecosystems underlined by the large amount of protected areas and protected area networks along this mountain system.
Geology and geomorphology
The Carpathian Mountains stretch across a large part of Central and Eastern Europe. They start in Slovakia and then go east, while expanding their width to reach the Czech Republic and Poland to the north, as well as Hungary to the south. Then they curve in south-eastern direction, passing the Ukraine to the east. There, they turn southwards and cross Central Romania and end in Serbia, close to where Danube intercepts them at the Iron Gate. The Carpathians are the second largest mountain range in Europe, right after the Alps, and are 900 km long. The highest peak of this majestic mountain range is Gerlachovský štít (2655 m) in Slovakia, in the High Tatras. In addition to the High Tatras, the Carpathians reach high altitudes also in Romania with multiple peaks over 2500 m.
The Carpathians are divided into the Western Carpathians in Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary and Poland, where the north half are the Outer Carpathians and the south half are the Inner Carpathians. Towards the east, the Eastern Carpathians are again divided into Outer and Inner, following the line of their western counterparts in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania. The Southern Carpathians, Western Romanian Carpathians and Transylvanian Plateau are in central Romania, where the mountain ridges turn again towards the west. The southernmost part of the Carpathians are the Serbian Carpathians.
Despite almost touching the Alps that start just on the other side of the Danube valley in Austria, the Carpathians differ in multiple ways from their famous neighbour. During the recent ice ages, the Alps were largely covered in ice, while within the Carpathians only the highest peaks were glaciated. This led to very different relief forms, as the Carpathians were shaped principally by water rather than ice. Therefore, the typical glacial features, such as U-shaped valleys, cirques or moraines, are rare in the Carpathians. The most common rock in the Carpathians is flysch, which is only present in a narrow strip in the Alps. However, both mountain ranges formed rather recently during the Alpine orogeny, about 100 million years ago in the late Mesozoic. They both emerged because of the collision between the African and the European tectonic plates. As a result of this collision that pushed the rocks upwards, nowadays we can enjoy the beautiful mountain peaks of the Carpathians.
The geology and geomorphology of the Carpathians and the evolution of flora and fauna in the glacial periods and post-glacial era led to an exceptional biodiversity in this region. They encompass the largest forests in natural state in Central and Western Europe, and the biggest area of original European beech forests located mostly in the Southern and Eastern Carpathians. It is still possible to find areas of forests, where human impact is minimal and where primeval and native forests have the chance to develop naturally. The most significant forest communities of the Carpathians are floodplain, fen and bog forests, beech and mixed beech forests with fir and spruce as well as with sporadic stands of yews, oak-hornbeam forests, spruce and fir-spruce forests, scree forests and pine forests.
Since ancient times, man has been present in the Carpathians and contributed to the development of non-forest habitats, that would have otherwise stayed covered by extensive forests. Naturally, non-forest habitats mostly only occur above the tree line, which is about 5% of the total area of the Carpathians. However, through human influence, entirely new plant compositions were formed in the expanding grasslands. These grasslands provide a home for rich biodiversity, and the impact on some non-forest habitats was considered positive. However, with the start of large-scale agricultural production, mechanisation, intense fertilisation and a race to cultivate more profitable plant species in order to meet the increased demand, the destruction to species diversity increased disproportionately.
Another valuable, but rarer ecosystem of the Carpathians is represented by wetlands. Beside their importance from the perspective of biodiversity conservation, they also provide a wide variety of unique ecosystem services that are essential for humans. These habitats include aquatic habitats, riparian vegetation, wet grasslands, peatlands, wetland forests, springs and subterranean wetlands. The biggest danger in the conservation of these wetlands is posed by human-induced changes in the hydrological regime.
Protected areas of the Carpathians
The Carpathians are strongholds of biodiversity, home to about one-third of all European vascular plant species, the most significant areas of primeval forests and the largest remaining European populations of large carnivores. Carpathian protected areas serve to protect and conserve the outstanding natural and cultural values of this mountain system. These protected areas include the most unique habitats of forests, mountain grasslands and wetlands.
National parks can be found in all Carpathian countries. Other types of protected areas in the national systems include Protected Landscape Areas, landscape parks, National Nature Reserves, Nature Reserves, National Nature Monuments, Nature Monuments, Forest Reserves, Protected Sites and Protected Landscape Elements.
The five EU-member states, within which the Carpathians are located, also include Natura 2000 sites, which comprise Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated respectively under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive. Moreover, according to the Ramsar Convention, 12 Carpathian sites have been included in the Wetlands of International Importance.
The biggest changes in the ecosystems of the Carpathians occurred because of human activities. Due to climate change, habitats are changing, and species diversity is declining. Unsustainable mass tourism and the cultivation of various plants and animals contributed to the introduction of invasive species into natural habitats. Air and water pollution, infrastructure development, the abandonment of the traditional methods of farming and a lack of understanding of the sustainable use of Carpathian ecosystem services have an increasingly negative impact on the biodiversity of the Carpathians. It is necessary to prevent the further fragmentation of Carpathian habitats and to improve ecological connectivity and continuity of habitats in the Carpathian landscape.
The most appropriate way of protecting Carpathian nature is through coordinated action. Centralparks brings together partners who are passionate about the preservation of Carpathian biodiversity. The Centralparks project focuses on integrating comprehensive approaches to conservation, planning and management of natural resources and cultural landscapes. Centralparks facilitates transboundary cooperation to improve management capacities of Carpathian protected areas both for the benefit of biodiversity and for the prosperity of Carpathian communities.
On Friday, April 17th 2020, an online synergy meeting was held between partners of projects Centralparks and CONNECT2CE. The aim of this online meeting was to address some of the main aims of CE projects: exchange views, establish partnerships and capitalize on results.
This meeting’s specific aim was twofold. Firstly, to present the projects and share knowledge about project objectives and results. Secondly, to identify common problems and to think about possible future collaborations.
The CONNECT2CE project focuses on tackling the weak accessibility of regional, peripheral and cross-border areas of Central Europe to and from main transport networks and hubs, which is caused by the long lasting phenomenon of urbanisation. The project, which will to be concluded in May 2020, elaborated harmonised and coordinated transnational strategies, action plans and tools to be mainstreamed and implemented at regional as well as cross-border level, also through pilot actions in three thematic areas.
One of the main goals of Centralparks is to integrate biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the Carpathian region. One policy document developed in the framework of the project is a strategy for local sustainable tourism development based on natural heritage of the Carpathians, for which the connectivity and accessibility of protected areas and the management of tourism flows are of paramount importance.
Following a short introduction of both projects, an in-depth discussion was held amongst participants, covering a number of topics, which encompassed also sustainable tourism. Among these were the role of sustainability in the transport sector and the role of sustainable public transport solutions to make protected areas more accessible. Moreover, the necessity to support sustainable travel within and between protected areas was discussed. Participants also referred to the involvement of administrations of natural and cultural sites and local communities in creating attractive public transport offers.
Overall, the first synergy meeting organized by Centralparks was successful due to the kind commitment of the representatives of the CONNECT2CE project. It was very fruitful to share useful information and creating synergies among these projects. The final conference of CONNECT2CE will be held online on the 28th of May 2020 during which Centralparks project partners are honoured to be able to participate.
For more information on the CONNECT2CE project, click here.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world in a rapid pace and bring serious economic, geopolitical and health impacts. Nevertheless, the Centralparks project team stays connected during the times of physical distancing, and focuses on maximising communication in the virtual realm.
On 17th March, an the first online partner meeting took place within the frame of Centralparks. Partners discussed the project progress together with planned activities for the year of 2020 and harmonized the time planning within the team.
The meeting was opened with the presentation of Isidoro De Bortoli, project manager and Stefania Lochmann, financial manager of Centralparks. They summarized shortly the project progress and informed the partnership about Programme measures and instructions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Considering the emergency situation, the partnership reached the conclusion that the 3rd physical partner meeting, scheduled for May in Slovakia will be postponed. During this sensitive period, the project consortium continues its work and will exchange information and experiences using digital means.
Ms Eleonora Musco informed the partnership about the outcome of the Meeting of the Carpathian Convetion Working Group on Biodiversity and Carpathian Network of Protected Areas Steering Committee meeting, organised within the framework of the ConnectGREEN project. The meeting focused on providing a platform for necessary discussions related to the International Action Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of the Carpathian Large Carnivores Population, as well as the Strategy of the Identification, Conservation, Restoration and Management of Ecological Corridors in the Carpathian Ecoregion. As partner projects, ConnectGREEN and Centralparks will organise synergy activities in the upcoming years. More information on the meeting can be found here.
Following critical discussions focusing on the next steps in the project, each Thematic Work Package (WP T) leader presented the state of the art of the project activities. Zbigniew Niewiadomski from the WP T1 leader Ekopsychiogy Society shared with the partners the current working status of the Thematic Transnational Task Forces. Carpathian experts are actively cooperating in all three task forces to develop transnational Carpathian strategies focusing on biodiversity and landscape conservation, sustainable tourism and communication between protected areas and local communities. Partners agreed that in the future, a combination of physical meetings and online meetings could be a good solution to increase work efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of the project.
Next up, Borbála Szabó-Major from the Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate updated the partnership about the status of WP T2 activities. The area for the pilot LIDAR scanning has been designated. She also shared the progress made by experts in the development of forest state and grassland state evaluation protocols to monitor Carpathian habitat types.
The status report of WP T3 activities was presented Ján Kadlečik from State Nature Conservancy on the Slovak Republic and Radoslav Považan from Pronatur. Carpathian experts are working extensively on the development of the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit and embrace online meetings for input collection.
The last presentation focused on communication, presented by Hanna Öllös from European Wilderness Society. Public outreach and stakeholder involvement is a key topic for Centralparks. In these difficult times, digital communication as a productive medium has its chance to be the primary channel to engage the public. The partnership of Centralparks works in harmony and is dedicated to continue its work for the Carpathians, the green lungs of Europe.
Adjournment of the joint meeting of the Carpathian Convention Working Group on Biodiversity, Working Group on Sustainable Transport and the Steering Committee of the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas
Due to temporary restrictions on international travels for public health reasons related to COVID-19, the physical meeting of the Joint meeting of the Carpathian Convention Working Group on Biodiversity, Working Group on Sustainable Transport and the Steering Committee of the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas that was scheduled on 10 – 11 March 2020 has been adjourned sine die. Currently the organization of an online meeting, within which the most important topics will be discussed, is under way.
Please stay tuned for further news during the coming weeks!
Next week, the Centralparks project will be introduced to the Carpathian Convention‘s biodiversity experts and stakeholders at the Carpathian Convention Working Group (WG) on Biodiversity and the Steering Committee (SC) of the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA), that will take place between 10– 11th March 2020 in Budapest, Hungary. The WG Biodiversity & the CNPA SC meeting will be organized in parallel with the WG Sustainable Transport meeting of the Convention. The meeting will be financially supported by the EU DTP ConnectGREEN project.
The meeting will offer the possibility to
re-gather official members of the Steering Committee of CNPA after a long
break. CNPA was created in December 2006 as a regional thematic network
for the cooperation of mountain protected areas in the Carpathians and a means
of implementing the Carpathian Convention. The CNPA’s general objective is to
contribute to the protection and sustainable development of the Carpathian
protected areas and related natural assets.
The main goals of the CNPA are:
Promotion of cooperation on protection, restoration of nature and sustainable use of natural and cultural resources of the Carpathians;
Implementation of decisions and recommendations undertaken by the bodies established under the Carpathian Convention as well as of other applicable relevant international legal instruments;
Promotion of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development of the Carpathians;
Implementation of the relevant provisions of the Protocol on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological and Landscape Diversity (Biodiversity Protocol) and of the Sustainable Tourism Protocol and its Strategy.
The CNPA SC is composed by National Focal Points, nominated by the Parties of the Carpathian Convention. The meetings of the CNPA SC, open to attend for interested observers, are focusing on coordinating activities of the CNPA, developing strategies and working plans for the CNPA, and organising the CNPA Conferences.
The Centralparks project was introduced to the Carpathian Convention Parties and stakeholders at the 10th meeting of the Carpathian Convention Implementation Committee (CCIC), that took place on 12-13 December in Budapest, hosted by the Hungarian Presidency of the Convention.
The 10th meeting of the Carpathian
Convention Implementation Committee offered the possibility for Member States
to look back at the latest activities implemented in the region and to look
forward to the next steps towards the 6th Conference of the Parties,
to be held in Poland in Autumn 2020, and beyond.
In the frame of the meeting, Centralparks was presented by Mr. Mircea Verghelet. The project is considered a Carpathian Convention flagship project, which support the implementation of the Carpathian Convention under different strategic aspects and foster the cooperation within the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA). Parties welcomed the future organization of the CNPA Steering Group meeting, back to back the Centralparks partners meeting, at the end of 2020 in Czech Republic. Furthermore, CCIC encouraged the Carpathian Convention Working Group on Biodiversity and the Secretariat to support the organization of a Conference for the Carpathian Protected Areas within the Centralparks and EU DTP ConnectGreen projects at the beginning of 2021.
You can find more information about the CCIC meeting here.
The Carpathian Convention
The Carpathian Convention is a consortium of seven Carpathian countries (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia) to foster the sustainable development and protection of the Carpathian region. The Convention is one of only two sub-regional treaties for the protection and sustainable development of a mountain region worldwide. The Convention provides a framework for cooperation and multi-sectoral policy coordination, a platform for joint strategies for sustainable development, and a forum for dialogue between all stakeholders involved – from the local community and various NGO’s up to the regional and national governments, institutions of the European Union and the United Nations. Further information: http://www.carpathianconvention.org/
Developing new ideas and approaches to support young people’s (positive) attitude towards taking active action has been a big topic in the European Union. Young generation is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to our environment, about decision-making processes at national, regional and local levels. It is a general tendency that young people lose trust and confidence in political institutions and try new ways to find their voice and express themselves politically.
Therefore the Austrian-Ukrainian Youth Green Conference became a powerful tool to bring together young, bright people to talk about some pressing topics of today. Developed and organised jointly by the European Wilderness Society, partner in the Centralparks project and FORZA, Agency for Sustainable Development of the Carpathian Region, the 3-day Conference hosted approx. 60 young students from Ukrainian and Austrian schools. The event used many innovative ways to address the topics of sustainable transport, environment, the importance of wildlife and protected areas.
Centralparks was presented to these kids as an example of how the EU supports such transnational projects. They had the chance to openly discuss the importance of the Carpathians, the many ways local communities can benefit from such natural values and how can local decision-making bodies and communities be encouraged to be open for new tools for nature conservation. The presentation and related discussions were powerful to bring appreciation for natural treasures on a local level. Regardless of the level of development, cultural and societal differences, the nature in each country has its uniqueness and intrinsic value. Kids learned about the history and wildlife in the Carpathians, the purpose of protected areas and how human actions can influence the future of the Carpathian mountains. At the end of the day, kids were proud to know that they can contribute to the protection of the rich biodiversity of the Carpathians, in particular in the Ukraine.
29-30th October, Sanok, Poland. The two-day Project Partner and Steering Committee meeting of the Centralparks project united partners to evaluate the very first months of the project and jointly plan the next steps.
The partner meeting was organised by Ekopsychology Society, leader of the 1st Thematic Work Package, in the beautiful Polish town Sanok, which lies directly below the Carpathian Mountains. The meeting was opened with a welcome speech by Zbigniew Niewiadomski from Ekopsychology Society, introducing the natural and cultural heritage of the region. After that, Isidoro de Bortoli, Project Manager from the Lead Partner Eurac Research guided the participants through the agenda of the meeting and presented the current state and achievements of Work Package Management. Special focus was put on reviewing the first six months of the project implementation.
What are the keys of effective communication and how can all partners be ambassadors of the project? The answer was explained in the presentation on Work Package Communication by Hanna Öllös from the European Wilderness Society, leader of the respective Work Package.
The 1st Thematic Work Package was presented by Zbigniew Niewiadomski, who focused on giving an update about the achievements of the Thematic Transnational Task Forces and next steps of the work plan. Borbála Major from the leader of the 2nd Thematic Work Package, Duna-Ipoly National Park) shared the current status of the work and explained to the partners the following tasks in developing innovative conservation planning methods. The 3rd Thematic Work Package, focusing on the development of the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit was presented jointly by Jan Kadlecik (from the State Nature Conservancy SK) and Zuzana Okániková from Pronatur NGO, presenting the first results of the Gap analyis, prepared to identify the current status in ecosystem services implementation and address gaps in the implementation of ecosystem services policies in the target countries.
During the next session, Eleonora Musco from Eurac Research detailed the role and planned activities of the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention in project implementation, highlighting various events where Centralparks will be present, and provided an update on the ConnectGREEN project, focusing on strenghtening green infrastructure in the Carpathians.
Inbetween presentations, partners had the chance to stretch their legs and take their fruitful discussions outside: a guided tour through the Museum of Folk architecture in Sanok showcased the rich cultural heritage the Carpathian region holds in itself, which gave new inspirations for each participant.
The second day was reserved for the Steering Committee meeting, during which important tasks and responsibilities were layed down. Recently, the project Advisory Support Group was set up, bringing together Mr. Harald Egerer, Head of the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, Mr. Boris Erg, IUCN Director of the Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Andreas Beckmann, Regional Director at WWF Central and Eastern Europe. The consortium will follow the project progress closely and will provide expertquality check of Centralparks results.
Finally, the partnership agreed on the next meetings and big events, such as the organisation of the Carpathian Network of the Protected Areas roundtable, one key result in the project. Filled with inspiring talks, important to-dos and Carpathian team spirit, partners returned home, to continue working for the Carpathians, one of the wildest sides of Europe.
From the 7th to the 10th October our IVY volunteer Jonas attended the “European Week of Regions and Cities” at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Jonas is part of the „Interreg Volunteer Youth“ (IVY) and supports the European Wilderness Society with the communication of Centralparks. IVY invited 10 volunteers to this annual four-day event, that brings together over 6000 people involved in regional policy. One of the invited volunteers was our Centralparks volunteer Jonas.
During the week, Jonas could experience the EU firsthand. After an opening
at the European Parliament, there was a fair of Interreg projects and a variety
of workshop, sessions and presentations. There, government officials,
journalists, researchers and representatives of many different organisations
and regions came together to discuss how regional policy can strengthen Europe.
„It was amazing to see how passionate many people are about the EU.“
Jonas Sommer, IVY volunteer
The highlight of the week for Jonas was the session of IVY. There he presented his work in the Centralparks project and his Citizens Engagement Activity “WILDArt Majella“. This week, just like our project, shows how important cross-border and trans-regional cooperation is. Sharing knowledge and experiences is crucial to conserve nature and improve the situations for rural communities in Europe.
On the third week of September, Centralparks partners and nature conservation experts gather in Szokolya, Hungary, to attend the workshop on innovative methods in conservation planning. The workshop focuses on the state-of-the-art light detection and ranging tool for monitoring the topography, the species and habitat diversity called LiDAR, together with forest and grassland state evaluation. The workshop is organized by the Danube-Ipoly National Park Directorate in the heart of the Börzsöny project project pilot site.
Integrated into the 3-day workshop, the Thematic Transnational Task Force on nature conservation management has been established, which brings together expert cooperation on the the development of a Nature Conservation Management Plan for Börzsöny Mountains.
Effective, integrated, science-based nature conservation management planning in Carpathian Protected Areas needs innovative tools, methods and capacity building. Centralparks therefore aims to introduce a new approach for conservation planning that will also be put into practice in Danube-Ipoly National Park in Hungary.
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