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Biodiversity conservation and community development in Transylvania
Conservarea biodiversităţii şi dezvoltare comunitară în Transilvania

Reasons for this project

The STIPA project is located in the Sighișoara-Târnava Mare SCI Natura 2000 site, part of the EU’s network of protected areas under Natura 2000. The Tarnava Mare is a lowland area of high biodiversity, 85.000 ha, farmed by 5.000 families in 24 small-scale farming communities.
The site lies in the historic region of Southern Transylvania. The ‘Saxons’, who arrived in Southern Transylvania in the 12th–13th centuries from Flanders, Luxembourg and the Mosel, established some 200 villages and seven principal fortified towns.

The extensive mixed farming carried out in this region for over 8 centuries has created one of Europe’s finest surviving lowland High Nature Value farmed landscapes, and agriculture remains largely traditional. Each household traditionally has strips of arable land in the different areas that were good for the various crops, and larger parcels, typically 5–10 ha, of hay-meadow. Grazing is still on the common pastures maintained by the village neighbourhood systems. Each livestock owner was obliged to donate a certain number of days’ work, according to how many head of cattle or sheep he owned, clearing scrub from common pastures.

Tarnava Mare: 6210* and 6240* managed by farmers in a High Nature Value farmed landscape – mosaic and connectivity characteristics.

The grasslands being protected by this project

In the SCI there are 2 priority dry grassland habitat types which are threatened by land use changes: 6210* and 6240*.
6210*: dry grasslands over limestone or other calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia),with important orchid sites.
Covering about 4% of the Sighișoara-Târnava Mare area.

In the project area, the calcareous substrate is largely marl or lime-rich clay. This type of grassland, dominated by Upright Brome (Bromopsis erecta) and fescues (Festuca species), is widespread on south- and west-facing slopes, both steep and gentle, with few or no trees. On deeper, slightly less dry soils of higher nutrient levels, it grades into another type of dry grassland dominated by Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum).

Objectives of the project

Goal: to improve the conservation status of these two priority dry grassland habitats.

Main threats

The following threats were identified at the beginning of the STIPA project

Loss of grassland priority habitats 6210* and 6240* through poor agricultural management - intensification or abandonment.

Scrub and thorn spread quickly in abandoned grasslands and a thatch of dead grass develops on top of the hay meadows smothering the plants underneath. This leads to accumulation of dead grass, gradual growth of bushes/thorny shrubs, and a massive reduction in plant diversity to be replaced by a matted grass and thorn scrub of much lower biodiversity value.

How dealt with during the project:

  • habitat conservation action plans, based on field assessments and existing management criteria for these habitats, taking into account generic guidelines developed at EU level, and also taking into account local concerns and regional/national factors.
  • properly regulated grazing/mowing combined with one-off habitat restoration such as scrub clearance are necessary to maintain the 6210* and 6240* grasslands within the project area
  • areas under model management
  • demonstration areas.

Loss of priority habitats through lack of local support for conservation measures.

Lack of public knowledge and information about the economic, as well as ecological, value of the biodiversity of the region is one of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss. Inhabitants do not appreciate the potential international interest in the area, and the potential economic and quality of life advantages to themselves resulting from conservation, and therefore do not consider biodiversity loss to be an issue when they make land management choices.
This threat will have increasing impact over the next few years under EU pressure for competitiveness, causing intensification in more commercially viable area and abandonment of less accessible/commercially viable areas.

How dealt with during the project

  • Establish incentives by linking good habitat management to agri-environment grants.
  • Involve farmers, schools and general public in monitoring activities through innovative education and publications.
  • Develop agri-environment packages (regional or national) that take account of specific requirements of habitats 6210* and 6240*, through consultation with MoE and MARD
  • Agree management proposals with local people and other stakeholders to promote local support.
  • Distribution of booklets flyers, posters and simple information leaflets to raise local and general awareness of importance of area
  • Interpretation panels raise local awareness of the importance of the area.
  • Website will lead to broader awareness locally, nationally, and internationally.

Tarnava Mare SCI: Saving Transylvania’s Important Pastoral Ecosystem STIPA


LIFE+ STIPA Project Results

Objectives of the project

Reasons for this project

The Grasslands

What did we do, in more detail?

The Future

The STIPA team

Project Reports for download

What did the project achieve in the end? Some highlights

Innovative GIS mapping for large-scale conservation –


Conservation Action Plan agreed by Town halls –


Innovative mowers demonstrated –


Over 320 ha cleared of scrub, over 900 ha returned –


Monitoring shows significant improvements in the –


Flora and Lepidoptera Indicator species guides –


8 schools, 280 children per year in nature classes –


Over 1 million TV viewers in Romania have seen –


High-profile visits have raised awareness further –


New agri-environment measures designed –

Sponsorul Oficial - Fundația Orange România