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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

These grasslands – specifically the dry permanent grasslands of hay meadow and pasture, were the object of this project. But it is important to remember that they lie with a very important man-made mosaic of habitats, including forest and arable. This leads to extraordinary biodiversity. As an indicator, Southern Transylvania is the last lowland farmer landscape in Europe with viable populations of wolves and bears.

In the early 1990s the majority of Saxons left their Saxon villages and cities and moved "home" to Germany. This caused a social and economic upheaval, and a depopulation of the area, bringing about land management changes and abandonment.

The dry grassland habitats and species of Târnava Mare are of European importance. The wildflower-rich pastures and meadows have disappeared over much of Europe through agricultural intensification, but are still widespread in this area. The dry grasslands of Transylvania have some of the highest floristic diversity recorded anywhere in the world, and support substantial populations of rare vertebrate and invertebrate fauna.

But these grasslands are threatened. Of the 5,000 ha of these grasslands in the area, about 1,000 ha are poorly managed: overgrazing in easily accessible sites, abandonment of less accessible grassland (causing spreading of thorny scrub). These effects are obvious but still easily reversible by re-establishment of traditional management.

The project is designed to help the continuation or re-establishment of grassland management that will bring these habitats under proper long term management regimes.

Tarnava Mare SCI: Saving Transylvania’s Important Pastoral Ecosystem


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

Progress Reports

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