Jan 21, 2016

Transylvanian Cultural Landscapes

Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania

The Saxon Villages area of southeast Transylvania is a cultural landscape of global interest, with a mix of built and natural heritage based on centuries of man's benign and creative interaction with nature.  See short film at the end of the exhibit. 

High Nature Value (HNV) grasslands
The wildflower-rich grasslands of Transylvania are a rare historic survival, based on hundreds of years of traditional management. They are also threatened by pressures for global competitiveness. The survival of these grasslands, and of the many wild plants and animals which find their home in them, depends on continued management by traditional farming communities. 

This 'mosaic' mowing pattern, the result of small-scale ownership, is very nature-friendly and is one of the reasons for the richness of the wildflowers and wild animals of the area.

Hay is still gathered by the whole family, using tools unchanged for hundreds of years .... but these methods also answer today's need for sustainable land use.

Village sheep and cattle are grazed in groups, using a common grazing system that is also a historic cultural treasure.

Cattle grazing is important, since cattle need hay over winter: while the cattle remain, hay meadows - the richest habitat for biodiversity - will be managed by the local farmers. If abandoned, the grasslands lose their floristic diversity.

The complex landscape, including rare geological features such as these 'tumps' of small isolated hillocks, offers a great variety of micro-habitats, very adaptable to climate change and haven for a range of rare species.

One third of the landscape is old-growth hard wood forest, which provides firewood for the villages, benign conditions for the grasslands nearby, and nesting places for eagles and bears. This kind of balanced landscape is nearly lost in Europe.

Flora
The area is not only a haven for many wild flower species threatened in Europe, but also for wild relatives of food crops, a resource for mankind in a changing world. This haven is man-made, created by man working with nature over centuries. 

The meadows have become important sites for studies of how best to balance nature with production, to give the world a sustainable future.

Adonis vernalis, Pheasants eye, one of the many European rare species which has strong populations in the area

Salvia nutans, the Nodding Sage, an iconic plant of the area.

Trollius europaeus, Globe flower, found in the damp hay meadows. Haymeadows like these are the most endangered habitat type in Europe today: 98% have been lost in western Europe.

Gladiolus imbricatus, the Marsh Galdiolus, is also found in damp meadows. It is seen here with Galium verum, Lady's Bedstraw, which can be used as a natural rennet for cheese making as well as a historically a pleasant stuffing for mattresses.

A spectacular species of medium damp-dry grasslands, Viper's bugloss, Echium maculatum.

This beautiful Pasque flower, which comes into flower in spring, may be a local endemic sub-species.

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is also known as meadow saffron, and as naked lady because the flowers emerge from the ground long after the leaves have died back. It flowers in spectacular sheets in the grasslands in autumn.
The plant is used traditionally for treatment of gout.

The village of Roades surrounded by haymeadow: here yellow hay-rattle predominates.

Rhinanthus rumelicus, the local species of hay-rattle, is so called because if the seeds rattle in the seed-pods when you walk through the hay meadow, it is ready to mow.

The wild flora is rich even in the edges of villages.

Fauna
The man-made 'semi-natural' landscape is haven for many species rare in the rest of Europe. Here is one on the many butterflies: Iphiclides podalirius, the Scarce Swallowtail.

Another beautiful butterfly species, Speckled Wood (Parage achine)

Red-band Fritillary, Melitaea didyma, feeding on a wild iris flower (Iris aphyla)

Red-band Fritillary, Melitaea didyma, on Nodding Sage

Large Blue butterfly, Maculinea arion

The Spotted Salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, is one of the many interesting lizards, frogs and toads of the area

Birds
The area is home to many bird species rare in Europe - such as this lesser Spotted Eagle, Aquila pomerina

The many protected bird species found in the area include Lanius minor, the Lesser Grey Shrike. Shrikes are also nicknamed Butcherbirds from their habit of hanging captured prey on a hook or in a tree fork, or crevice, as a larder to which they return for future feeding.

The villages are also home to important protected bird species: here the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) is nesting on the school roof in Viscri.

The most impressive fauna species of the area are the European grey Wolf (Canis lupus) and the European Brown bear (Ursus arctos). This is one of the last regions of lowland farmed Europe still living in happy balance with these top predators, which are important for keeping nature in balance.

See this short film clip about the high nature value landscapes of Transylvania, and how the local farmers work with nature, as they have done for hundreds of years.

This is an element of European culture of inestimable value, unique and irreplaceable!

Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania & KAMA SYSTEM srl.
Credits: Story

Our thanks to the brilliant photographer Bob Gibbons for most of these photographs, and to Ben Sadd of Trail to Anywhere for the film.

Please contact Fundatia ADEPT, www.fundatia-adept.org, if you wish to help protect this unique area, its nature and its culture.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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