February 2012

The Retezat Massif tentative natural World Heritage site in Romania, known for its plant diversity, endemism and rich mammal fauna, has received a Rapid Response Facility (RRF) grant to undertake urgent snow-tracking surveys in response to a road-building threat through the Carpathian Mountains.

The tentative site contains Romania’s oldest protected area, Retezat National Park, established in 1935, and where can be found half of the country’s bird species and a third of its plants. The site maintains connectivity with other forested mountain areas solely through a narrow corridor, thanks to much forest conversion in surrounding lowland areas.

A motorway-building project currently underway through the corridor will cut off the tentative site from the wider Carpathian Mountains, which will affect many of Retezat’s occupants, in particular the highly mobile large mammals such as grey wolves, European lynx and brown bears that rely heavily on the forest corridor.

It has been recognised that the current environmental mitigation measures proposed for the new motorway are not adequate enough to safeguard wildlife and will lead to isolation and mortality. Zarand, an NGO local to Retezat, applied for RRF funding and was successful in its proposal for $23,946 to carry out a series of snow-tracking surveys to collect baseline mammal data, which will be fed into a revised environmental mitigation plan for the development.

The RRF noted the timely nature of the proposal with regard to current snow cover, and the fact that snow-tracking is a cost-effective and reliable method of gathering information. Verified records of mammal activity in the Retezat area will be used by the recently established motorway Supervisory Group to design appropriate measures to protect the forest corridor that is so vital for environmental integrity in this area.

RRF funding will help to ensure that the road does not become a barrier for wildlife and that information on wildlife in Retezat is constantly taken into consideration as the impact of the motorway is monitored into the future.

Monitoring large carnivore tracks in the snow. Credit: Zarand Association
Measuring large carnivore tracks in the snow. Credit: Zarand Association
Bear tracks in the snow. Credit: Zarand Association
Stakeholders discussing the proposed motorway. Credit: Zarand Association