Inclusion of the area in the EU Natura 2000 network enables funding to be obtained to maintain the low input traditional based farming that has created such a high biodiversity. The Opwall teams are completing an annual biodiversity survey of the region in order to assess the effectiveness of maintaining the traditional farming practices in protecting this outstanding area. The work is being completed with ADEPT, a Romanian based NGO, with the Opwall teams providing annual data on a series of biodiversity performance and farming criteria.
During this expedition the teams will split their two weeks between two picturesque and remote Saxon villages in the foothills of the Carpathians. The study sites have been paired into villages and over the course of the expedition each group of students will spend 5 – 6 days surveying in each of the target valleys. They will then trek over the hills to the next village. In each valley the students will be split into one of several study teams and over the course of the two weeks will have the chance to participate in each of the teams for at least two days.
The students will also be completing a Transylvanian ecology course comprising the following lectures: Transylvanian landscapes (Saxon history, management and threats to the landscape and farming strategies), sampling techniques (the types of survey methods employed and how certain species can act as indicators), biodiversity in Tarnava Mare (biodiversity and endemism in general terms and specific to the region), classification focusing on the mammals and herpetofauna of the region (amphibians and snakes of Europe and bears, wolves and cats), bird diversity and classification, and conservation strategies in Transylvania (habitats and bird Directives, ecotourism, traditional products).
The foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania are one of the most spectacular and biodiverse areas in Europe. The species rich landscape has been nurtured by the low intensity farming practices stretching back up to 900 years. However, since Romania joined the European Union there was a gradual depopulation of the countryside coupled with moves to increase the efficiency of farming by combining fields and more intensive agricultural practices. To prevent these areas of outstanding natural beauty in the foothills of the Carpathians being affected by intensification, the EU offered farmers grants to continue farming using traditional techniques so as to maintain the landscape.
The Opwall teams in Transylvania are working with a local NGO called ADEPT and a series of scientists monitoring whether farming practices and biodiversity are changing in a series of 8 valleys within the Tarnava Mare region. Changes in farming practices such as any moves to silage production, removal of hedges, usage of fertilisers and pesticides or drainage of wetland areas are being monitored since they could have a big impact on the biodiversity. Direct monitoring of the biodiversity of groups such as meadow plant indicator species, butterflies, birds, small mammals and large mammals such as bears and boars are also being monitored as part of this programme.
The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost.
You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements.
If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.
The Transylvania expedition is a mobile one, spending only a week each in eight different villages scattered through the Tarnarva Mare.
Each village is unique in its own way, and facilities do vary from one to another. For the majority the conditions are relatively basic with tented accommodation and long drop toilets, as you are staying in the gardens and on the properties of local farmers rather than actual campsites. For others however the expedition is in guesthouses or more prepared accommodation and campsites. As the village order is only finalized a couple of months prior to the expedition, we can only give an indication of where you may be going during the training presentation in March/April.
The weather is generally good, averaging the mid-twenties for the majority of the summer – although it can get very hot occasionally. As the expedition is Europe, rain is also a possibility!