Transylvania is home to some of the most species-rich hay meadows and pastures in Europe because of the traditional management, low fertilizer input and low numbers of livestock. Identifying areas of high conservation value within this landscape is important for conservation efforts. Fundația ADEPT, Opwall’s partner in Romania, has identified 30 plant ‘indicator’ species . These indicator plants point towards an area of dry grassland being of high conservation value. What is not known is whether some of the indicator species are more commonly found in the highest value meadows and pastures, and so act as ‘super indicators’: this is what your project will address. Analyses will first compare the occurrence of each species against habitat quality , as measured by the total number of indicator species at a site. Then the project will identify which species tend to occur together and which are more unique. This study will be conducted at least 12 sites already identified around eight villages across the Natura 2000 site in Transylvania. Grassland surveys using these 30 indicator species were conducted at a series of sites around eight villages within the Târnava Mare region between 2013 and 2019, so there are existing datasets to compare against the 2021 data in. A key outcome of this project is that any findings might increase the efficiency as to how conservationists prioritise areas for management in this landscape and similar landscapes.
If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.
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 mitigate against 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 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 eight 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 are also being monitored as part of this programme.
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!