HNV Farming & Biodiversity

Muntii Ciucului (Csik Mountains, Romania)

Natura site names: Muntii Ciucului (SCI) and Depresiunea si Muntii Ciucului (SPA)
Natura Code: ROSCI0323 & ROSPA0034

The name of the site is derived from a mountain basin of the Eastern Carpathians, called Csik Basin (in Hungarian). The basin got its name from the Weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis) that was once very abundant in the floodplain marshes.

Characterisation: Mountain region in the Eastern Carpathians with an elevation between 700-1.500 m. Very important site for mountain hay meadows (6520). Further grassland habitats include semi-natural dry grasslands rich in orchids (6210*), alpine calcareous grasslands (6170), species-rich Nardus grasslands (6230*) and lowland hay meadows (6510), as well as different forest communities (9110, 91V0, 9410).

Text: L. Demeter & B. Hill
© Photos: L. Demeter

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Hay-making festival

5 years old boy turning hay

Every year, the regional NGO Pogany-havas Association organizes a hay-making festival to promote the use and conservation of mountain hay meadows.

Grassland habitats

mowing by hand

Abandonment is a serious threat to the grassland habitats and the accompanying species. In the last 2 decades about 500 ha of meadows have been lost in this site. Only small parts of the area shown are still mown, most is either abandoned or grazed by sheep.

Semi-subsistence farming

Turning hay

Average holding size in the area is about 2-4 ha per farmer. Farming therefore is mainly of a semi-subsistence type.

Viability of farming

Turning hay

Several factors impede the viability of farming in the region: e.g. in order to be eligible for CAP payments farms have to exceed 1 ha in size and plots 0.3 ha. In reality, a lot of the meadows are smaller.

High Nature Value (HNV) grasslands

The agri-environment scheme for High Nature Value (HNV) grasslands is far from perfect. Grasslands have to be officially classified as being HNV with large parts of Transylvania being excluded at the moment. Furthermore, the rigid mowing date of July 1st conflicts with traditional land-use.

Tree and bush cover

Tree and bush

Once tree or bush cover exceeds 20 %, which is unproblematic from an ecological point of view, the meadow is no longer considered as grassland and loses all agri-environment payments. This increases the risk of abandonment considerably.

Mountain hay meadows

Mountain hay meadows

Mountain hay meadows (6520) occupy about 20 % of the NATURA 2000-site. With up to 85 species of plants per 16 m² they are one of Europe's hotspots of biodiversity.

Nardus grasslands

Nardus grasslands

Species-rich Nardus grasslands (6230*) occur in large parts of Europe in several varieties. In the Csik mountains they are typical for high altitude hay meadows.

Alkaline fens

Alpine bells

A common feature of mountain slopes are alkaline fens (7230) with plants like Davall's sedge (Carex davalliana), Cottongrass (Eriophorum latifolium) or Alpine bells (Cortusa matthioli). In large parts of Europe, in the past these often small fens have been selectively drained.

Alpine calcareous grasslands

Alpine calcareous grasslands

Alpine calcareous grasslands (6170) can be found at higher altitudes in this Natura 2000 site (not seen on this picture).

Carpathian newt

Carpathian newt

Both yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata, Annex II + IV) and the endemic Carpathian newt (Lissotriton montandoni, Annex II + IV) depend on small puddles on the unpaved roads for reproduction.

Anemone narcissifolia

Anemone narcissifolia

One of the most beautiful plants of the eastern Carpathians is Anemone narcissifolia. In this area, it is restricted to mountain hay meadows on plateaus and ridges.

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)

Pinguicula vulgaris

Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) is a carnivorous plant which traps small insects on its sticky leaves. It grows in open, permanently wet places along small streams, springs and roads. In abandoned grasslands it is quickly overgrown by other species and disappears.

Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis)

Sand lizard

Habitat mosaics with solitary trees or bushes, short vegetation or bare soil for sun-bathing and meadows rich in prey are preferred sites for several reptile species, like adder (Vipera berus), sand lizard (Lacerta agilis, Annex IV) or slow worm (Anguis fragilis).

Short-toed eagle

Short-toed eagle

Several endangered raptors protected by the Birds directive (Annex I), like Golden eagle, Lesser Spotted eagle or Short-toed eagle depend on large, open grasslands for hunting


European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Online: http://www.hnv-farming.eu/panorama/csik-mountains-muntii-ciucului/
Date: 2017/04/23
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