Wetland ecology and conservation

Project director: Laci Demeter.  Project website: http://tocsa.eu/index.php?lang=en 

Pictures © Barbara Knowles and Demeter László

The mountain basins of Csik and Gyergyó in the Eastern Carpathians form a unique and beautiful landscape, with a varied geology, rich biodiversity and a medieval vista of patchwork fields, meadows and pastures maintained by traditional agriculture.

We aim to gather and communicate scientific evidence for the protection of small wetlands and important species of this area. Using this research, we aim to help local people to appreciate the value of the natural treasures in their area and how they can benefit from protecting them; for example through education, ecotourism and environmental subsidies for agri-environment schemes.

This project has a number of related objectives:

  • a systematic survey to identify and record wetland species and habitats of conservation value
  • make proposals for their protection at European, national, county or local level
  • create management plans
  • improve access to information for scientists and the public (geographical information systems, maps, web page, booklets);
  • create education materials
  • train local students/researchers with new skills.

Laci Demeter, the project director, has for several years researched the fauna and origins of some unique seasonal ponds in Csik and Gyergyó, for example by studying the fauna, revealing the age and history of the ponds; recording the distribution and migration of frogs; surveying white stork and corncrake populations. This information has been published in scientific journals, presented at conferences, and communicated widely through newspaper articles, radio interviews and environmental education.

In this project, we are involving other experts and training local scientists and students to extend the research aspects of the project to other flora and fauna of conservation value in the area. Two project assistants have been recruited and trained, and approximately 70 undergraduate students have learned new skills through participating in lab and field work.

First year report 
 So far, we have identified a number of previously unrecorded wetland habitats, using high resolution aerial photographs of the region, and recruited staff and students to the project. We have spoken to the mayors of a number of villages about the special wetlands in their jurisdiction, and identified the land ownership of many of the wetlands. Fieldwork in 2009 mapped 235 seasonal ponds in the Csik basin, of which approximately 50 were previously unrecorded, and we completed detailed water, zooplankton and botanical surveys of 60 of these ponds.

The animal highlights of these ponds include five new crustacean species for the fauna of Romania, while the flora of the ponds include some rarities among the 215 identified species, like the tufted loosestrife. Amphibian species which are found here in large density and are of priority for the EU and Romanian nature conservation policies are the great crested newt and the moor frog.


The results of the project were presented at three conferences in 2009. By 31 December proposals for the protection of one pond site and two manuscripts of scientific papers had been finished, and a review on the distribution of calanoid copepods (containing data from the project) was published. At least four other pond sites will be proposed for protection, and several more papers are in preparation.
Second year report 
In the second year of the project (September 2009 to September 2010), we mapped 336 new periglacial ponds in Eastern Transylvania, based on aerial photos and field surveys. Now the total number of mapped ponds of this type is 561. In addition to this, we investigated 145 puddles in the Csík Mountains in the Eastern Carpathians focusing on amphibians.
We discovered the largest ever recorded Moor Frog population of Romania, based on spawn counts, about 6000 spawn in 68 investigated ponds, equivalent to about twice as many adult frogs. We continued the monitoring of Moor Frog and Common Frog populations on the already known pond sites, and discovered an important common frog hibernation site. We made a pilot survey on larval population size of a large Smooth and Great Crested Newt population, a field completely unexplored in Romania.
We made presentations in 5 schools for teachers about ponds and their potential use in school education, and prepared 4 posters (about the origin and wildlife of ponds, to be used in schools and public places.
We developed a proposal for a Natura 2000 site (European level protected area) of 60000 hectares that incorporates two pond sites (32 periglacial ponds) and several hundreds of mountain puddles. About 50 ponds were proposed as local protected areas in the urban plans of two settlements.
We started research about local knowledge of three spectacular wetland species: Common Frog, Weatherfish and European Crayfish, so far we interviewed 50 people. This revealed a huge amount of information about the ecology and distribution of these species as well as their collection and consumption by people.
We made film, photo and graphic records of pond wildlife about fairy shrimp, newt larvae, moor frogs, common frogs and carpathian newts.
Seven scientific papers resulted from this year of the project, of which five were submitted (Natura 2000 proposal description, a summary of natural treasures of the research area, amphibians in mountain puddles, large branchiopods and their relation to traditional agriculture, common frog distribution, population size and trends), two are manuscripts (about fairy shrimp egg banks and pond sediment coring), and two are in preparation (about the large moor frog population and about the vegetation of ponds).
One reportage was made and featured on Duna TV about the pond project (http://www.dunatv.hu/musor/videotar?vid=661263&pid=367372 from minute 16:32), four articles appeared in the local newspaper and four on a national electronic portal: www.think.transindex.ro (about the moor frog, common frog, newts and the need for emblematic species).

We have gained practical support and help in kind from the Hargita County President, Environment Protection Agency of Hargita County, Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania and Pagan Snow Cap Association. We are seeking the involvement of local communities, mayors and landowners, and local sponsors.

For more information, visit the project website.

You can support this project by donating field and lab equipment, or funding some of the research and education activities.

 © Barbara Knowles 2010
Subpages (1): Natural records of Csik