« La nature offre à la fois ce qui nourrit le corps et le guérit, émerveille l’âme, le coeur et l’esprit. » Pierre Rabhi. 'The nature offers both what feed and heals bodies and amaze soul, heart et mind.' Pierre Rahbi
I am Léa, 22 years old, loving nature since my childhood. This year I am studying ecology at Canterbury in England. I will come back to France at Rennes in September to study a Master in ecology oriented on land planning. I believe that if land planning follows a logic of minimization of human activities' impact as opposed as land profit, harmony between human and environment would be easier.
This summer, I will jump into a project situated in Romania which aims in agriculture and biodiversity conservation conciliation in the Tarnava Mare reserve. But it aims also in the support of local people in Transylvania. Moreover, it will result in a photo book creation about the relationship between human and his environment.
1- Little presentation of the site and its interest:
The Tarnava Mare Natura 2000 region is located in Transylvania in Romania. It is considered as a particular interest because it is composed of 85 000 ha of rich and rare landscapes. It is one of the last medieval landscapes of Europe by its aspect and use (forested ridges and gullies, pasture and hay meadows on gentler slopes and terraces, arable and smaller meadows on the flat valley bottoms near villages).
Its protection through Natural 2000 network and agro-environmental measure allow the preservation of its importance from a naturalist point of view but also from a social point of view by the recognition and support of its inhabitants. Indeed, farmers are rewarded on these land for doing traditional and respectful farming. It really important because high biodiversity in this region has been created with this management. Traditional farming practices have diversified habitats, which led to the increase of biodiversity.
You could ask me why this place is so amazing? Lets say it in words and in photos !
- A landscapes which trend to disappear - Agriculture and biodiversity conciliation - A reserve which own the most extensive flower-rich grassland remaining in lowland Europe - An astonished flowers diversity, escorted with its butterflies - The largest population of brown bears found anywhere in Europe
2- My involvement in the Wallacea survey in Romania:
THis project has two aims.
- First an ecological purpose:
I will participate to the scientif study managed by Operation Wallacea organization. Hence, I will follow and help research team on field. This part of the project will last 4 weeks: from the 13th of July until the 9th of August. Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research programmes in several places in the world.
The aim of this expedition is the realization of biodiversity records in order to show the effectiveness of maintaining traditional farming and see if any changes in species communities happened. Many biodiversity record will be done:
- Large mammals (bears, wolves, otter, ...)
- Small mammals
But it will have also a social purpose. In fact, farms will be inspected in order to record the numbers of livestock, dates of grassland cutting, type of arable crops, ... By assessing the effectiveness of maintaining the traditional farming practices in protecting this outstanding area, it will participate to the maintenance of funds that farmers receive for their friendly environmentally farming practices.
- Then, the second purpose is the realization of portfolios of photos
Photography is one my passion. Since a long time, I have approached human situation in nature. Conflicting or harmonious. This project will be the opportunity to create a photo book. I will benefit of the wonderful landscapes of Romania, and armed of my film camera I will capture the relationship between humans and its environment in this country. With previous photos that I have taken, this project in Romania will allow me to have the last photos I need for the completion of this book.
3- Scientific research which I will participateQuels sont les recherches scientifiques auxquelles je vais aider :
With my involvement on the field I will participate to the collection of data and then to several scientific studies:
- Plant indicator species of grasslands in Transylvania
Fundatia ADEPT and Wallacea partners identified a guide of 30 species indicative of high conservation dry grasslands (rare habitats). This study compares the occurence of each species against quality of habitats.
- Butterfly communities as indicators of habitat changes in Tarnava Mare
Previous surveys revealed interesting patterns in butterfly habitat associations and changes in the communities over time. Every years, butterfly communities are studied in otder to determine if changes have happened.
- Changes in bird communities in Tarnava Mare and habitat associations
Every years, bird populations records are realised on 300 sites. Then these data are correlated with previous data in order to see if changes happened. Moreover, other questions can be asked as what are the preferred habitats of the main species and how has the proportion of these habitats changed over the study period ? But also how farming changes could affect bird communities? And can we use these species as indicator of habitat quality?
- Bat species distribution and abundance in relation to land composition within the Tarnava Mare
Bats are recorded in several villages. A number of possible influencing factors such as light sources, roost availability and landscapes composition could also be explored. This project would involve repeating the bat surveys and then analysing the data in conjunction with GIS-based land cover maps that are updated each year. This could reveal whether there are particular land cover combinations which support the greatest abundance and diversity of bats.
- Farming changes in the Tarnava Mare region and how these are likely to impact on biodiversity
This study would estimate the livestock breeds owned by a series of farms accross the Tarnava Mare region and attempt to identify why such differences may be occuring such as traditional usage, availability of land or economic benefits. Another project could look at grassland management and the influence of the EU payments for traditional management practices whilst another project could examine changes in crops and the likely impact on biodiversity.
- Distribution of abandoned land in Tarnava Mare Reserve
Land abandonment is one type of agricultural change in Tarnava Mare driven by membership of the EU and associated policy ad socio-economic changes. This project seeks to better understand the process of abandonment and the factors behind such land use. FIeldwork will involve mapping the location and extent of abandoned farmland for each villages. GIS-based spatial analyses can then be used to investigate distribution patterns: the degree of which abandoned land is clustered or randomly dispersed accross the landscapes in order to determine a factor influencing their abandonment.
- Mammal abundance and landscpaes composition
This project would involve repeating the larger mammal surveys and then analysing the data in conjunction with GIS-based land cover maps that are being updated each year. This could reveal whether there are particular land cover combinations which support the greatest abundance and diversity of larger mammals, and consequently suggest the potential impacts of land cover changes on future larger mammal abundance.
5. What this project will provide to me
First of all it will bring me the greatest satisfaction for its realisation ! Participating indirectly in financial helps for farmers, improvement of naturalist knowledges, discovery of another culture, creation of my portfolio will be results of this project. Also, one of my biggest interest is the relationship between agriculture and its environment. We often see agriculture as harmful for earth but when it is well managed, it could have no bad effects on environment and even improove it (as the Tarnava Mare area). Hence my aim when I will come back to France is to have my mind full of innovative idea and to learn the manner of how we can manage our land in order to have another view of it than what we are learning in the university.
I hope you enjoyed to hear more about Operation Wallacea and ecological and social challenges it represents and know that people like you, us, can make the difference which will lead later to a relationship btween human and environment more harmonious.
If you want to have an overview of my work, you can visit my photographic website or my Facebook page given below at the end of my biography.