Where cultural heritage, climate adaptation and Sustainable Forest Management meet: the Carpathian Mountain Forests

Our Romanian case study, representative of Carpathian Mountain Forests, is embedded in a complex socio-cultural context. The Râșca Forest District is situated in a region in Romania that is home to several historical monasteries, hermitage sites and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. INFORMA’s research in the area, led by the University Stefan cel Mare of Suceava (USV), will create new approaches to climate-adapted forest management that take stakeholders’ needs and perspectives into account. Keep reading to find out more about the case study!

The Râșca Forest District is located in the Eastern part of the Carpathian Mountains, in an area of 13,000 ha owned by the state and managed by the Râșca Forest District Administration, a part of the Romanian National Forest Administration. There, traditional communities live in close proximity to the forest and many residents rely on it for their income, generated by forestry, the tourism and wood sectors and other forest-related activities such as selling firewood, handcrafted furniture and sculptures of religious items.

The broadleaved and coniferous forests in the district consist mostly of beech, Norway spruce, and silver fir, both in mixed and pure forest stands. Damages caused by windstorms and pest disturbances, as well as the lack of forest management infrastructure (such as roads), are the most relevant management challenges currently faced in the area. As climate change increases the frequency of forest disturbances, the adaptation of management approaches to new climate scenarios will be required – a mission to be tackled by INFORMA.

Romanian forests are classified into three main management types: strictly protected forests, where no wood harvest is allowed; production forests and protected forests. In protected forests, the main management objective is to deliver ecosystem services, which vary from area to area, for instance, water and soil protection, protection against climate change impacts, scientific interest, and biodiversity conservation. More than 26,7% of state-owned forests belong to the soil protection category.

In productive forests, the regular management is based on long rotation periods of over 120 years. Natural regeneration is obtained using both shelterwood cutting – a timber harvesting method focused on establishing forest regeneration – and group selection, which results in the removal of small groups of trees.  Consequently, the aboveground biomass stored in these forests is quite high. Within the Râșca Forest District, an area of 1,000 hectares is managed with a lower harvesting intensity than average, in order to protect it against soil erosion.

There are two municipalities in the Râșca river basin: Râșca and Bogdanesti, with 9000 inhabitants. The area, however, has been to some extent affected by rural exodus and migration of workers abroad, a tendency impacting the entire region.

The most important benefits of forests are the ecosystem services delivered to the community and society in general. Climate change affects forest resources and might impact culturally and economically important plant and animal species, which in turn affects the community development, culture and economy. Large-scale disturbances such as windthrows are expected, with consequences on forestry and the wood industry. Forests also have socio-ecological importance and climate changes can shape the effectiveness of forests protection. Therefore, INFORMA’s research in the Romanian case study should bring information needed to proactively adopt management measures able to preserve the current level of the ecosystem services delivery.