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The Main Environmental Driving Forces of the


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The Main Environmental Driving Forces of the Invasive Plant Species
in the Romanian Protected Areas

Monica Dumitrascu 1, Ines Grigorescu 1, Mihaela Nastase 2, Carmen Dragota 1, Gheorghe Kucsicsa
1 Institute of Geography, Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania
2 Romanian Forest Administration, Romania

Abstract
The invasive flora of Romania currently includes more than 400 species (13.87% of the Romanian flora)
and according to the third National Report of Biological Diversity Convention, six of them are tree species.
Within the protected areas, some of the most representative invasive plant species (IPS) are: Amorpha
fruticosa in Balta Mica a Brailei National Park, Ailanthus altissima in Muntii Macinului National Park, Acer
negundo, Amorpha fruticosa and Ailanthus altissima in Lunca Muresului Natural Park etc.
The paper is aiming to identify and analyze the main environmental driving forces responsible for the
introduction and spread of the IPS in Romanian protected areas (natural driving forces: relief, lithology
and soil, climate, hydrology, vegetation etc. and human-induced driving forces: agricultural practices,
grazing, forest exploitation, mining activities), that could develop introduction pathways whose dimension
and dynamics are directly related to the restrictive measures imposed by each IUCN category.
The authors have as main purpose to create a GIS-based inventory in order to realize the distribution
maps of the main IPS existing in the protected areas of Romania. Based on this assessment and on other
relevant case-studies, the authors are aiming to identify the impact of IPS upon the natural habitat of
some rare species, especially when talking about protected areas and their conservative importance.

Keywords: Invasive plant species (IPS), environmental driving forces, protected areas, Romania

Introduction
The invasive species are largely recognized as major cross-cutting issues in terms of threatening native
biodiversity, ecosystem structure and functions, especially within protected areas, causing severe
negative socio-economic consequences requiring effective management. They are large-scale
phenomena of widespread importance and represent one of the major threats to European biodiversity.
Numerous invasive alien species, many introduced into Europe little more than 200 years ago, have
become successfully established over large areas of the European community, and the geographical
range of a large number of species is increasing (Pysek&Hulme 2005; Hulme, 2007 cited by Lambdon et
al., 2008).
By invasive alien species one can consider (according to the Biological Diversity Convention definition)
all species and subspecies introduced outside their natural habitat, both past and present, from all
taxonomic groups. This includes any part of the organism: gametes, seeds, eggs or propagules that might
survive and later reproduce. According to IUCN, the invasive species are immense, insidious and usually
irreversible, therefore suggesting the dimension of their environmental impact. Compared to other threats
to biodiversity, invasive introduced species rank second only to habitat destruction, such as forest
clearing. They could determine economic losses of about 12.7 billions EUR/an (European Commission,
2008).
The invasive species issue is particularly important for European countries especially in terms of sharing
common spaces and regions (coastlines, transboundary mountain ranges and protected areas and
watercourses) as driving forces and pathways for their introduction and spreading. Thus, political
boundaries do not represent efficient barriers as regarding biological and ecological barriers that are
critical in determining restrictions of plants invasions (Richardson et al., 2000).
Therefore, in order to exchange information and knowledge on invasive species and assure the
connection to practice and policy the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) was established since
1994. ISSG is a global network in the framework of Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the World
Conservation Union (IUCN) assuming an important role in fighting against invasive species by reducing
the threats they stress upon to natural ecosystems and the native species they contain.

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 1


Figure 1. Invasive plant species in the European Union countries (processed and adapted after FP6 -
Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe - DAISIE and Lambdon et al., 2008)

In Europe, important contributions to the topic have been made by western and central states (Great
Britain, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Finland etc.) trough providing ample but disparate studies.
Since the development of the project Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe (DAISIE), funded by
the sixth framework programme of the European Commission, valuable and comprehensive information
on biological invasions in Europe were provided. The project gathered 19 partners from 15 nations plus a
great number of contributors and was carried out by means of an international team of experts in the field
of biological invasions, latest technologies in database design and display, and an extensive network of
European collaborators and stakeholders. Therefore, DAISIE database contains records of 5,798 alien
plant species in Europe, out of which 2,843 are alien to Europe (of extra-European origin) and the rest of
2,671 are of European origin (Lambdon et al., 2008).

Invasive plant species in Romania

Convention of Biodiversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) set up a series of measures for in situ conservation. As
a consequence of ratifying it by a growing number of states, the identification of invasive alien species as
well as the measures of the prevention and control of these species has advanced significantly. Although
Romania has ratified the Convention of Biodiversity by the law 58/1994, until now, there were no important
steps made in this respect, especially in terms of implementation of the article 8 of the Convention, with
respect to alien invasive species.
The first invasive plants species (IPS) which have been signaled in Romania were at the beginning of 18th
century, displayed in several works having a systematic and floristic character. Therefore, one can
mention a large number of specimens of Amaranthus hybridus, between the villages Moftinul Mare,
Terebeti and Ardud (Satu Mare County), Amaranthus viridis in Sasca Montan (Cara Severin County)
and Echinochloa oryzoides in Banat. Afterwards, more and more invasive species were identified and
cited in different scientific works or floristic lists which were synthesized in Flora Romniei, vol. 1-13,
1957-1972 and more recently in Flora Ilustrat a Romniei, 2000 (Anastasiu, Negrean, 2005).
Presently, the invasive flora of Romania currently includes 435 species (13.87% of the Romanian flora)
belonging to 82 families. According to the third National Report of Biological Diversity Convention, six of
them are tree species (Acer negundo, Ailanthus altisima, Amopha fruticosa, Cytisus scoparius, Fraxinus
americana, and Fraxinus pennsylvanica.).
The most taxa belong to families known to invade habitually zones of temperate climate: Asteraceceae
(61 taxa), Brassicaceae (38 taxa), Poaceae (30 taxa). Numerous families, like Orchidaceae do not have

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 2


alien representative in our flora, while others, like Amaranthaceae have almost exclusively alien
representatives. Alien flora of Romania contains 51 (11.73%) archeophites (which arrived into Europe
before) and 384 (88.27%) neophytes (which arrived into Europe after 1492) (Anastasiu, Negrean, 2005).
Recent studies reveal that riparian zones appear to be more susceptible to invasion than other
ecosystems, because periodic hydrological disturbances destroy or damage riparian vegetation creating
openings that provide favorable conditions for the establishment of the invasive propagules. Moreover,
rivers act like natural drivers and dispersal agents facilitating the spread of the species (Fenesi, Ruprecht,
Vincze, 2009). For instance, some ornamental plants, such as Echinocystis lobata, Helianthus tuberosus,
Solidago canadensis, Solidago gigantea subsp. serotina and Rudbeckia laciniata escaped from cultivation
and they are abundant especially areas from Transylvania, Banat and Criana where they invaded the
local vegetal communities while other invasive species (Acer negundo, Ailanthus altissima, Aster
lanceolatus, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, Parthenocissus inserta) are only scattered (Anastasiu et al., 2008).

The main environmental driving forces responsible for the introduction and
spread of the IPS in the Romanian protected areas

There are many ways in which the introduction of non-native or exotic species can be made into new
environments. When dealing with the level of invasion, the scientific literature considers some large-scale
geographical factors able to explain why some countries in Europe harbor more alien species then others.
Therefore some variables were taken into consideration: climatic factors (mean annual precipitation,
mean annual temperature, temperature amplitude between July and January), geographical factors
(latitude, longitude and area) and economic factors (population density, Gross Domestic Product and
roads density). All these variables were taken into consideration as explanatory variables (Lambdon et al.,
2008).
At a smaller scale, the main environmental drivers responsible for the introduction and spread of the
invasive alien species in Romania are of natural and human-induced character. The natural driving
forces are referring to variables as lithology, soil, relief, vegetation, hydrology, climate and extreme events
and the human-induced driving forces are referring to planting invasive species, agricultural practices,
forest exploitation, grazing, mining activities and urban development (tab. 1).

Table 1. The main environmental driving forces responsible for the introduction and spread of the IPS in
the Romanian protected areas
rocks type
lithology
chemistry of rocks
soil type
soil
pH
altitude
relief declivity
characteristics slopes exposure
present-day geomorphological processes
NATURAL dominant vegetation types
vegetation
DRIVING fragmentation
FORCES rivers
type
lakes
hydrology
chemism
temperature
air/soil temperature
precipitation
air humidity
climate
wind
climatic influence
global climatic change
flooding Salix alba, Salix caprea etc.
extreme events
wind and snow felling

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for ornamental/ recreation
purposes Acer negundo, Ailanthus alissima,
planting invasive for forestry purposes Impatiens glandulifera, Fraxinus
species for ecological reconstruction pennsylvanica, Amorpha fruticosa etc.
purposes
crop type
Cirsium arvense, Galinsoga parviflora,
agricultural farmland fragmentation
Conium maculatum, Xanthium
practices agricultural pollution italicum, Prunus spinosa etc.
land abandonment
HUMAN-
INDUCED deforestation/forest fragmentation
DRIVING forest exploitation Rubus caesius, Rubus idaeus etc.
FORCES forest infrastructure
pastures degradation
Rumex alpinus, Urtica dioica,
grazing land degradation
Pteridium aquilinum etc.
excessive fertilizers
Phragmites australis; Tussilago farfara
waste material storing
etc.
mining activities quarry exploitation uncovering
pollution determined by mining
changes in water/soil chemism
waters
Sambucus ebulus; Lycium barbarum
waste deposits
urban development etc.
(urban sprawl) infrastructure (roads, railways etc.)
Acer negundo; Ailanthus alissima etc.
building working places

The above mentioned environmental stressors are mainly responsible for developing introduction
pathways which are considered as any means that allows the entry or spread of a pest (FAO-
International Plant Protection Council), whose dimension and dynamics are directly related to the
restrictive measures imposed by each IUCN category in discussion. Referring to the European territory,
ornamental and horticultural plants are considered by far the largest and the most diverse group of plants
introduced in Europe as well as the most representative way of introduction. Among unintentional
introductions, contaminants of seed, mineral materials and other commodities are responsible for the
larger number of alien species introduction (tab. 2) (Lambdon et al., 2008).

Table 2. Pathways of introduction for naturalized alien flora in Europe


Pathway Alien in Europe European Origin Alien to Europe
Forestry 80 39 38
Amenity 248 119 119
Ornamental 1661 668 946
Agricultural 488 318 156
Horticultural 1018 589 415
Total intentional 2407 1160 1232
Seed contaminant 675 454 215
Mineral contaminant 129 83 43
Other commodity contaminant 287 151 145
Stowaway 363 118 235
Total unintentional 1425 846 565
TOTAL 3832 2006 1797
Source: Processed after Lambdon et al., 2008

When dealing with biodiversity conservation and diminishing the spread and impact of invasive species,
the Global Invasive Species Program (GISP), an international partnership dedicated to addressing the
global threat of invasive species, recommends the examination of pathways as one of the a more
comprehensive approaches of this issue. Through the Invasive Alien Species: A Toolkit of Best Prevention
and Management Practices, 2001 and the Global Strategy on Invasive Alien Species 2008-2010 the
program is having a vast contribution to the knowledge and awareness of invasive species.

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 4


Invasive plant species in the Romanian protected areas
Protected natural areas in Romania cover 1,798,782 hectares, that is, 7.55% of the national territory. Law
No. 5/2000 and the Government Decision 2,151/2004 provide for 958 protected areas: 13 national parks
(316,047.3 h), 14 natural parks (827,799.6 ha) out of which 2 geoparks (206.978,3 ha), 3 biosphere
reserves, 54 scientific reserves (100,224 ha), 240 monuments of nature (2,213.3 ha), 626 nature reserves
(161,838.3 ha) (fig. 2). Additionally, after the EU accession (2007), Romania had to reach a 17%
protected surface of the national territory (from 7% as it had previously been) by means of other important
conservative tools, such as Natura 2000 European Network (273 Sites of Community Interest -
3,291,854.6 ha and 108 Special Protected Ares - 2,988,713.6 ha) (Blteanu et al., 2009).

Figure 2. Natural protected areas in Romania

As an expression of both geographical diversity and local evolution of human-environment relations over
time, the Romanian protected areas mirrors unique and rich natural landscapes whose main traits are put
into risk by the invasion of alien species with severe consequences on the native habitats.
Therefore, the present paper focuses on three case studies, two natural parks (The Balta Mic a Brilei
Natural Park and The Mure Floodplain Natural Park) and one national park (The Munii Mcinului
National Park) displaying both different environmental conditions (wetlands, floodplains, scrubs
grasslands etc.) as well as different management measures according to each IUCN category they fall
into. Among the wide range of invasive plant species encountered in the protected areas of Romania, the
paper wants to call attention to some of the most representative: Amorpha fruticosa in Balta Mica a
Brilei National Park, Ailanthus altissima in Munii Mcinului National Park, Acer negundo, Amorpha
fruticosa and Ailanthus altissima in Mureului Floodplain Natural Park etc.
The Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park is located in the eastern part of the Romanian Plain between
the Braila Plain and Insula Mare a Brilei, on the lower course of the Danube, within the Clrai-Brila
sector, bounded by the River Danube and the Vlciu Arm and covering a surface of about 17,529 ha. The
Park is a wetland of international interest (RAMSAR site), the last natural landmark on Danube lower
sector, which, after being affected by hydrotechnical changes, the aquatic complex and terrestrial
ecosystems are preserved in a state close to the original one.

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Figures 3 and 4. Landuse (Corine Land Cover, 2000) and Amorpha fruticosa in the Balta Mic a Brilei
Natural Park (processed after the Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park Administration), respectively

It includes an undyked sector of the Danube Floodplain with a luxurious vegetation of riverside coppice,
reed, and club rush, lakes, ponds, numerous colonies of water birds, some of them monuments of nature.
The region contains a complex of lakes, swamps or backwaters, deserted arms and fluvial levees, the last
ones forming alongside the main arms, the majority overflow during high floods (Blteanu et al., 2005).
From climatic point of view, the area under study lies under the plain climatic region with excessive-
continental influences characteristic for the east and south-east of Romania. The main climatic
parameters frames the Balta Mica a Brilei Natural Park in a sector with average annual temperatures
between 10-11 0C (with over 22 0C in July and around 0 ... -1 0C in January) influenced by a sunshine time
among the highest in the country, over 2200 hours/year, out of which more then 1600 in the warm
semester of the year. The main climatic feature is revealed by the annual mean interval without frost (200-
225 days), the annual relative humidity of more than 76 % and by the moderated quantities of precipitation
(400-500 mm/year). This plain sector is bearing the influence of winds with north-south dominant direction
and the local wind Bltreul (having east-west direction), an important natural dissemination vector for
the existing species (anemocoria).
The vegetation of the area under study is mainly of intra-zonal nature depending on the local hydro-
climatic conditions, being characterized by floodplain forests with different species of Salix, Populus,
Fraxinus, Fraxinus etc. Within the Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park 221 species of plants were identified,
among which, the most known are the: willow (Salix alba, Salix cinerea, Salix fragilis), poplar (Populus
alba, Populus nigra), elm (Ulmus foliacea), Myricaria germanica, blackberry bush (Rubus caesius). In the
wetland, the plants most seen are the: reed (Phragmites australis), rush (Typha latifolia, Typha
angustifolia) etc.
The diversity of the fauna reflects the diversity of the habitats, especially because more than half of the
ecosystems are natural. Presently, 623 different species have been identified, out of which 99 are
protected through national legislation (OUG 57/2007) and European Directives. From the total of birds
identified here, over 40 are on the Birds Directive and 34 species are on the Berna Convention List (e.g.,
Pelecanus crispus, P. onocrotalus, Phalacrocorax pygmeus, Ciconia nigra, Egretta alba etc.)
The area under study is mainly developed on Protisoils (Underdeveloped, truncated or trenched soils)
characterized by an early stage of evolution with an incomplete profile and only less on Chesnisols
(Mollisols) located in the western extremity.

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The only invasive plant specie identified in the Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park is Amorpha fruticosa
(fig. 4 and 5), considered invasive exotic specie for Romania, with the origins in south-east side of the
Nord America. It was firstly introduced in the country in the first half of the last century for decorative
purposes and also, together with other species (Salix), for the protection of inclined and degraded land.
Later on it spreads in the natural Populus and Salix forests and also in the artificial forests along the
Danube River. Starting with 1975 it becomes invasive specie and after 1985 it invades broader areas
proving a high capacity of widening its habitat.

Figures 5 and 6. Amorfa fructicosa (photo: Cristina Muic) and Acer negundo (The Mure
Floodplain Natural Park Administration), respectively

Presently, in the the Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park Amorpha covers 13,877 hectares of forests, 54
hectares of pastures and 17 hectares of agriculture land. It occurs on poor, degraded, dry and sandy soils
and can survive to extreme climatic conditions. Besides that, the specie is very productive, which leads to
a high expansion with a negative impact upon the environment. The false indigo is fast rising specie,
struggling the native species with whom it shares the area (Salix triandra, Salix purpurea), sometimes
succeeding in replacing them. Over the last years, in the study area, one could noticed that the false
indigo is becoming adapted to very humid soils, thus invading the Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park
area, mainly the second floor of forest vegetation, making imposable the natural regeneration of the
woods. Slowly Amorpha has eliminating some important priority European habitats such as: habitats with
Tamarix ramosissima, with Lemna minor, L. trisulca, Spyrodela polyrhiza and Wolffia arrhiza, with
Potamogeton perfoliatus, P. gramineus, P. Lucens, Elodea canadensis and Najas marina, with
Sparganium erectum, Berula erecta and Sium latifolium, as well as with Poa pratensis, Festuca pratensis
and Alopecurus pratensis.
Since 2000, in and around the Balta Mic a Brilei Natural Park, the forest county branch has eliminated
this specie on 1214 hectares in the framework of Prototyp Carbon project. Amorpha was mechanic
eliminated initially and after that 2 to 3 times/year for 5 years and species of Populus and Salix were
planted instead, leading to a significant decrease of the specie. Nowadays the area under study is in
progress of eliminating the invasive specie on 212 hectares in the framework of the ongoing Life Natura
Project (LIFE 06 NAT/RO/000172). So far, 133 hectares were cleaned and more than 100 hectares was
planted with natural species of poplars.
Removing the Amorpha bushes is extremely difficult and involves high costs, mainly because of the
species high productivity. The methods used are of mechanic nature, with less negative impact upon the
environment and on other species.
The Munii Mcinului National Park is situated in the northern Dobrogea (Tulcea County) covering
about 11,321 ha. It shelters the only old Hercynian Mountains in Romania and some of the oldest in
Europe. Its relief, underlain by granites and crystalline schists, consists of jagged crests, tower-like
erosion outliers, scarps and tallus trains, so that some summits, no higher than 467 m, actually look like
mountains (Blteanu et al., 2005).
Mcin Mountains National Park is characterized by a climate with influences of aridity in the east and
pontic in the west. Due to the altitudes varying between 7 and 467m it falls in the low hills and tablelands
climatic region with an increased dryness with hot and arid summers, long autumns and snow less
winters.

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 7


Figure 7. Land use in the Munii Mcinului National Park (Corine Land Cover, 2000)

The sunshine time has among the highest annual mean values in Romania with more than 2200
hours/year enabling temperature annual means of 8-9 0C (-3-4 0C in January and 19-20 0C in July). The
annual period without snow cover outruns 175-200 days/year. The degree of aridization is also
emphasized by the relative humidity (under 78%) and the low amount of precipitation (300-500 mm/an)
out of which more than 60% fall in the warm semester of the year. The dominant wind have a north and
north-east direction with mean wind speeds of about 4-6 m/s and locally, one can notice an increased
frequency of the local wind called Suhovei.
The hydrographic network is mainly supplied with water coming from precipitations (only to a small
extent they result from snow or come from underground source), and from small rivers belonging to
Danube (Jijila, Luncavia, Cerna, Sorniac rivers) and Black Sea (Taia River) drainage basins. Their flows
are characterized by big variations, most of them having a seasonal character, mainly as a consequence
of the continental aspect of the climate.
The vegetation is attributed to the deciduous forests, mainly Quercus pubescens and Q. pedunculiflora
and at higher altitudes Q. petraea in alternation with rock vegetation, as well as steppe vegetation
characteristic for the limitrophe areas. The fitotaxons importance in the study area, as compared to the
other rare plants in Romania, results from their composition, in which prevail the Pontic-Balkan (26,4%)
and Pontic species (16,7%), to which also add species of Euro-Asian (12,5%), Balkan (11,1%),
Mediterranean (8,3%), Mediterranean-Pontic (6,9%) origin, as well as other Caucasian, Asian, African and
cosmopolitan species (18,1%). The international importance of these rare taxons is conferred by the
presence of some vulnerable, rare and subendemic species (Campanula romanica Dianthus nardiformis,
Centaurea tenuiflora, Centaurea gracilenta, Silene cserei etc.), of which 4 are nominated on the Red
European List as vulnerable or rare species. Macin Mountains are considered an important centre of
speciation, due to the intraspecific diversity and to the 11 local taxons identified so far in Romania. Mcin
Mountains stand for the genetic centre of Euphorbia mcinensis, Corydalis dobrogensis and Herniaria
glabra var. dobrogensis and represents the northern limit of the sub-Mediterranean zone in the Balkan
Peninsula making a distinct unit of the floriferous Macedo-Tracian province. Thier bio-geographical
importance also results from the interference of species situated at the crossroads of different
biogeographical regions.
The Mcin Mountains fauna is less studied and is characterized by a great diversity due to the presence
of some rare species protected through international regulations. Of the total number of species identified
in the Park, 37 species are strictly protected at international level and they are listed in the Birds Directive
and the Bern Convention; for this reason, Munii Mcinului National Park have been included in the List
of the European zones important for birds. Additionally, 41 mammalian species and 11 reptile species have
been identified and protected under the Berna Convention.
Among the rare species protected at international level we mention: lepidoptera - Polia cherrug
(endemism described only in this zone), Chersotis laeta mcini and Chersotis fibriola niculescui, reptiles

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 8


Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera), Four lined snake (Elaphe quatorlineata), Nose-horned viper
(Vipera ammodytes montadoni), birds Salker falcon (Falco cherrug), Isabelline wheather (Oenanthe
isabelina), existing at the western limit of the worldwide habitat etc. Among the mammal species we can
mention: Red deer (Cervus elaphus), present in Dobrudja only in Macin Mountains, Roe deer (Capreolus
capreolus), Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Wild cat (Felis silvestris) etc. The Golden jackal
(Canis aureus) has appeared and bred excessively over the last years, being the main predator for the
mammals in the park.
Due to the particular physico-geographical conditions, Munii Mcinului National Park stands out by their
great variety of soil types. The soils in the park belong to the classes of Chernisoils (Mollisoils) grey-
luvic phaeozems (grey soils) and chernozems and Cambisols.
The most aggressive invasive specie in the The Munii Mcinului National Park, Ailanthus altissima,
concurrently is considered the most aggressive and dangerous invasive tree specie in Europe because it
penetrates into natural vegetation and irreversibly changes its composition. It tolerates dry, very cold and
polluted environments. Ailanthus is native to China and was introduced into Europe (firstly to England and
France) in the late 18th century. In Romania was introduced as ornamental tree, due to its resemblance
with palm trees, and for protection on degraded and inclined terrains. It is a very productive specie
generating a huge number of fruits to be disseminated.
In the Munii Mcinului National Park, the heaven mainly affects the steppe and sylvo-steppe dry
grasslands, forest skirts, riparian habitats etc. by competing and removing the native local species (fig. 8).
The control of this specie is quite difficult because the mechanical eradication methods (cutting, hand
pulling etc.) are not always efficient, therefore they must be completed with other mechanical and even
chemical methods.

Figure 8. Ailanthus altissima in the Munii Mcinului National Park (processed after the Munii
Mcinului National Park Administration)

The Mure Floodplain Natural Park was established in 2004 and occupies the embanked enclosure of
the Mure River between the city of Arad and the state border with Hungary. Specific wetland habitats
covers a surface of about 17,166 ha and hosts plant and animal species of great scientific value,
protected before the Park was created, within four nature reserves: Prundu MarePecica, Igri Isles,
Insula Mare Cenad and Cenad Forest. The park also shelters many archaeological sites and historical
monuments (Blteanu et al., 2005). The Mure Floodplain Natural Park is a typical wetland ecosystem
with running and still waters, alluvial forests as well as an important place for nesting and passage for
about 200 bird species, many of them of international importance.

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 9


From climatic point of view, the Mure Floodplain Natural Park is overlapping the plain climatic region
with oceanic and submediterranean influences. The annual mean value of sunshine time is 2100
hours/year with above 1500 hours during the warm semester, drafting an area with mean annual
temperatures outrunning 10 0C with over -1-2 0C in January and 21-22 0C in July. The morpho-
hydrological conditions grant rich air humidity (with relative humidity over 74%) and precipitations of about
500-600 mm/an out of which 60% during the warm semester of the year. The wind has a south-east and
north dominant direction with speeds of 1-2 m/s in the Mure river floodplain and 2-3 m/s in the rest of the
territory. The local wind is Austrul with south-west north-east direction.

Figure 9. Land use in the Mure Floodplain Natural Park (Corine Land Cover, 2000)

The Mure Floodplain Natural Park is characterized by sylvo-steppe vegetation (on the Mure River
terraces) and intra-zonal vegetation in the floodplain area. The species frequently found are Quercus
robur and ash Fraxinus anguistifolia together with Populus nigra, Populus alba and Salix alba. These
species are mostly found in the small forest in the Cenad area and in the 6,000 ha forest along the Mure
River between Arad and the village of Semlac (which includes the Ceala Forest).
From place to place halophile elements can be found. A large number of plants in the park are on the red
list of superior plants in Romania, namely yarrow (Achillea thracica), water soldier (Stratiotes alloides),
Cirsium brachycephalum, prostrate false pimpernel (Lindernia procumbens), brittle waternymph (Najas
minor) hogs fennel (Peucedanum officinale), lesser Butterfly-orchid (Platanthera bifolia) etc. Besides this,
there are also three species which are strictly protected according to the Bern Convention: European
waterclover (Marsilea quadrifolia), floating watermoss (Salvinia natans) and water caltrop (Trapa natans).
The fauna in the park encompasses a multitude of species, from large mammals to species living on the
river bottom. There are large populations of mammal species living within the park, such as the European
hamster (Cricetus cricetus), European polecat (Mustela putorius), otter (Lutra lutra), European wildcat
(Felix sylvestris), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), red deer (Cervus elaphus) etc.
Approximately 200 species of birds live or pass through the park every year. Nearly all the birds living in
The Mures Floodplain Natural Park are included in the annexes of the Bern Convention and the EUs
Habitats Directive as since 1988 was designated as an Important Bird Area. Among them the most
significant is the lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina).
Nearly half of the entire population of sand martins (Riparia riparia) on the Mure River can be found
within the Mure Floodplain Natural Park and all six of the reptile species and nine amphibians species
identified within the park are mentioned in the annexes of the Bern Convention and the EUs Habitats
Directive due to the regress of these species, which are considered barometers for the state of an
ecosystems health (eg. Emys orbicularis, Natrix tessellata, Triturus cristatus etc.).
The main soil types characteristic for the area under study are Hydrisoils (Hydromorphic soils), mainly
gleysoils which are formed in the condition of excess moisture, Luvisoils (Argilluvic soils) and Salsodisoils
(Halomorphic soils).

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 10


Invasive species are some of the most key issues in the Mure Floodplain Natural Park which is affected
by the three plant species: Acer negundo, Ailanthus altissima and Amorpha fruticosa. The most
aggressive invasive specie in the study area is Acer negundo (fig. 6), a species of maple native to North
America. The first records of this specie in Romania date back to the late 19th century in the Mure
floodplain area. Presently the species is not widely distributed in the country as it occurs mainly in towns
(as an ornamental tree) and spontaneous in abandoned agricultural fields, near railways and roads and in
riparian habitats (Fenesi, Ruprecht, Vincze, 2009).
In the Mure Floodplain Natural Park, Acer negundo put at risk the preservation status of the most
important natural forest habitats: mixed floodplain forests with Quercus robur, Ulmus minor, Ulmus laevis,
Fraxinus excelsior or Fraxinus angustifolia, situated along the river banks as well as the and gallery-
forests with Salix alba and Populus alba (fig. 10). It is extremely fast growing specie with a higher invasive
character whose regeneration capacity is superior to the one of the native species, thus being an
important competitor for Salix, Populus even Fraxinus.
Even though it covers only few areas in the Park, Ailanthus altissima could develop into a stronger
invasive specie if one takes into consideration its behaviour in some cities (e.g. Arad) where it develops
and regenerates in some of the most isolated places (fig. 10).

Figure 10. Invasive plant species in the Mure Floodplain Natural Park (processed after the Mure
Floodplain Natural Park Administration)

Amorpha fruticosa is another invasive plant specie which is affecting the Mure Floodplain Natural Park,
being introduced at first as decorative specie and as nourishment for pheasants and later becoming an
important competitor for the native species. Presently it covers the lowlands situated in close proximity to
the dykes and alongside the Mure River (fig. 10).
Besides the above mentioned invasive plant species, one can notice another specie (Juglans nigra)
planted for its quality wood. The species is in competition with the native ones but without having an
entirely invasive character.

Conclusions
The invasion of alien species is considered as one of the most important ecological consequences of the
global changes as well as one of the leading threats to biodiversity. Over the last century, the unrestrained
development of human activities determined an enhanced spread of invasive species, allowing them to
get through natural geographic barriers. This has caused high costs on agriculture, forestry etc. as well as
on human health.
Even if Romania is hosting a large number of alien species, they are not causing important damages to
biodiversity on a large scale, but when dealing with protected areas and their ecological significance, a
relatively small number of alien species are causing small-scale ecosystem changes with long-term
consequences.
Therefore, it is worth mentioning that in Western European countries, the problem of invasive species is
stressed not only by the researchers but also by the governments, thus adapting the European
Community legislation to controlling the phenomenon. Presently, related programmes are in progress.
The importance of assessing IPS in protected areas is increasingly important in terms of establishing the
best management measures for invasive species mitigation and promotion of efficient cooperation at
national and regional level to prevent or minimize their adverse impacts. At international level, the Rio
Convention of Biological Diversity (1992) recognized the threat of the spread of invasive species and

BALWOIS 2010 - Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia - 25, 29 May 2010 11


called for action to limit it. Besides that, a Global Invasive Species Program, formed by the United Nations
and other international organizations, is beginning to answer this call with a series of programs designed
to deal with particular sorts of introduced species.

Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful to Administrations of the Balta Mica a Brilei National Park, Munii
Mcinului National Park and Mureului Floodplain Natural Park for all the support in assessing the
case studies.
The entire study is developed in the framework of the FP7 Building Capacity for Black Sea
Catchment Obsrvation and Assessment System supporting Sustainable Development
(EnviroGRIDS); Project. Coordinator: Universit de Genve (UNIGE), Switzerland;
http://www.envirogrids.net/.

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