Protected Areas in the Carpathians

Protected areas MON dandinu 0503

Carpathian protected areas are priceless jewels in the region representing forest, mountain, grassland and wetland habitats, which sustain highly functional ecosystems. They harbour a unique spectrum of plants and animals. They provide a broad range of services which benefit local people and society, making them corner stones to the preservation of the Carpathians and their outstanding biodiversity. Often they are core areas for rural sustainable development.

The Carpathian protected areas cover around 36.000 km2 which equals to approximately 18 % of the Carpathian ecoregion. There are two types of large-scale protected areas, national (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia) or national nature parks (Ukraine) and protected landscape areas (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia) or landscape parks (Poland, Serbia, Ukraine).

More than half of the protected areas, i.e. protected landscape areas or landscape parks, in the Carpathians belong to Category V according to the IUCN Protected Areas Category System, which means that "the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values". (ICUN 2011)
Still a big number of protected areas, i.e. national and national nature parks, belong to Category II according to the IUCN system, which represent large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities". (IUCN, 2011)

While national parks are designated in all Carpathian countries, other types of protected areas differ slightly or more considerably. In the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia nature reserves are designated. A similar category exists in Ukraine (zapovednik) and in Hungary (nature conservation areas). Forest reserves are also designated in Hungary and Romania. In addition, Romania protects certain areas as scientific reserves.

Non-EU Carpathian countries preserve biodiversity through national ecological networks, by implementing international agreements such as the Bern Convention that entails designation of sites as part of the Emerald Network, and by contributing to the Pan-European Ecological Network (PEEN) that promotes synergies between different networks like Natura 2000, Emerald protected areas or the UNESCO's programme on Man and Biosphere by designating biosphere reserves.
EU Member States have designated sites under the Birds and the Habitats Directive as part of the Natura 2000 network of the European Union. For EU countries this equals to protected areas of the Emerald Network. For more information on Natura 2000, please refer to the respective chapter on this website!

Since 2001, under the umbrella of the Carpathian Convention, protected areas comprising more than 100 ha and having an administration are members to the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas. Please refer to the geo portal to find their locations on the map!

What do protected areas stand for?

Functional ecosystems represented by protected areas in the region form the vital necessities for human well-being by providing:

  • Resources like water, timber, non-timber forest products, hey, pasture grounds etc. on condition that they are used/managed in a responsible, sustainable way. Resource extraction is allowed in protected areas of types IV, V and VI according to the IUCN classification), but needs to follow sustainable principles.
  • Water recharge, filtration, or purification.
  • Clean air/pollution mitigation.
  • Carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation.

Furthermore, protected areas represent the

  • Basis of traditional cultures of local people (historical, spiritual).
  • Scenic hub for leisure activities, recreation and tourism.
  • Diverse terrain for scientific research and education.
  • Model areas for sustainable regional development.

These benefits could be lost through shifting stakeholder interests, putting the management of protected areas and the surrounding regions at stake. Activities such as illegal logging, poaching, and uncontrolled infrastructure development leading to habitat fragmentation and pollution, and the progression of industrialized monoculture severely endanger functional protected areas. Additionally, scale and system of protected area management planning and implementation is a matter for improvement including financial resources. Although protected areas increase in number and area there are still several valuable areas in the Carpathians which are not yet part of a protected area network. Often designation of protected areas do not guarantee effective management, thus many of the existing protected areas need to be managed more effectively involving relevant stakeholder.

Management of protected areas

Management of protected areas is a comprehensive field of activity, from management planning and performance to monitoring and adapting management as required.
The IUCN Framework is based on the principle that good protected area management should follow a cyclical process with six stages or elements. The management cycle illustrated below identifies six important elements in this process that ideally should be addressed.

  PA management cycle

Source: Protected area management cycle (Hockings et al. 2006)


  • begins with understanding the context of the protected area, including its values, the       threats that if faces and opportunities available, its stakeholders, and the management and political environment;
  • progresses through planning: establishing vision, goals, objectives and strategies to conserve values and reduce threats;
  • allocates inputs (resources) of staff, money and equipment to work towards the objectives;
  • implements management actions according to accepted processes; and
  • eventually produces outputs (goods and services, which should usually be outlined in management and work plans)
  • that result in impacts or outcomes, hopefully achieving defined goals and objectives.

There are many guidelines/tools available for protected area management at the global level on various websites (IUCN, CBD, etc.)

However, various guidelines/tools have been developed in the past several years specifically tailored to the characteristics of protected areas in the Carpathians.

Please, find a selection of pdfs and links in the resource chapter!

Governance in protected areas in the Carpathians

The State remains the most important actor in the management of protected areas (PAs), having almost absolute control over the process and over the resources at different levels. In all Carpathian countries, the authority and the responsibility for managing natural protected areas belongs to the state, through which, the Ministry of Environment or delegated to a public or private company, University, NGO or public administration, which then reports to the state authority, as is the case in Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. Some primary forms of co-management were also identified, but usually the main decision-maker is the protected area management authority, which is a governmental body or a delegated governmental authority. No cases of full joint management were identified in the region. Privately protected areas, managed by NGOs or public administrations, as in Slovakia, Serbia, and Romania, and some community managed areas, like in Ukraine and Hungary, also exist, but usually only for smaller protected areas.

 In most of the Carpathian countries, except Hungary and the Czech Republic, there are different forms of stakeholder bodies having consultative and guiding roles for the PAs which give a voice to main stakeholder categories and represent a good premise for dialogue and their involvement in the management process. Even when such structures exist, their role and functioning are not always very clear. In most of the cases where such stakeholder bodies exist, ensuring the representativeness of the most relevant actors, organizing effective consultation and participation processes remains problematic.

By the level of stakeholder involvement the following types of management, were identified: informative, consultative, functional, and weak forms of collaborative and joint management.

Major issues concerning governance to be addressed by policy measures:

A. Land Use and Development Conflicts

The main conflicting factors should be considered as the main rationale for implementing participatory management:

1. Limitations and restrictions in land-use and natural resource management, for instance, the reduction of immediate economic gains for landowners and managers of natural resources without compensation payments, are one of the main sources of conflicts in the PAs of the Carpathians.

2. Pressures and threats deriving from development are the second driver for conflicts in PAs, either by causing habitat fragmentation or loss of biodiversity through unsustainable use of natural resources. Stakeholders perceive PAs as limiting factors for economic development mainly because the PA might prevent revenue generation critical for some of the stakeholders, but also because of limited information and understanding for the need of conservation management and long term benefits.

B. Protected Area Governance Issues

In all Carpathian countries most of the PAs are managed by the government either directly or by delegating the management authority. The existence of consultative and advisory bodies in some countries allows for some forms of active participation of the stakeholders, but the enabling conditions for effective and efficient participation are still not sufficient.

C. Protected Area Capacity Issues

In most countries there is a clear need for capacity-building (increasing knowledge and know-how for practitioners), allocating resources (special programs and budget lines) and for ensuring the legislative and procedural framework for management is enabled to participate.

WWF Danube-Carpathian programme assessed the status of participatory management in protected areas in all Carpathian countries and prepared guidelines for protected area managers on how to set up stakeholder involvement in their management planning. This activity was supported by the Swiss-based MAVA Foundation within the Protected Areas for a Living Planet Project – the Carpathian Mountain Region. Please refer to the links!

Please find downloads under Resources in this chapter!



Carpathian Countries Protected Areas Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (CCPAMETT) & Guidelines how to use it in all Carpathian languages

The CCPAMETT is an online tool dedicated to protected area management teams to evaluate their performance. The tool should be done on an annual basis and guides a thorough discussion through and analysis of many aspects of work in a protected area. The tool is based on the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) which was developed by the World Bank together with WWF in 2007. The tool is an output developed during the Protected Areas for a Living Planet Project carried out by WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme together with partners from the regional and local level and supported by the Swiss MAVA Foundation (2007-2011).

Versions: English, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovakian, Ukrainian.

Study "Participatory Management of Protected Areas in the Carpathian Ecoregion Part I: Rapid Assessment of Recommendations

Guidelines "Participatory Management of Protected Areas in the Carpathian Ecoregion Part II: Guidelines for Stakeholder Involvement in the Protected Area Management"

The study and the guidelines are an outputs developed during the Protected Areas for a Living Planet Project carried out by WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme together with partners from the regional and local level and supported by the Swiss MAVA Foundation (2007-2011).

Versions: English, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, SerbianSlovakian, Ukrainian.

Guidelines on the assessment of goods and services for protected area managers

The tool is an output developed during the Protected Areas for a Living Planet Project carried out by WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme together with partners from the regional and local level and supported by the Swiss MAVA Foundation (2007-2011).

Versions: English, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovakian, Ukrainian.

Study "Development of Common Integrated Management Measures for Key Natural Assets in the Carpathians"

The study illustrates how integrated management can be performed not only by natural resource managers but also by protected area managers. The study is an output of the BioREGIO Carpathians Project (SEE ETC, 2011-2014).

Versions: English, Romanian.

Study "Regional Development Opportunities of Protected Areas and Natural Assets in the Carpathians"

The study is a useful compilation of opportunities, challenges and examples of solutions using the potential of nature and its services for various sectors like tourism, forestry, agriculture, non-timber forest products, energy, and fisheries. The study is an output of the BioREGIO Carpathians Project (SEE ETC, 2011-2014).

Versions: English, Romanian.

Report "An Assessment of the Contribution of Ecosystems in Protected Areas to Sector Growth and Human Well Being in Romania"

The report aims to show evidence of how sustainably managed protected areas support productivity in key sectors such as tourism and forestry. Furthermore, the report seeks to demonstrate the costs associated with unsustainable development. It was developed during the GEF financed project "Improving the Financial Sustainability of the Carpathian System of Protected Areas" (2011 - June 2014). Within this project an e-learning tool "Financial Sustainability" was developed which is tailored to protected area managers.

Links to protected area networks offering useful information for protected area managers

Links to universities and organisations offering training on protected areas related topics

The Foundation supports the development and continuous improvement of the capacity of managing the Romanian protected areas, education and raising awareness on the importance of nature conservation.

The Alpen-Adria University, Klagenfurt, Austria offers an international 2-year postgraduate Master of Science Programme "Management of Protected Areas". The programme is carried out by the University and is supported by the E.C.O.



 Last updated: June 2014




The development of this website is financially supported by the Danube Transnational Programme within the TRANSGREEN (January 2017 - June 2019)
and the ConnectGREEN Project (June 2018 - May 2021); the ETC Programme South East Europe within the BioREGIO Carpathians project
(January 2012 – June 2014) and the MAVA Foundation within the Protected Areas for a Living Planet Project (January 2007 – March 2012).