The Carpathian Mountains are the backbone of Central and Eastern Europe, forming an arc of about 1,500 km and covering an area of about 209,000 km². Stretching across seven countries, the mountain range begins in the north-west of Austria, curving all the way to the Iron Gate Dam in Romania’s south, on the way passing through the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
The Carpathian region is a stronghold for biodiversity in Europe, exhibiting a wealth of different habitats, including some of the continent’s last old-growth forests, and harbouring an exceptionally rich diversity of animal and plant species. Many of these species are endemic to the area, meaning that they occur nowhere else in the world. Some, like the large carnivores wolf, brown bear and lynx, large herbivores like the chamois and European bison, or the ancient sturgeon, are still able to call this region their home, while having disappeared from much of the rest of the continent.
The Carpathian Mountains are home not only to a wide array of wildlife, but also to about 17 million people with a highly diverse set of cultures and nationalities and with a rich history and cultural heritage.
With its impressive ecological and economic potential, the region is undergoing rapid environmental, economic and societal changes. In the face of these developments, the preservation of the unique biodiversity of the Carpathians is a significant challenge of vital importance that requires actors from all backgrounds to collaborate across national and sectoral borders in order to safeguard this natural heritage for future generations.