The term ‘biodiversity’, short for biological diversity, describes the richness and variety of the natural world, from the diversity of habitats such as forests and meadows, to plants and animal populations, even down to the genetic diversity found within those populations. The position of the Carpathians as a bridge linking the north and south of Europe and as a refuge for species during the ice-age has had a huge impact on its biodiversity over the centuries. As a result, the region supports an incredibly high natural diversity of species, with many endemic species, those that are unique to the region.
Currently, the mountains provide a vital link between the northern and southern forests of Europe, allowing species like the brown bear and the wolf to migrate and re-populate unoccupied territories. Although the region cannot compete with tropical countries in terms of wealth of flora and fauna, the diversity of habitats emphasize the extraordinary value of this territory with regard to biodiversity. From the rolling patchwork landscape of the White Carpathians, with its orchards, fields, forests and flowering meadows, to the alpine zone high in the Retezat Mountains, there is no question that the region supports an enormous diversity of habitats.
The most important eco-region, considered in a European context, are the natural Carpathian forests, where more than half of the Carpathians are covered by forest. On a continent where less than 10% of forest cover is semi-natural, a high proportion of these forests remain in their natural state, unaltered by any human interference. Open and semi-natural habitats support an incredible richness and diversity of plant and animal species and according to some estimates, nearly half the species diversity of the Carpathians is dependent on human activity for its survival.
Carpathian Countries Integrated Biodiversity Information System – CCIBIS
The “Carpathian Biodiversity Information System” is a tool gathering published or recorded and not published data on the occurrence of Carpathian habitats listed in Habitat Directive Annex I, endemic and Habitat Directive Annex II plant species and animal species including birds. It is built on the country experts’ practical experience and existing national and international databases. The occurrence of habitats, plant and animal species is displayed on orographical units which represent basic spatial working units.
In summary the CCIBIS is:
- A unique database presenting information on the wealth of biological diversity for the whole Carpathians
- A solid basis for the creation of a list of Carpathian endemic plants, animals and habitats
- An indispensable tool for careful planning of various kinds of infrastructure including road/rail constructions, tourism facilities, agriculture etc.
- A compatible habitat description and interpretation across country borders
The database was built by Daphne Institute of Applied Ecology, Bratislava, Slovakia with support of many experts and organisations across the Carpathians on behalf of the Carpathian EcoRegion Initiative within the framework of two projects, (1) “Towards an Ecological Network for the Carpathians” comprising the Eastern part of the Carpathians (Romania, Serbia, Ukraine) financially supported by BBI Matra, and (2) “Towards an Ecological Network for the Carpathians II” comprising the Western countries of the Carpathians (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) and funded by Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU).
Besides the fact that so far the CBIS is the best available data source for the distribution of biodiversity data across the Carpathians, one needs to be aware of that
- Only published data and involved experts’ opinions are used; thus many data were not verified in the field
- The methodologies for gathering and assessing the data in the Carpathian countries differ slightly
- Blank spots on the distribution maps indicating no records of the conservation target, may be due to a lack of research in that area and as a result with no data available