European Wood-Pastures as Cultural Landscapes

By Tibor Hartel and Tobias Plieninger

(Note: This post was published a few days ago on the Landscapes Blog.)

European landscapes are shaped by long-lasting, intensive and complex interactions between people and nature. This interaction has generated values that are appreciated by society, nowadays called “landscape values” or “ecosystem services,” but many of these cultural landscape values are in decline.

Figure 1. Ancient oak wood-pastures are still common in Southern Transylvania, Romania. In the front a hay meadow mowed with small machines. Photo by Orsolya Toth.

Ancient oak wood-pastures are still common in Southern Transylvania, Romania. In the front a hay meadow mowed with small machines. Photo by Orsolya Toth.

Wood-pastures—combinations of grazing lands with scattered trees—are in many regards archetypical cultural landscapes and indicative of their fate. They cover several millions of hectares of European farmland in a variety of expressions, from the cork oak and holm oak dehesas and montados of the Iberian Peninsula to traditional orchards in Central Europe and ancient oak and beech pastures in Southeast Europe. Wood-pastures host extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity and provide a multitude of ecosystem services. But, just like many other cultural landscapes, they are extremely vulnerable to environmental and socioeconomic change. Few adequate policies exist to maintain and preserve wood-pastures, as they are in the “grey zone” between agriculture, forest, conservation, rural development and other sectors and policies.

Figure 1. Wood-pasture with veteran, hollowing oak and traditional management by buffalo. Photo by Orsolya Toth.

Wood-pasture with veteran, hollowing oak and traditional management by buffalo. Photo by Orsolya Toth.

A transhumant herd departing for the spring migration from the "Dehesa de las Yeguas", an agrosilvopastoral landscape of grasslands under scattered holm oaks (Santa Elena, Jaén, southern Spain), towards their summer pasturelands. Photo by Elisa Oteros-Rozas.

A transhumant herd departing for the spring migration from the “Dehesa de las Yeguas”, an agrosilvopastoral landscape of grasslands under scattered holm oaks (Santa Elena, Jaén, southern Spain), towards their summer pasturelands. Photo by Elisa Oteros-Rozas.

In our recently published volume “European Wood-pastures in Transition,” we join 28 contributors to trace the trajectories of different types of wood-pastures in Northwestern, Southern and Eastern Europe. We offer a Pan-European synthesis about the diverse types of wood-pastures, their histories, social and ecological values, governing institutions, threats and conservation approaches. We explore the major drivers of decline, which are related to rapid cultural, institutional and developmental changes. An ironic finding—thoughtfully elaborated by Guy Beaufoy—is that the recent reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is proving harmful to European wood-pastures despite it’s suggested “greening.” However, we also find signs for a positive societal revaluation of wood-pastures. In the UK, volunteers have mapped more than 100,000 ancient, veteran and notable trees (usually located in wood-pastures) and thus have laid the base for conservation efforts. In Southern Germany, commonly managed wood-pastures have become an asset for local gastronomy, tourism and regional development. Also, academic interest in wood-pastures has clearly been growing across Europe.

From case studies, it becomes clear that European wood-pastures are changing rapidly and that analyzing and managing the nature of these changes is a challenge that requires the integration of a multitude of knowledge. Thus, we frame the book around social-ecological concepts and derive some principles of wood-pastures from a resilience perspective. For example, we find that diversity, ecological variability and modularity generate much of the values and the resilience of wood-pastures. Among the key problems of many wood-pastures is the loosening of feedback loops between the social and ecological realms, a loss of social capital and a general lack of innovation, novelty and experimentation in wood-pasture management.

Where does that leave us? The contributors point to a wide diversity of issues that must be considered in order to understand, value and protect the wood-pastures of Europe. For example, they highlight that land-use practices matter; that patterns and processes matter; that timescales matter; that involving stakeholders matters; that monitoring matters; that knowledge matters; that grazing matters; that biodiversity matters; that institutional transformation matters; that economic profitability matters; and that tourism, protected areas and new institutional structures matter. Given this cloud of issues, a narrow disciplinary research or sectoral policy agenda has limited capacity to provide solutions for these multifunctional landscapes. Rather, we need a holistic vision of wood-pastures that generates and integrates information about the ecology, ecosystem services and institutions around wood-pastures as well as their historical interactions.

Click here to read more about the book.

The adaptive cycle and the Romanian autumn

Previously I wrote a slightly ‘lyric’ blog about the desperate desire of developed countries to maintain their economic ‘K’ phase, and avoid the economic omega phase, that is the economic collapse. This very natural, internal and powerful force is like a tsunami: it is big and destructive in its power, and waves across the planet searching for new resources to be digested for the glory of the ‘western K’. Those who direct this deadly wave, are permanently scanning the world resources: where is a larger yield gap? Where is the healthy fresh water? The gas? The gold? More wood to be exploited? Cheap man power? And the list of these driving questions can continue. It happens that much of these resources are in countries which, from a western type of economic perspective are in the reorganization phase (alpha trying to go in r, they are called ‘developing’…my question: developing to what? See below). And representants of the ‘western, shaking K economies’, in the form of corporations, for example, will appear in these ‘developing’ and resource rich regions: shining and preaching about wealth, economic growth, ecological stability and other similar things. These are politically appealing messages, and therefore it is not surprising that this external force will select, in a re-inforcing way, for politicians (who sadly by definition think in short term benefits) who put in their flag these messages. But, and importantly, none of the regions ‘blessed’ with such an intervention will turn into a flourishing ‘K’ economy, as it was initially hoped. Generations will pass, the resources will be depleted, poverty and misery increases (including the gap between the rich and poor), the beautiful, healthy and human natural environment will be, just a nostalgic, beautiful memory for the locals, while the tsunami is increasing and waving, waving around the planet…with its big smile in the face, searching opportunistically for more countries with resources and irresponsible leaders.

This is increasingly obvious for me, especially now, in the period of the Romanian autumn (and see this). The powerful gold corporation company caused enormous troubles in all social and institutional and political levels of Romania.

The ‘Romanian autumn’ is, however, an unexpected lesson for this world, in its all positive senses. Through his magnitude, creativeness and peacefulness, and nevertheless through its fundamental goal, that is to protect our environment and have responsible political leaders, the ‘Romanian autumn’ movement will set a reference point for every environmental movement happening from now on, on this planet. Many thousands of people are on the street for weeks (and the protest actually happens), and, importantly, not for an extra sausage in the plate (i.e. not for a western ‘K’ state),  but rather for the protection of our eternal human values and sustainable use of resources and our common future.  Finally, one thing, where the world should ally to Romania; a thing, where the rest of the world is the ‘developing’ and Romania is the developed.

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‘A human chain around the Parlament, the biggest building in Romania! At least 6000 people estimated to be protesting for a sustainable future and for Rosia Montana!’ (source of the picture and caption: Facebook: ‘Uniti Salvam’)

UntitledPeaceful protests in Cluj Napoca (source: Andrei Pintea, Facebook)

berlinOur little group of protestors in Berlin (picture: Andrei Ala, Facebook)

I highly recommend to the economically developed world, to open ‘its’ eyes and see what is happening now in Romania, with hope. And shift, from being in the ‘K’ phase of a shaking and destructive economy, to be in the ‘K’ phase of responsibility toward the environment and our future. Because this is the true development, which is happening at the level of our value systems, and intellect. And I can assure you: such a ‘K’ phase, if truly attained, will never collapse.

About interest and passion

Sunday morning thoughts from Béla Hamvas about interests and actions with messages for researchers too – for the not so serious moments series of this blog. I only now start to understand many of his writings and thoughts after certain kinds of life experiences. For example, I shifted from a purely passion (…this is also a kind of interest after all…) based research and teaching to a research where the driving interest is in a higher proportion represented by impact factors, citations, number of papers and projects, desire to show. Things get meaning only if they happen publicly and the world knows about them. It is increasingly hard to find that pure thing in all these as I felt before. Therefore the main task of Hamvas (see below) will also be a personal chellenge in the future: to do research and teaching and conservation just purely for what they are.

‘I learned the music, but never do it, and since then I listen it with knowledge but without being envious. I learned a number of sciences, crafts and arts, I understand them but not do them so I can enjoy them without interest. Just have to quit writing, so I can take pleasure in it without jealousy.’

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About nature and people

By Tibor Hartel

I am reading the book of Juhász-Nagy Pál entitled “Nature and people: small variations for a big theme” (the book is in Hungarian, the translation of the title is just a trial). In one of his insightful essays, starting with the name of the UNESCO program called “Man and Biosphere” he reflects about the need for recognizing the right/healthy order of things when we speak about something, especially if we address nature conservation issues.

He highlights that the order of things in this title (i.e. man first and then biosphere at the second level) reflects human arrogance and is somehow similar with the situation when someone places himself/herself in the front of his/her own mother (i.e. by saying: “Me and my mother”).

Such an order, in his view, is against some ethical fundaments which need to be considered both at societal and nature conservation levels. These hidden/latent ethical/philosophical fundaments may greatly influence our attitude toward nature, our ability to find our correct place in the biosphere, and ways how we build our strategies and the outcome of our activities. It seems that certain fundamental things in our thinking about the nature and us and our relationship with the broad ecological systems around us never change: the caveman seem to be similar with the modern “conservationist” (ok, I am a bit extreme, but I am aware about this and about the fact that I am not an exception from this general and probably sad rule) in this respect, i.e. both say “me and nature” (with its variations, but always the same order).

This writing was published in 1993 but it was finished much before that. The author died in 1993. He therefore is unaware about the fact that a new framework is starting to get roots in the academic thinking: the social-ecological framework. What would Juhász-Nagy think about this? What you think about this? How it would sound to reverse the terms, e.g. to say “ecological-social systems”. To be honest, when I reversed the term, I had a strange feeling. What about you?

Have a nice weekend!

Reference

Juhász-Nagy Pál 1993: Természet és Ember. Kis változatok egy nagy témára. Budapest, Gondolat.

Thoughts about rational, irrational and our science

by Tibor Hartel

Is the art more rational or more irrational than science?

A number of thinkers (including Lucian Blaga, Mircea Eliade, Juhász-Nagy Pál and potentially many others) expressed concerns about the modern, industrial science which can ‘de-sacralize’ the world with its many technical concepts, definitions, terms and statistics which are not human. Juhász-Nagy Pál argued that the irrational is not anti rational and we should not be afraid of it. He even argued that often the irrational can have more sense than the rational.

We need art and tools which generate and mobilize feelings to counterbalance (it is more than complementing) this potential ‘negative effect’ of the modern, increasingly good looking but inside empty, opportunistic, unfairly competitive, intensive, hard, sometimes inaccessible (rather than good, handy, peaceful, slow and sustainable – yes, sustainable, because the information needs time to regenerate) science.

Image

Paintings of old trees from Southern Transylvania, made by the famous Romanian painter Stefan Caltia.

About valuing people – quote of the day

by Tibor Hartel

Here is a quote for this day from Béla Hamvas, a Hungarian philosopher. Replace ‘people’, ‘true values’ and ‘actorial performances’ from the second sentence with ‘scientists’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘ability to sell’ and ‘impact factors’ and see how beautifully this statement of Hamvas decades ago became a very (and sadly increasingly) actual problem even in science. (PS: the selected picture about Hamvas is to show the fate of an extraordinary person and thinker, who was unable to make compromises when it was about strong principles. He then preferred to be outsider, and resist even to high level invitations from western Europe which promised a better intellectual life.)

‘The world is that place where things are not valued as they are, but rather through their impact. People are judged not according to their true values but according to their actorial performances.’ (Béla Hamvas)

Thoughts about ecosystem services and human-nature relationships

By Tibor Hartel

The boring introduction

I am recently travelling quite a lot in western, developed countries (e.g. in UK, Germany, and Netherlands) and back to my home area – the Saxon landscapes from Southern Transylvania. While doing these travels, as naturalist in my soul (and ecologist in my profession) I try to look around and observe what is going on around me. In the landscapes, in the society, professional circles, how people behave, what they know, what they value. And being quite well ‘linked’ in the professional network, I have the opportunity to learn about advances in sustainability sciences, and ecology. And to combine these nice theories with the perceived real world. Being embedded in an eastern European culture, the intense exposure to a ‘western’ culture is sometimes shocking. You feel the power of rule, order, and (not surprisingly) economy. Maybe the whole situation (i.e. difference between east and west) can be described with a simple comparison: if a meeting is planned to start at 14.00 and last one hour in Germany, then that will happen. In Romania, 14:00 is somewhere between 12:30 and 15:00. The many jokes and coffees can make the meeting basically endless. If we elevate this ’12:30-15:00’ ‘rule’ to a whole society, we may be surprised: this ‘relaxation’ which is visible at every level and aspect of the society gives a lot of space for socialization, biodiversity, including large carnivores (and big, sometimes painful social chaos as well, nothing is perfect:) ), while the plan, rule and order in each possible aspect of life extirpates biodiversity (but creates social security and economic security). But this is a separate story (you may think about it: how this can be possible, if it is at all).

 

(New) Links need to be established between people and nature – scientists say

This whole situation I described above makes me realize things which were considered just as ‘given’ from Transylvania.

One is the ‘issue’ about the connections between people and nature. Theories say that sustainable nature conservation should include people. ‘We should aim to place farmland biodiversity “in the hands and minds of farmers.”’ – was the conclusion of a recent paper published in Conservation Letters. Strategies should be built to maintain connections between people and nature, and adapt them to the modern times, as we cannot trap people in the past. And, of course, we need to maintain the ecological knowledge and so on. Lots of funds and projects to assess and understand the nature of links between people and nature (i.e. social-ecological systems), mostly conducted in developing countries.

Many nice things should/could be done to achieve sustainability. And we know all of them. But, let’s look around in the reality which surrounds us. As naive (even stupid, why not) persons. Forget the papers and theories what our scientific culture put on us. Good to know them, but let’s forget them for a moment – perhaps this helps us more to see the reality (?).

The reality from my (naive, stupid) perspective is that the ‘spectrum’ of connections between people and nature is very, very reduced in many parts of western Europe, compared to e.g. the traditional rural landscapes of Transylvania.

The links between people and nature in most parts of the developed countries I experienced are reduced largely to biking and jogging and walking in paved roads/paths in the forest and between large, extremely monotonous agricultural parcels in farmlands. Nobody leaves these paved (mostly) paths. It is not allowed, or, leaving them is useless: nothing to be found in mostly monotonous landscapes. The many ‘fruits’ of the nature (let’s call them services, goods) are untouched and not harvested as ‘it should be’ (in a traditional society). Let me quote my good friend Alex Gota – and his experience in a western well developed society: ‘…plenty of blueberries full of ripened fruits. Nobody cares about. Of course I start to pick them and eating. Delicious!!! Not far from me, a guy with his son, climbing up slowly. “Dad, wtf this guy is eating?!!!. Dad: I don’t know, but could be poisonous, don’t forget!!!’. I also experienced this: my hands started to shake when I saw many exceptional fruits which I would collect (quickly!!!) at home, but no one touched them here. To catch a toad one need permits, and if you want to decorate your room with the beautiful flowers from a grassland (as most of people I know do in Transylvania) – forget the idea. It is not allowed, and, there are almost no such flowers in the pastures! All in all, the connection between people and nature, in western Europe, is resumed largely to one single petal: a physical presence, very reduced spectrum of (well directed) activities (running, walking, jogging and maybe bird watching), and virtually no touch with nature.

The complete opposite happens in the traditional landscapes of Romania. People still drink water from nature, they feel the dust, enjoy the smell of flowers, the taste of the mushrooms, fruits what nature give you, to feel that exceptional ‘stress’ when you know: there are deadly carnivores in that landscape where you are, to feel the freedom for going where you want and can, and to feel the endless space and the life around you. Kids grow up by climbing the trees around the village. Hungarian colleagues documented an exceptionally rich botanical knowledge even in kids in Eastern Carpathians (Romania). One person, without any formal education told me with one drop of tear in his eyes (he was very emotional), while he do the hard subsistence farming: ‘I see these landscapes from my soul, I feel them’. The meaning of what he told is not in his words: it was in his accent, his face and his eyes. This simple sentence contained – for me – all the knowledge and wisdom published in top journals and more. And I know: it is a privilege to be able to meet such people.

All these things, and more, were always in the front of my eyes, but I realized this only now, after a longer ‘presence’ abroad, I can see them, and appreciate them purely as they are. Without theories and strategies. Just as a human being.

 

Vanishing links, despite theories, meetings and congresses 

To turn back to the initial problem, i.e. building links between people and nature. From my Eastern European, half-traditional perspective, the links between people and nature happens necessarily at many levels, as described above: in mind, philosophical system (religion), in the physical world, in your senses and so on. People are built for doing this, by evolution. The whole is needed. To me, the links means necessarily something similar to what I experience in Transylvania – this is not negotiable.

It is not fair to put people in the situation to loose the multiple connections between them and the natural systems, and then teach them about the importance of ecosystem services and our dependence from these goods and services.

One may feel, that allowing people only well directed walks in the so called nature, isolating every marsh from people with fences and not allowing the possibility for them to feel the taste, smell and sometimes ‘pain’ caused by that nature – a healthy connection will remain a dream, which looks good in papers, only, but not in reality. Some things cannot be and should be formalized. They must remain informal, natural. We need the whole package. People are whole packages. Not bits of it.

What to do in this situation?

People (western and eastern) should think about this more realistically, I guess. It is possible that there is so few/small nature left, and the density of people is so high, that allowing everybody to go and behave in nature as traditional people do – would be harmful for the little patches of natural systems (i.e. there is no place for everybody in nature…sad, but it may be true…At this point, it is a privilege to be ecologist because we have that formal training to be allowed to go/have access in places/resources where other people are not, and enjoy that). Ok, I am fine with that, if it is true. But what to be done in this respect? How could one imagine a ‘harmony’ between the social ecological systems in a way that people are – practically – excluded from nature? I think that traditional rural societies indeed need to be studied. But it is time also for some more realistic approaches about the limits and possibilities of reconnecting people with the biosphere. Nice words and too many papers can be helpful, and give us hope, but if not managed well, they can be traps as well e.g. by generating unrealistic hopes and expectations and trials. Comments welcome.

Thoughts about academia`s obsession with quantity

by Tibor Hartel

I was just re-reading the paper of Joern Fischer and his colleagues about academia`s obsession with quantity, more papers, more grants and more everything. Here, I focus on one potential aspect of this issue. I am aware that here and there I may look crazy, and exaggerate, but the intention is to offer a short blog and maybe one short second of reflection.

Cover of the Rene Guenon`s book: ‘The Reign of Quantity and Signs of the Times’ (source: internet). Recommended for further reflections about quantity-quality issues in broader perspective.

I wonder to what extent this obsession is rooted in and induced by our new (researcher) population demographics. Yearly, thousands of ‘scientists’ may be produced in just one field of biology, in just one continent. Each being extremely enthusiastic, clever, inventive and willing to do great things in research and life. The sad news is that each of them will not end up being a successful ecologist. And this is not because they don`t deserve it. No, there is nothing personal. It is even worse: we may be (and I am sorry for being so direct) too many. The researcher population is growing, resources are scarce, and it is already stressed by its own demography.

We all feel the symptoms of this, let me enumerate just few: the review system is increasingly random (excellent papers being rejected without review while other papers go under review). This randomness makes difficult to publish even good stuff. There are new journals available every week almost (each aiming to be revolutionary), and new journal initiatives, as a response to the growing population of … manuscripts. Permanent jobs are rare resources today in this field (postdocs positions increasing?). I even feel that ‘transdisciplinary science’ may flourish, to an unknown degree, as a result of the above mentioned population demographics: being transdisciplinary allows scientist to pass the border of the ‘science habitat’ and establish outside academia.

One can feel that such an environment is full with pain and frustration. The strong natural selection processes acting on each member of this growing and crowding researcher population. In any other animal species, e.g. rats, such a crowding certainly would select for behaviours and morphs which are not ‘normal’. We know this from Darwin and subsequent works. Below some abnormal behaviours in science (there may be other, more proper examples too) selected in and by the overcrowded researcher population: The ‘obsession with quantity’, described by Joern and his colleagues. The goal of science changes in an overcrowded scientist population: generating valuable knowledge may not be the main objective, but papers which cease being a means (through which knowledge is communicated) and become the goal. In this way, papers are displays of alpha ranking and the most highly ranked members of the community are given more (re)production rights via grants, PhD students and permanent positions. The selection of PhD students (future researchers) is interesting too: image is valued, the created noise and the ability to sell (in other words, the ability of the candidate to capture what the alpha fe/male want from her/him and act accordingly in order to get the position). Being silent and humble is not valued – such people are generally not noticed (of course, noisy people can be humble and clever too…but the selection criteria is the noise and not always the humility and wisdom behind, and that is the problem).

If the scientific products of our days are the result of the struggle for life (in its Darwinian sense), induced and controlled by the demographic context (i.e. the result of an abnormal behaviour, induced by an abnormal situation, basically), how we can ever expect a society to take us (and our big explosions, i.e. papers) seriously?

Conservation by conservation scientists?

This post is reblogged from the blog of the Society for Conservation Biology – Europe Section

By Irina Herzon

One more workshop on conservation approaches. One more time a chance to discuss what conservation science is about. And once again to ponder on how much space is there, in our science, for conservation.


It is certainly true and correct that scientific work is our major professional duty and providing evidence is its chief output. Regardless of scientific field, it is so. Amount of evidence is further what is rewarded by the employment system. And yet here we are people who came to conservation biology because of the genuine concern for conservation. If we are driven only by curiosity to understand the world or ambitions in publishing, then we might just remain biologists without “conservation”. If we chose to do just that, to stay aside from any conservation acting remaining in this “evidence gathering” state, we can hardly complain about not being heard or lament about biodiversity decline unravelling despite all the evidence. We trick ourselves into thinking that even more evidence will do the job of conservation.

If we acknowledge that conservation is more than evidence gathering, we have to find opportunities to take that next logical step and find better ways of really making ourselves heard. One has to step forward in defence of something that one considers important, dear and right. Biodiversity conservation is not much different from any other “better world” issues such as human rights. One can only wonder how much Martin Luther King Jr would have achieved if people around him had been thinking: “fighting slavery is not my job”. Whose job is to stop biodiversity demise then?

True, it is a serious obstacle that our professional academic system does not reward us for anything else except the number of publications. I hear this often being used as an excuse for focusing only on publications. But think of it, if we who are aware of the problem best and are concerned about it, keep only providing evidence, we are behaving exactly like farmers who do something for biodiversity only and as long as they are paid for it. Nor care about the end result. They need to survive as farmers and generate as much income from land as possible – we need to survive as scientists and generate as many publications as possible. No-one to blame!

A conservation biologist doesn’t have to be a professional advocate for conservation, but should be an advocate for conservation nonetheless. If true concern is there, we should actively search collaboration with advocates, authorities, media, land-users, or public. Collaborating by actively bringing out the evidence to them in a form that can be understood by them. If this activity is not supported by our job providers, then we should try to change this attitude at our workplaces.  Or use more of our personal time. But not to hide behind the words: “not my job”.

Actually many researchers in conservation biology do carry out a lot of active conservation. We just often restrain ourselves from speaking about this aloud, from sharing this kind of activity, its challenges, victories and failures. I would say, for a conservation biologist, it is as much a professional activity as doing science. Are we afraid of compromising our scientific credibility by engaging with society, or we are too shy to present this kind of work, beyond statistical testing, as meaningful? I think we should not! We should take pride in it and praise each other for it, and learn from each other on how to succeed best in “beyond evidence-gathering”. Maybe a session on Conservation by Conservation Biologists at the next ECCB?

Little toad challenges conservation biologists in Eastern Europe

By Tibor Hartel

Conservation biology is a wonderful concept. The yellow bellied toad – Bombina variegata – is a shy little amphibian, breeding in small temporary water bodies as showed below.

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Yellow bellied toad in a cattle dringking though.

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Small temporary ponds like this dirt road pond are important breeding habitats for the yellow bellied toad. My friend Kuno making pictures on breeding toads.

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Temporary springs without fish like this one are also important breeding habitats and possibly dispersion routes for the yellow bellied toad.

This amphibian is officially protected  in many / virtually all / European country (-ies) where it occurs and it is covered by the Natura 2000 regulations.

In the hilly-mountain areas of Transylvania (Romania) this toad is still very abundant. Below is a map showing the distribution of the yellow bellied toad in a recently delienated Natura 2000 site in Southern Transylvania (the region is at ca 300-500 meter altitude). Yellow dots are confirmed presences while the blue ones are those sites where the toad can be potentially present (i.e. not detected but we have no reason to believe that those ponds may not be habitats for them, at least sometimes) and there are some absences which are not shown. Black circles are 800 meter buffers around presences – we found strong spatial autocorrelation in presences up to 800 meter distance (we recaptured toads from 1400 meter distance from the pond, therefore the actual movement distance is higher). There are many other recorded presences for this region – the data collected by my colleague is not in this map.

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Yellow bellied toad in a Natura 2000 site from Southern Transylvania (after an ‘opportunistic but comprehensive’ survey – thanks Joern for this term!)

The wide presence of this toad is not a miracle in these landscapes: landuse is largely traditional, developement is low, there are many horse carts (sometimes small tractors) which are used by people to transport resources (wood, hay, crops).

The question arise: how to protect this species in this large scale? We are now developing a ‘management plan’ for the conservation of this toad (and other species). Should this conservation plan be called ‘destruction plan’?

Dear toad, what should we do with you, why are you so common? Our mind is not set to deal with such large spatial scales what your populations use!  We love those little patchy populations, you know, surrounded by concrete and buildings, which can be delineated with a small fence within which we count and individually know every specimen, and play with them and their habitats with volunteers and projects. We know everything about you: what you eat, where your breed, what are your preferences regarding habitats. But we are afraid that in large areas of this region, we will have no capacity to assure you some small ponds and optimal terrestrial habitats around them. Yes, our society is just like this – don`t take it personally, just life! How to protect your current populations when poverty is high, corruption is high and people want fast economic developement?

Any suggestion from experienced colleagues would be helpful!