Adaptation in Carpathian Mountains

 

Adaptation Actions

Adaptation actions aim to adjust natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects. They normally address a specific climate impact and/or adaptation sector. The planning of adaptation actions is taking place at the Carpathian Mountains which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

 

 

 

The “Future imperfect: Climate change and adaptation in the Carpathians” document summarizes key adaptation actions in vulnerable sectors of the region: water resources, forests, wetlands, grasslands, agriculture and tourism. By adopting the Strategic Agenda on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Carpathian Region, the Conference of the Parties (COP) calls upon the contracting parties, local and regional authorities and other stakeholders involved in management and development of the Carpathian region to formulate policies and design strategies to adapt to climate change impacts and to mitigate its adverse effects.The aim of the agenda is to assist Member States of the Carpathian Convention, local and regional authorities and other stakeholders involved in management of the Carpathian region to formulate responses to climate change as a way to secure the sustainable development in the region. The Agenda has been discussed at meetings and workshops with Country representatives and observers to the Carpathian Convention as well as other interested stakeholders. It was endorsed at the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP4) 23-26 September 2014.The Strategic Agenda includes recommendations for policy development, institutional change and ecosystem-based adaptation measures. In summary, it infers that linking different policies of nature conservation, river basin management, and sustainable farming could significantly strengthen the Carpathian region and its resilience to climate change. The added value of increased transnational cooperation and joint activities is especially important when planning for climate change adaptation, since many of the predicted impacts of climate change, such as seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation, will occur over vast geographical areas, affecting several countries at once. 

Mainstreaming of adaptation in other policy sectors

Adaptation measures for water resources

One of the most efficient adaptation measures against the combined threat of droughts and floods in the Carpathian Mountains is local water storage.Storage capacity can be increased by blocking (old) drainage canals which were dug in the past but which often do not serve a purpose anymore. Eliminating road networks can also encourage storage, especially in the Eastern Carpathians. However, eliminating roads necessitates adjusting land use. Activities requiring frequent transportation (e.g. hay production) have to be replaced by transportation-free uses, such as grazing or nature conservation. (Re)creating wetlands and ponds increases storage capacity and allows to harvest rainwater. Structural measures such as constructing dams, water tanks and subsurface reservoirs also help. However, dam construction has to be carefully planned so as not to damage river ecosystems.Sub-surface water storage can be enhanced by protecting and restoring natural grasslands so more rainwater can infiltrate into the deeper soil layers. This land use measure is especially recommended for the karstic systems in the Carpathian region, where grasslands are the primary sources of water supply for the sub-surface water resources.

Adaptation measures for forests and forestry

The Carpathian countries have limited capacity to take measures to help forests and forestry adapt to climate change. None of them has yet directly addressed climate change in its forestry legislation (although the issue is usually included in national strategies). Adaptive capacity is substantially lower in the Romanian and Serbian part of the Carpathian region compared to the Western Carpathians.Adaptation should be geared to practical forest management and legislation, and ensuring that risk assessment is considered in forest planning and management. This is becoming increasingly important and there is a need to change the traditional timber production-oriented management towards an adaptive risk-responsive management. Adaptive forest management uses concepts such as continuous-cover-forestry and close-to-nature forestry to increase adaptive capacity of forests and lower anticipated risks. It increases the proportion of drought tolerant species, mainly oaks, and reduces the proportion of vulnerable water demanding conifers and beech at lower elevations. Changes in tree species composition supporting forests' drought tolerance need to be promoted. At the same time, the share of vulnerable Norway spruce forests needs to be substantially reduced. Existing forest stands can be made more resistant by increasing the number of species in the stand in this way increasing biodiversity, and by deploying native species.Another important line of action is to consolidate and harmonize forest monitoring systems, in order to provide information to support adaptive forest management. This includes the monitoring of invasive pests and diseases occurring across national boundaries. Since increased drought will increase the risk of forest fires the prevention of forest fires are an important adaptation measure.At a landscape scale awareness has to be created of the indispensable role of forests in integrated watershed management, particularly for biodiversity, water regulation and erosion control. Landscape level policies are required to avoid forest fragmentation and maintain the connectivity of larger forest areas to support species' natural migration and gene flows.

Adaptation measures for wetlands

Adaptation strategies for wetlands are closely linked to measures for making hydrological systems more resilient. This includes using higher altitude wetlands to retain water and prevent peak discharges, widen floodplains so these can store and discharge more water and (re)create wetlands for ground water replenishment. Wetland protection needs to be integrated with flood control practices and support programmes aiming for wetland and peat land restoration, floodplain rehabilitation and creation of new wetlands and lakes.In places where wetland restoration is difficult, it is highly recommended to reduce external non-climate pressures such as land-use change and pollution. Improving connectivity between wetlands and water bodies can help species to move, as well as preserve habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity, which can provide genetic diversity for successful adaptation. As information on wetlands is scarce a priority action is also to monitor the state of waters and aquatic .

Adaptation measures for grasslands

A wide variety of managed herbaceous habitat types are meant, all characterized by a short vegetation of grasses and herbs. The ecological value of grasslands is depending on low input agriculture like hay making and grazing and subsequently adaptation measures are based on supporting farmers to maintain these low input farming activities. Climate change leads to changes in the availability of water and an increased or decreased growing season leads to changes in the vegetation structure and the loss of biodiversity. Broadly the following adaptation measures can be identified: (These measures need to be seen in combination with the measures proposed for agriculture)

  • Implement agri-environment measures and Natura2000 management plans;
  • Diversify economic opportunities by producing local nature friendly products;
  • Adapt management through grazing and mowing, and avoid abandonment, mulching and fertilization.

Adapting management of grasslands can be done by for instance delayed mowing dates or lower grazing intensities. Because these changes have an impact on the farmers’ income the farmer needs to be compensated by agro-environmental measures. This can be achieved by designating the grassland habitat types as a protected area under the EU Habitats Directive or by supporting the farmers through agri-environmental programmes. Adaptation measures aimed to prevent the loss of the specific landscape and biodiversity of the semi natural grasslands in the Carpathians are inseparable from the proposed adaptation measures for agriculture as their existence is depending on traditional farming practices. Designating these grasslands as protected area is another adaptation measure as it can help to secure management. Monitoring of the species distribution and combating invasive species are also important adaptation measures.

Adaptation measures for agriculture

For small-scale farmers potential adaptation options can include changes in sowing dates and crop varieties, improved water-management and irrigation systems, adapted plant nutrition, protection and tillage practices. To achieve the broader goal of sustainable agriculture and rural development in a changing climate, policies should support farmers who are looking to adapt. The current economic market model leaves small-scale traditional farms, typical for the Carpathian region, at a disadvantage. Farming activities such as grazing on high altitude grasslands, are economically no longer feasible. Farmers need technical and financial support for example through agri-environment measures to maintain their activities and to avoid grasslands becoming forests.Given the developments in the Carpathian region (including land abandonment, overgrazing, aging population, and limited budgets for government action), promotion is needed of the countryside as an attractive place to live, work and do business.More concretely the following measures can help farmers and agriculture to adapt to climate change impacts; introduction of agri-environment measures (see also for grasslands); additional facilitating measures,  improving skills and entrepreneurship, processing and marketing at farm or local level (for specific local products) and improved access to markets. Adaptation measures need to target both climate and non-climate factors as both have substantial interlinked impacts on grasslands. Adaptation measures can only be successful when also strengthening the socio-economic resilience of the communities living in the country side and when striving for an economically viable countryside.

Adaptation measures for tourism

In many places the potential for the development of the tourist sector is under-utilized and there is a lack of resilience to cope with change or capitalize on opportunities that exist. In the light of adaptation to climate change, it is advised to base the development of tourism on the specific natural beauty and culture of the Carpathians, whilst limiting the development of mass tourism. This implies that tourism development should be integrated into wider planning to continue to diversify resorts and markets and promote sustainable development. Specific actions include the promotion of year-round, resilient destinations with good accommodations (e. g. wellness and conference hotels), support climate-friendly winter sport projects (e.g. alternative design of ski slopes), and to develop ecotourism, health tourism and active tourism (such as cycling and hiking). In addition, measures are proposed to support the development of tourism information networks in the region involving accommodations, suppliers and tourism organizations. These networks would provide up-to-date information and warnings about conditions relevant for tourism (weather, snow depth, hazards, road and traffic conditions, etc.).


 

 

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