The Necessity to Expand the

Surface of Protected Areas in Romania

Codruța Mihaela Dobrescu1, Anca Turtureanu2, Leonard Magdalin Dorobăț3

Abstract: The protected natural areas are those areas where we find the most representative and valuable elements of the natural heritage (heritage). On the Globe there are a multitude of categories, of ranks of protected areas, from nature monuments, to National Parks and Biosphere Reservations, from areas under one hectare to hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. The EU has in the field of nature protection the European Ecological Network Natura 2000; this network consists of more than 26 000 protected sites covering aprox. 20% of the EU's land area. This is the largest, more complex network of environment protection in the world. It provides protection for endangered European species and habitats and, indirectly, contributes to the prosperity of the countries on whose territory it is implemented, through the ecological services provided. In Romania, at the level of 2018, the total protected areas represent about 23.65% of the total area; compared to other European countries, the area of these protected areas should be increased. But beyond the comparison with other countries, the need to increase the area of protected areas lies in the fact that, in the context of climate change on Earth, the only way in the future to safely address their effects is to protect the environment and to reduce as much as possible the anthropic “footprint”.

Keywords: sustainable development; protected areas; natural capital


Starting from the invention of the steam engines, the entering into the industrial era and especially within the last 50 years, human activities have changed ecosystems much faster and more than in any other comparable period in the history of the Earth, as more than 60% of the world ecosystems are already damaged (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Wilson (1999) considers that we are in the middle of a mass extinction, known by the scientists as the sixth such event in the history of life on Earth and the only one that is caused by a species: ourselves. Human people threaten to have a proportional impact, though slower, to the one of the large asteroid that landed in the western part of Caribbean Islands and destroyed the dinosaurs – and approximately half of the other living forms 65 millions of years ago. Some have even considered that we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropozoic, due to the fact that the human species has a very large power of modifying ecosystems and it makes this thing with an extraordinary speed. Things that nature makes in millions of years are modified by people in days, years.

As a result, few species can adapt, most of them being subjected to stress that can lead, in a short time, to their extinction or to the drastic decrease in their individuals number.

Due to this, at global level, from approximately 20 - 30 years, one has insisted on the creation of protected areas in all states, where biodiversity would be kept, developed, areas which, in time, would even lead to an expanding of the areal of some species that have been extinct from many geographical spaces due to anthropic causes. This is the reason why, on global scale, a series of measures have been made regarding the environmental policies.

Rising the Question Regarding the Creation and Expanding of the Protected Areas at International Level

Nowadays, there are a large number of international instruments which aim at conserving species and/or natural habitats, most of them being bilateral or regional. The internationalization of the movement in favor of expanding protected areas has created numerous opportunities and has modified many practices that were previously known, which have proven to be important for the continuous expansion of the protected areas’ systems (Heinen, 1996).

Amongst the main international regimes that were subjected to the ratification or acceptance of all United Nations’ members, we recall:

While a part of the literature regarding the conservation of biodiversity and the Convention regarding the biological diversity debate on the significance of the ex situ preservation as seed banks, zoo’s, botanical gardens etc, science and a large part of the society admits that the in situ preservation of species – and of the complexes that naturally provide them shelter – is a high more efficient method of preserving biodiversity, even from the perspective of costs. The in situ preservation has the advantage of maintaining the ecologic phenomena intact (or at least partially) and allows the continuation of the evolution game, while the ex situ conservation provides, in the best scenario, a short term tampon.

It is known that natural ecosystems bring significant values to human societies, but there hasn’t been the same recognition of protected areas as institutional mechanisms for the preservation of natural ecosystems (Lopoukhine, 2012).

The literature in the field of preservation biology, a field known since the 1980’s, includes hundreds of well-made studies in problems such as the setting and the placement of reservations, the way of prioritizing the protected areas based on scientific criteria, the optimal dimensions of the reservations, the utility of maintaining the natural corridors for the promotion of gene flows between reservations, the placement and the utilization of tampon areas etc. (Primack, 2006).

There are few global direct comparisons between the investment costs of the built infrastructure and the preservation of natural habitats as protected areas, but some countries already invest in the protection of restoration of habitats as part of the strategies aiming at reducing the disaster risk.

Protected Areas in Romania within the International Context and within the European (EU) Integration

The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines the protected areas as being “an accurately limited, known geographical space, designed and administrated based on some legal documentation or through other efficient means, aiming at the long term preservation of nature as well as of the environmental services and the associated cultural values” (IUCN, 2008).

Romania joined the European Union in 2007. As a result, within the Accession Treaties, engagements were also signed, regarding the environmental protection, obligations that Romania has committed to meet. Though, in time, there have been associated issues, to some chapters that haven’t been respected. The delays in time regarding the engagements made in the Accession Treaty to the EU, regarding the designing of the Natura 2000 sites, are a good example to this extent. The European Commission has officially complained in 2010; according to the complaint, Romania hasn’t adopted the regulating documents for the constitution of protected areas for all the 130 Natura 2000 sites, it has previously committed itself to implement (

Subsequently, things have been somehow corrected; according to the National Agency for Environmental Protection, from the data it issued, resulted that Romania summed up, in 2010, 994 national interest protected natural areas, with a total surface of 1.900.000 hectares (approximately 8% of the territory) (

A problem that still persists is represented by the under-financing of the protected areas, given the fact that within the Prioritized Action Framework for the Natura 2000 Network – document issued by Romania and communicated to the European Commission alongside to the signing of the Partnership Agreement for 2014-2020, the costs associated to the management of the sites included in the network were estimated at minimum 412 mil. EUR per year (

Protected sites as special areas of conservation have been designed base on the Directive regarding the habitats; the designing of other sites as special preservation areas was made according to the Directive regarding the birds. All these represent an essential stage in meeting the directive’s objectives. The results stipulated by article 17 from the Directive regarding the habitats and the reports stipulated in article 12 from the Directive regarding the birds, as well as the progress made towards the adequate designation of the community significant sites, both on land and on water, should represent key elements for the evaluation of the member states’ performance ( By the end of 2015, 22.56% of the total land surface of Romania had been included in the Natura 2000 network (the EU average is 18.1%) with special preservation areas according to the Directive regarding birds that covers 14.83% (with the European average of 12.3%) and community significant sites according to the Directive regarding habitats which covers 16.68% ( EU average of 13.8%); there were 539 Natura 2000 sites in Romania, including 9 marine sites (

Within the National Territorial Development Strategy of Romania until 2035 there is an accurate reference to ecologic infrastructure as an efficient mean of adapting to the climate changes and of decreasing the natural risks (

In Romania, in 2018, the total protected areas represent approximately 23.65% of the total surface, which represents a value above the average the Natura 2000 sites covers from the terrestrial surface of the European Union, namely 18%.

The expansion of the protected areas network in Romania is a need that should start from the true awareness of the wealth, variety and unicity of our nature, of Romania’s European significance and more, as one of the countries with the largest biodiversity in Europe, reflected by figure 1.

The requirements for Romania at its adherence to the European Union and the international agreements assumed based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) needs an optimal approach on the short, medium and long term climate change, and correlated to the objectives of the sustainable development strategy of the European Union, Romania should extend its network of protected areas and optimize their management, admitting the value of the ecosystems’ services.

Recently (July 2019), the European Commission introduced the infringement procedure on Romania for very poor results regarding the monitoring of the air quality. One of the proposals is the one of urgently expanding the protected natural areas in order to reduce pollution (

Figure 1. The Natural Capital of Romania


Considering that Romania has a large biodiversity, maybe the largest at the European level and it also has a wide natural capital that must be preserved (Turtureanu 2018a), also considering the ecologic services provided to the socio-economic system by various ecosystem (Turtureanu, 2018), the fact that climate changes lead more and more frequently to serious, disastrous ecologic and economic effects, it is only by expanding the protected areas and an accurate management of them that will provide Romania with a long term economic and social prosperity, according to the concept of sustainable development.

Thus, the international movement for the preservation of protected areas will grow in time. As the planet becomes more and more crowded, it will remain the main biodiversity preservation modality and, in the end, of ourselves (Lopoukhine, 2012).


The expanding of the number and surface of protected areas in Romania is not just an ecologic significant objective.

The expanding of the protected areas’ surface represents a way through which the quality of the living standards in Romania might grow; from the ethical perspective, the increase of the number and surface of the protected areas represents a way through which sustainable development can be reached on long term, a biologic heritage can be given to future generations, a natural capital that is a benefit of present generations.

The expanding of protected areas is part of an intelligent management of the natural capital and in fact represents and adaptation to the climate changes and the human pressure in the future.

Not the least, the expansion of protected areas represents an obligation assumed by Romania, through various agreements, as an EU member or other international organisms; Romania’s environmental policies must meet these obligations and they represent the single way through which eventual sanctions can be avoided.


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1 Senior Lecturer, PhD, University of Pitesti, Faculty of Science, Physical Education and Informatics, Romania, Address: Str. Targu din Vale 1, Pitesti, Arges, Romania, Tel./Fax: +4 0348453260,: E-mail:

2 Professor, PhD, Danubius University of Galati, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Romania. Address: 3 Galati Blvd, Galati 800654, Romania. Tel.: +40372 361 102, fax: +40372 361 290. Corresponding author:

3 Senior Lecturer, PhD, University of Pitesti, Faculty of Science, Physical Education and Informatics, Romania, Address: Str. Targu din Vale 1, Pitesti, Arges, Romania, Tel./Fax: +4 0348453260, E-mail: coltanabe