NAME OF PROJECT
Conservation of European Pond Turtle in Transilvania, Romania: Guideline for monitoring and manadgement of small European Pond Turtle populations and its habitats
PROJECT BACKGROUND, PROBLEM STATEMENT
Due to intensive agriculture and industrial activities the habitats of European Pond Turtle (Emys become fragmented in all European country. Habitat fragmentation causes increased distances between sub- or neighbouring populations. With reduced individual respectively genetic exchange and increased isolation the viability of those populations distinctly decreases. At the same time the loss of suitable habitats minimizes the size of populations. Safeguarding of existent small and and isolated population could serve as source population for later repopulation of the areas where the species disappeared as consequence of strong human pressure. Starting of concrete protection it is inappropriate without evaluating the current status of these populations. A common methodology would provide a more exact overview of the status of this species. Starting the inventory of the recently reconfirmed small European Pond Turtle population on Middle Olt River, near Avrig locality (Sibiu county) will serve as pilot study for development of a monitoring protocol for the small European Pond Turtle populations and for writing a primary management plan for its habitats. Collaboration with local community will rise the public awareness and also will provide new data about new turtle habitats.
Turtles have so far survived many millions of years as part of nature, but now are threatened because of a number of factors related to our modern way of living. Habitat fragmentation and isolation populations contribute to an alarming loss of viability in turtle populations, thus in European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis), affecting their demographic as well as genetic nature. From that reason the European Pond Turtle are listed in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive, which encourages member states and accession countries to restore the species to a favourable conservation status across the EU. The known Romanian intra-carpathian distribution of European Pond Turtle is based only on scarce data. Recent comprehensive herpetofaunistic treatments of Transylvania (thus completed with the extra-carpathian areas of the region) consider the European Pond Turtle rare in this part of the country. From a total of 1046 investigated localities belonging to 14 counties the presence of European Pond Turtle was proven for only 187. These dates are based mostly on sighting of several specimens belonging to the same populations (in most cases less than 5), thus as first conclusion is that these are small populations. The effective population size should be at least 500 adults on long term and 50 adults on the short term to be considered a viable population, in conclusion the observed populations are more than endangered. The recent reconfirmed turtle population in the Middle Olt area (Avrig, Sibiu County) shows the similar features as a small isolated population. The population mostly live in a dead branch of the Olt river, which is transformed and used as fish ponds, although specimens could be encountered in neighbour wet areas also. The evaluation of current status of this population is a prioritary activity in safeguarding its future with concrete protection activities. In order to ensure that the protection and management activities for European Pond Turtle are planned in the most effective way, fieldwork is essential. The identification of habitat use pattern of different turtle specimens for different purposes as basking, foraging, nesting, etc., could give us appropriate information of size of required habitat, and even the history of the population could be discovered answering the question: why this population survived in this geographical zone? The dates of pond types, physical properties of the ponds (water surface area, maximum depth and mean depth area, etc.), will provide information in description of suitable habitat types for this species also, which will be the guideline in reconstruction of historical habitats in region, and not just. These results also will complete the dates which are used for designation of the area as part of Natura 2000 network. The prove and inventory of presence of viable European Pond Turtle populations in other intra-carpathian areas is another goal of this study.
Good monitoring methods are essential for estimating the effects of conservation work, a common methodology used in separate protected areas will gain results suitable for comparison, which could serve in the development of an action plan for species not only in regional, thus in national scale. The used methods and results, side by side with the description and the ecology of the species, and the proposed management activities will be presented in a booklet.
European Pond Turtle is threatened by taking away individuals from small and often isolated populations for keeping them at home. After keeping at home turtles can be released in unsuitable habitats e.g. big lakes and/ or far away from their home population. Especially, catching of reproductive individuals can impair the reproduction success and the viability of very small populations. Another target of the project is the popularization, mainly in schools, of the negative effect of this kind of persecution on turtles, activities which increase the public knowledge and engagement in the protection of the species.
Custodian authorities of protected areas (gouvernment, NGO's, etc.)
EXPECTED CONTRIBUTION TO NATURE CONSERVATION
Elaborating and employing common monitoring methods for European Pond Turtle would facilitate the comparison of monitoring results gained in different protected areas and the achievement of the necessary analyses.
The favourable status of local European Pond Turtle will be increased in the study area, as the are is proposed to be part of Natura 2000 network mostly for the presence of this species.
Middle Olt section, Avrig locality, Sibiu County, Romania
To evaluate the current status and monitoring of European Pond Turtle populations on the Middle Olt section.
To develop, write and print a guideline for monitoring and management of small European Pond Turtle populations and its habitats, which highlight the future activities which could secure the long-term viability of the populations in that area and also in other Romanian areas.
To inventory of European Pond Turtle population in intra-carpathian region of Transylvania.
To rise awareness of the local population.