, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 480–489 | Cite as

Environmental determinants of the old oaks in wood-pastures from a changing traditional social–ecological system of Romania

  • Cosmin Ioan Moga
  • Ciprian Samoilă
  • Kinga Öllerer
  • Raluca I. Băncilă
  • Kinga-Olga Réti
  • Cristina Craioveanu
  • Szilárd Poszet
  • László Rákosy
  • Tibor HartelEmail author


Large, old trees are keystone ecological structures, their decline having disproportional ecological consequences. There is virtually no information available regarding the status and occurrence of old trees in traditional cultural landscapes from Eastern Europe. In this study, we explore the environmental determinants of the old oaks found in wood-pastures from a changing traditional rural landscape from Central Romania. Both the old oaks and the wood-pastures harboring them have exceptional cultural, historical, and ecological values, yet are vulnerable to land-use change. We surveyed 41 wood-pastures from Southern Transylvania and counted the old oaks in them. We then related the number of old oaks from these wood-pastures to a set of local and landscape level variables related to wood-pastures. We found 490 old oaks in 25 wood-pastures. The number of old oaks was positively related to the size of the wood-pasture and the amount of pasture and forest around it (500 m buffer), and negatively related to the proximity of the village. Furthermore, we found a significant interaction between the effects of sheepfolds in the wood-pasture and the size of the wood-pasture on the number of old trees, indicating a negative influence of sheepfolds on the number of old trees in smaller sized wood-pastures. There is an increasing risk for losing old trees in the traditional cultural landscapes due to the lack of formal recognition of these trees. Therefore, while presenting the positive example of local initiatives and citizen science, we argue for an urgent development and implementation of conservation policies along with education strategies targeting the old trees and rural communities from the changing traditional cultural landscapes of Eastern Europe.


Old trees Large trees Rural landscape Wood-pasture Conservation Romania Transylvania Citizen involvement 



The field research for this study was partly supported by the Mihai Eminescu Trust through the project ‘Conservation of wood-pastures with ancient oaks through the involvement of local communities’ funded by a Financiar Mechanism of the European Economic Area (EEA) grant (2009–2010). The research of TH was supported by an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship (2012–2013). We are grateful for Andra Pop, Árpád Szapanyos, Luminiţa Holban, Lucian Holban, Minodora Holban, Alexandru Goţa, Kuno Martini and Denise Bobeş for their dedication in inventorying ancient trees in the Saxon region of Transylvania. This research has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. 613520 (Project AGFORWARD), through TH and LR.


  1. Andersson, R., and L. Östlund. 2004. Spatial patterns, density changes and management implications for old trees in the boreal landscape of northern Sweden. Biological Conservation 118: 443–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Babst, F., M.R. Alexander, P. Szejner, O. Bouriaud, S. Klesse, J. Roden, P. Ciais, B. Poulter, D. Frank, D.J.P. Moore, and V. Trouet. 2014. A tree-ring perspective on the terrestrial carbon cycle. Oecologia 30: 307–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bergmeier, E., J. Petermann, and E. Schröder. 2010. Geobotanical survey of wood-pasture habitats in Europe: Diversity, threats and conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 2995–3014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berry, W.D., and S. Feldman. 1985. multiple regression in practice. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Blicharska, M., and G. Mikusiński. 2014. Incorporating social and cultural significance of large old trees in conservation policy. Conservation Biology 28: 1558–1567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Butler, J. 2014. Mapping ancient and other trees of special interest: UK citizens’ contribution to world tree heritage. In European wood-pastures in transition: A social-ecological approach, ed. T. Hartel, and T. Plieninger, 203–216. Earthscan: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Cockle, K.L., K. Martin, and G. Robledo. 2012. Linking fungi, trees, and hole-using birds in a Neotropical tree-cavity network: Pathways of cavity production and implications for conservation. Forest Ecology and Management 264: 210–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Donita, N. A., A. Popescu, M. Comanescu-Pauca, S. Mihailescu, and I. A. Biris. 2005. Habitats of Romania. Ed. Tehnica Silvica Bucuresti (in Romanian).Google Scholar
  9. Dorner, B. 1910. The agriculture of Transylvanian Saxons. Győr, Hungary (in Hungarian).Google Scholar
  10. Dorresteijn, I., T. Hartel, J. Hanspach, H. von Wehrden, and J. Fischer. 2013. The conservation value of traditional rural landscapes: The case of woodpeckers in Transylvania, Romania. PLoS ONE 8: e65236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dorresteijn, I., J. Hanspach, A. Kecskés, H. Latková, Zs. Mezey, Sz. Sugár, H. von Wehrden, and J. Fischer. 2014. Human-carnivore coexistence in a traditional rural landscape. Landscape Ecology 29: 1145–1155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dorresteijn, I., L. Teixeira, H. von Wehrden, J. Loos, J. Hanspach, J.A.R. Stein, and J. Fischer. 2015. Impact of land cover homogenization on the Corncrake (Crex crex) in traditional farmland. Landscape Ecology 30: 1483–1495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Faison, E.K. 2014. Large old tree declines at broad scales: A more complicated story. Conservation Letters 7: 70–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Falk, S. 2014. Wood-pastures as reservoirs for invertebrates. In European wood-pastures in transition: a social-ecological approach, ed. T. Hartel, and T. Plieninger, 132–144. Earthscan: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Ficetola, G.F., E. Padoa-Schioppa, and F. de Bernardi. 2009. Influence of landscape elements in riparian buffers on the conservation of semiaquatic amphibians. Conservation Biology 23: 114–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grüebler, M.U., S. Schaller, H. Keil, and B. Naef-Daenzer. 2013. The occurrence of cavities in fruit trees: Effects of tree age and management on biodiversity in traditional European orchards. Biodiversity and Conservation 22: 3233–3246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gündisch, K. 1998. Transylvania and theTransylvanian Saxons. Studienbuchreihe der Stiftung Ostdeutscher Kulturrat 8, Munich.
  18. Hartel, T., I. Dorresteijn, C. Klein, O. Máthé, C.I. Moga, K. Öllerer, M. Roellig, H. von Wehrden, and J. Fischer. 2013. Wood-pastures in a traditional rural region of Eastern Europe: Characteristics, management and status. Biological Conservation 166: 267–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hartel, T., J. Fischer, C. Câmpeanu, A.I. Milcu, J. Hanspach, and I. Fazey. 2014a. The importance of ecosystem services for rural inhabitants in a changing cultural landscape in Romania. Ecology and Society 19: 42. doi: 10.5751/ES-06333-190242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hartel, T., J. Hanspach, D.J. Abson, O. Máthé, C.I. Moga, and J. Fischer. 2014b. Bird communities in traditional wood-pastures with changing management in Eastern Europe. Basic and Applied Ecology 15: 385–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hartel, T., and C. Moga. 2010. Good-practice guidebook for the management of wood-pasture habitats with veteran trees. Sighisoara: Mihai Eminescu Trust (in Romanian).Google Scholar
  22. Hartel, T., and T. Plieninger (eds.). 2014. European wood-pastures in transition—a social-ecological approach. Earthscan: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Hartel, T., O. Schweiger, K. Öllerer, D. Cogălniceanu, and J.W. Arntzen. 2010. Amphibian distribution in a traditionally managed rural landscape of Eastern Europe: Probing the effect of landscape composition. Biological Conservation 143: 1118–1124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hartel, T., and H. von Wehrden. 2013. Farmed areas predict the distribution of amphibian ponds in a traditional rural landscape. PLoS ONE 8: e63649. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jackman, S., A. Tahk, A. Zeiles, C. Maimone, J. Fearon. 2011. Package ‘pscl’ (October 21, 2011).
  26. Jørgensen, D., and P. Quelch. 2014. The origins and history of medieval wood-pastures. In European wood-pastures in transition: A social-ecological approach, ed. T. Hartel, and T. Plieninger, 254–270. Earthscan: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Kirby, K. 2015. What might a sustainable population of trees in wood-pasture sites look like? Hacqueita 14: 43–52.Google Scholar
  28. Kirby, K., and S. Perry. 2014. Institutional arrangements of wood-pasture management: Past and present in the UK. In European wood-pastures in transition: A social-ecological approach, ed. T. Hartel, and T. Plieninger, 55–69. Earthscan: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Lonsdale, D. (ed.). 2013. Ancient and other veteran trees: Further guidance on management. London: The Tree Council.Google Scholar
  30. Loos, J., I. Dorresteijn, J. Hanspach, P. Fust, L. Rakosy, and J. Fischer. 2014. Low-intensity agricultural landscapes in Transylvania support high butterfly diversity: Implications for conservation. PLoS ONE 9: e103256. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Loos, J., P.D. Turtureanu, H. von Wehrden, J. Hanspach, I. Dorresteijn, J.P. Frink, and J. Fischer. 2015. Plant diversity in a changing agricultural landscape mosaic in Southern Transylvania (Romania). Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 199: 350–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lindenmayer, D.B., S.C. Banks, W.F. Laurance, J.F. Franklin, and G.E. Likens. 2014. Broad decline of populations of large old trees. Conservation Letters 7: 72–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Manning, A.D., J. Fischer, and D.B. Lindenmayer. 2006. Scattered trees are keystone structures—Implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 132: 311–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Manning, A.D., P. Gibbons, and D.B. Lindenmayer. 2009. Scattered trees: A complementary strategy for facilitating adaptive responses to climate change in modified landscapes? Journal of Applied Ecology 46: 915–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mazerolle, M.J. 2006. Improving data analysis in herpetology: Using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC) to assess the strength of biological hypotheses. Amphibia-Reptilia 27: 169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mikulcak, F., J. Newig, A.I. Milcu, T. Hartel, and J. Fischer. 2013. Integrating rural development and biodiversity conservation in Central Romania. Environmental Conservation 40: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Müller, J., A. Jarzabek-Müller, H. Bussler, and M.M. Gossner. 2014. Hollow beech trees identified as keystone structures for saproxylic beetles by analyses of functional and phylogenetic diversity. Animal Conservation 17: 154–162. doi: 10.1111/acv.12075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Orłowski, G., and L. Nowak. 2007. The importance of marginal habitats for the conservation of old trees in agricultural landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 79: 77–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Oroszi, S. 2004. The forest management of Transylvanian Saxons. Erdészettörténeti közlemények 63: 1–153 (in Hungarian).Google Scholar
  40. Öllerer, K. 2013. The vegetation of the Breite woodpasture (Sighişoara, Romania)—History, current status and prospects. Brukenthal Acta Musei 8: 547–566.Google Scholar
  41. Öllerer, K. 2014. The ground vegetation management of wood-pastures in Romania-Insights in the past for conservation management in the future. Applied Ecology and Environmental Research 12: 549–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Plieninger, T., T. Hartel, B. Marin-Lopez, G. Beaufoy, K. Kirby, M.J. Montero, G. Moreno, E. Oteros-Rozas, and J. Van Uytvanck. 2015. Wood-pastures of Europe: Geographic coverage, social-ecological values, conservation management, and policy. Biological Conservation 190: 70–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. R Core Team 2014. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  44. Rackham, O. 1986. The history of the countryside. London: Phoenix.Google Scholar
  45. Ranius, T., M. Niklasson, and N. Berg. 2009. Development of tree hollows in pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). Forest Ecology and Management 257: 303–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Read, H. 2000. Veteran trees—A guide to good management. English Nature.Google Scholar
  47. Roellig, M., I. Dorresteijn, H. von Wehrden, T. Hartel, and J. Fischer. 2014. Brown bear activity in traditional wood-pastures in Southern Transylvania, Romania. Ursus 25: 43–52. doi: 10.2192/URSUS-D-13-00007.1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sherren, K., H.J. Yoon, H. Clayton, and J. Schirmer. 2012. Do Australian graziers have an offset mindset about their farm trees? Biodiversity and Conservation 21: 363–383. doi: 10.1007/s10531-011-0187-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Szívós, B. 1904. Giant and uncommon shaped trees. In The miracles of nature, 1–27. Franklin-Társulat, Magyar Irod. Intézet és Könyvnyomda, Budapest (in Hungarian).Google Scholar
  50. Vera, F. 2000. Grazing ecology and forest history. Oxon: CABI Publising.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zuur, A., E.N. Ieno, N. Walker, A.A. Saveliev, and G.M. Smith. 2009. Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cosmin Ioan Moga
    • 1
  • Ciprian Samoilă
    • 2
  • Kinga Öllerer
    • 3
  • Raluca I. Băncilă
    • 2
    • 4
  • Kinga-Olga Réti
    • 5
  • Cristina Craioveanu
    • 6
  • Szilárd Poszet
    • 7
  • László Rákosy
    • 6
  • Tibor Hartel
    • 7
    Email author
  1. 1.Ecotransilvania AssociationSighisoaraRomania
  2. 2.Faculty of Natural SciencesUniversity Ovidius ConstanţaConstanţaRomania
  3. 3.Institute of BiologyRomanian AcademyBucharestRomania
  4. 4.“Emil Racoviţă” Institute of Speleology of Romanian AcademyBucharestRomania
  5. 5.Faculty of Environmental Science and EngineeringBabes-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  6. 6.Department of Taxonomy and Ecology, Faculty of Biology and GeologyBabes-Bolyai UniversityCluj NapocaRomania
  7. 7.Environmental Science DepartmentSapientia Hungarian University of TransylvaniaCluj-NapocaRomania

Personalised recommendations