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Biodiversity and Nature ProtectionProject - BIOTOWNS Project - HURO/0901/128/1.3.4 Study Summary

                                             Project HURO/0901/128/1.3.4
                                            BIODIVERSITY STUDY SUMMARY
The present material is part of the contract to undergo studies of biodiversity within the BIOTOWNS project, whose beneficiary is the City Hall of Timisoara, in partnership with the City Hall of Szeged, Hungary. The purpose of the project is to identify and inventory biodiversity, especially the indigenous species, in order to elaborate the Strategic plan regarding the preservation and protection of the biodiversity of Timisoara City. BIOTOWNS project has a trans-border character and seeks to identify the problems regarding the preservation of biodiversity of the partner cities, Timisoara and Szeged, as well as the development and implementation of similar measures to preserve the most representative or rarest species of the local flora and fauna.
Within the biodiversity assessment contract all groups of vertebrates, invertebrates and flora present on the territory of Timisoara City are considered, and in detail the most interesting species identified in this study.
The study was performed in 15 different areas, comprising various biotopes and habitats, with a large variety of species, native species, protected species, rare species, with significant importance to biodiversity preservation, as well as allergen species, invasive species, with impact on human and ecosystem health. Also, assessing the biodiversity of the areas considered in this study was aimed the underlying of some proposals to establish ecological corridors in Timisoara City, by which the moving and establishment of a large species variety in as many green spaces as possible be permitted.
The 15 areas were individually described regarding the habitat conditions, environmental conditions, and the anthropic impact in the respective area. The preservation status of the diverse taxonomic groups identified on the studied territories was assessed and proposals were elaborated, both for the improvement of the general conditions of biotope and habitat, and specifically for the identified taxonomic groups.
Description of the studied areas:

The Botanical Park (Parcul Botanic)

The Botanical Park is situated in the center of Timisoara, having an area of about 8.1 ha. It has mainly a didactic and recreational function due to its great number of exotic species cultivated here, but it also has an educational and recreational function.
The park comprises different landscapes, such as arboreta, a few species of coppice, as well as meadows and parterres.
The green areas and meadows are taken care of throughout the year, the vegetation being constantly mowed. Just in the vicinity of the bushes the vegetation is not so intensely mowed and taller weed species establish here. The hydric regime of the grassy areas is provided by precipitations, and irregularly and of small importance by the administration of the park by irrigation. The irrigated areas are usually those close to the parterres. The meadow has a wetter character at the connecting points of the irrigation system to the running water system of the city, points where temporary pools form, partially or fully covered with vegetation.
Parterres are permanently subjected to the intervention of the gardeners to provide optimal conditions for the flora cultivated here. The area is permanently digged and delved, and weeded out, having a presentable aspect, thus limiting the occurrence of weed species. These areas are also frequently irrigated to provide a hydric regime suitable for the ornamental species.
In the Botanical Park are present few bushes formed of exotic, ornamental species and indigenous species, preserved mainly in the coppice. These bushes provide micro-habitats suitable for the establishment of weed species or other native plant species, as well as shelter for birds, especially Passeriformes, reptiles and insects.


The Cathedral Park (Parcul Catedralei)

The Cathedral Park has an area of about 3.7 ha, located on the right bank of Bega River, in the center of Timisoara City. The park encircles the Orthodox Cathedral, situated mostly between the cathedral and the Bega river bank. It has a relatively triangular shape, in one of its corners being the cathedral and in the other two the Traian Bridge and the Saguna Metropolitan Bridge. Two of the sides are bordered by important boulevards leading to the center of the city, and the third one is delimited by the Bega Canal.
The Park is mainly occupied by trees, with a relatively compact canopy. The presence of some impressive London planes – Platanus acerifolia, black poplar – Populus nigra and some European yew – Taxus baccata or the European larch – Larix decidua is noticed. The coppice is poorly represented. The herbaceous vegetation is relatively poor, because of the rich canopy and the excessive quantity of excrements from the numerous populations of rooks – Corvus frugilegus, and pigeons – Columba livia domestica, that constantly use the trees canopy in this park. The herbaceous vegetation is maintained as lawn.
Because of its unsuitable location, with important physical barriers for the movement of the terrestrial species, correlated with a less offering habitat, there were identified few representatives of little varied taxonomic groups.

The Civic Park (Parcul Civic)

The Civic Park is surrounded by buildings part of the old town center of the city, in the north and west and by a residential area with administrative offices in east and south.
The Park is mainly covered with trees, few bushes and herbaceous vegetation well maintained as lawn. The meadows, as lawn, occupy the spaces between the trees. In a few areas, especially in the two parcels of the park, the trees form a compact and shady canopy. There are a few bushes, with reduced covering, with some weed species at their base, richer and taller vegetation.
The herbaceous vegetation is permanently maintained by repeated mowing. Periodical irrigation of the area is also provided.
On the park’s territory there were noticed numerous rodenticide traps which may determine the poisoning of amphibians, reptiles, birds and other species moving around them, especially in the wet periods.
A factor with a highly negative impact is represented by the isolation of the park from other green spaces, especially because of the high auto traffic.

Lidia Park (Parcul Lidia)

Lidia Park is less maintained landscape-wise compared to the previous parks. There are areas occupied by trees, bushes and meadows. The tree canopy occupies approximately half of the park’s surface, the rest being occupied by the herbaceous vegetation.
Even though the park has no other green spaces in its vicinity, the presence of gardens around the houses from its proximity confers it connectivity to the extra-urban space.
The herbaceous vegetation is maintained, but not so frequently and is not irrigated, the hydric regime being provided by precipitations.
The threat for species preservation are represented precisely by the lack of an aquatic reservoir, a pool, which should provide the existence of a suitable humidity factor, as well as the reduction of the trophic factor and the habitat conditions needed, cvasi-natural herbaceous vegetation and bushes.

The People’s Park (Parcul Poporului)

The People’s Park is situated close to the center of Timisoara City, on the Bega Canal bank. It occupies a surface of 3.85 ha.
On the park’s area, there are indigenous tree species, with a few numbers of secular oaks, bald cypress, ash and other indigenous and exotic species. The coppice is poorly represented. The canopy occupies about 60% of the park’s surface, the rest being meadows as lawn. Even under the canopy the herbaceous vegetation is well represented, maintained by frequent mowing.
The entire surface of the park is abundantly irrigated by automatic systems, providing a favorable hydric regime.
Even though the hydric factor has a good quality in this park, few species were identified on its surface. This situation is due most probably to the limitation imposed by the lack of other two factors: proper habitat for life/reproduction and food. The permanent maintenance of the lawn determines the substantial reduction of both factors above mentioned. Insects cannot thrive on the permanently maintained lawn and thus the insectivore species cannot find food. Also, the lawn maintenance determines the reduction of the surfaces used for shelters, refuge, feeding etc.

The Bega Canal Banks, including the Bega Canal

The evaluated surface of the Bega Canal within the city limits is of approx. 84.66 ha, on a distance of approx. 12.76 km. the evaluated surface is within the dams bordering it, up to the top of the dams, on both sides of the river.
Even though it represents a natural stream, as the name shows, it has today the characteristics of a canal, water flow controlled by dam, stabilized banks by concrete slabs and most of its bottom covered with stone.
Regarding its ecologic characteristics and suitability for species from different taxonomic groups, the sector of Bega Canal within Timisoara was divided into three segments, individually studied and assessed.

The Small Pond (Balta Lacului)

The small pond represents the smallest studied area within the BIOTOWNS project – Timisoara, with a surface of only 0.45 ha. It is located in the south-western part of the city, in the middle of a house neighborhood. In the center of the pond, there is a peninsula having a terrace bar.
About two thirds of the pond is covered with reeds and other aquatic plants. On the shores of the pond, there are trees, willows, acacias, honey locusts. Water mass is occupied by submerged plant species, Ceratophyllum sp.

The Green Forest – The Zoo (Trup Pădurea Verde – Parc Zoo)

This area represents the second largest area studied within the BIOTOWNS project – Timisoara, of around 64.55 ha. It mainly occupied by surfaces belonging to three parcels of the Green Forest, administrated in accordance with the sylvan regime. The rest of the surface is occupied by the Zoo, formed by its surroundings, trees with bushes, alleys, pools. The area is covered with mixed arboretum, mostly characteristic to plains, especially water meadows. The presence of some species is also influenced by the fact that the Behela Canal flows through the area, thus encountering species with higher demands regarding the hydric factor.
The Green Forest is located in the west - north-western part of the city of Timisoara, and even though it is considered a forest with recreational purpose, it is administrated with sylvan regime. There are many paths and the entire area is visited by numerous locals.
The Behela Canal is a permanent stream, even though variable, therefore having a characteristic, aquatic vegetation.

The Cometei Street – The Behela Canal

This study area is situated in the continuation of the Green Forest – Zoo area and has a surface of about 2.7 ha. Actually, the Behela Canal connects the Green Forest to the Bega Canal, and vice-versa, providing the connectivity for a series of species in the entire area.
The surface of this area is occupied by the Behela Canal itself, compactly framed by trees and bushes, shadowing it almost completely, as well as the gardens of the locals having their house in Cometei Street.
The threats for this surface may be represented by the use of fertilizers or pesticides by locals in their gardens, with negative effect mostly on amphibians, the cutting of trees and shrubs bordering the canal, the reduction of water volume, and drying of the canal.


The Forest Screen of Timisoara (Perdeaua forestieră de protecție)

It is situated in the northern part of the city with an area of 19.75 ha. It has a maximum width of 80 m and minimal width of 20 m. The width of the forest screen thins from west to east. It spreads from the railways, Ronat area, to Calea Aradului, crossing Calea Torontalului, the street leading to Sannicolaul Mare, respectively.
The forest screen, as it is at present, is a plantation of various tree and shrub species, mostly exotic.
It is important the presence of a canal (collector, draining), transporting water with temporary character, maintaining on a segment water for a longer period during the year (towards Calea Aradului). The presence of water makes possible the presence of some species with higher demands for the hydric factor.
The potential threats for the forest screen are the lack of consolidation of the arboretum and the possibility of its disappearance in time if not providing conditions for the development of the planted trees, the excessive grazing in the vicinity of the forest screen, the cutting of trees by nomads erecting shelters on the perimeter of the forest screen, the complete disappearance of canal water which would lead to the loss of hygrophilic species.

The Jewish Cemetery – The Paupers’ Cemetery (Cimitirul Evreisc – Cimitirul Săracilor)

The perimeter Jewish Cemetery – Paupers’ Cemetery is somehow atypical compared to the other studied areas, because it has both advantageous and disadvantageous characteristics for biodiversity. It has a surface of 9.15 ha and is located in the northern part of the city.
One of the disadvantageous characteristics towards biodiversity is represented by the continuous fencing, with a wall, on three of its four sides. The positive aspects are represented by the limited access of the locals, providing quietness to the inhabitant creatures. Also, the fact that vegetation is not maintained on most of the area provides suitable conditions to many species.
Even though it is an anthropized habitat with many built surfaces (tombs of cement and stone), it can be assimilated to a habitat of rocks with herbaceous vegetation and bushes. There are few trees present. In the unused area of the cemetery, there is dense bushy vegetation.

The Astronomic Observatory

It is a space framed by a residential area, in the central-southern part of Timisoara, with a surface of 1.5 ha.
The area is fenced and little accessed from the exterior by locals. The surface is occupied by an arboretum formed of varied species, with an appreciable age. A tiny surface is occupied by meadow. The canopy covers almost 100% of the green space, except the meadow and a small opening.

The CFR Railway

The CFR railway, between Calea Circumvalatiunii and Enric Baader Street, has a surface of about 10 ha. It demarcates the old town center to north, as the Bega Canal delimits it at south.
The bank crest was rehabilitated during last year, thus showing no vegetation. There is an exception, the segment towards Gara de Nord, covered still with herbaceous vegetation, as meadow. The bank escarpments are mainly covered with luxurious vegetation, formed of trees, shrubs and volubilate plants. The herbaceous species are poorly represented.
This area could be of interest for the preservation of biodiversity with the condition to satisfy three requirements: get rid of the homeless who multiplied in the area and built shelters, thus bringing much waste materials and making a rich net of paths; providing the connection to other areas where herpetofauna is represented; providing water sources.

Apartment Buildings Complex in Gheorghe Lazar Street

The apartment buildings in the vicinity of Gh. Lazar Str. represent a special space, with rich tree vegetation, making an almost compact canopy on its entire surface. The surface of 5.4 ha is covered with trees, shrubs and small herbaceous vegetation, here and there poorly represented.
The most important limitative factor form this area is represented by the lack of water sources. Also, there is poor connectivity to other regions where herpetofauna is present.  An interesting factor is the presence of a great number of cats, which can at least influence the population of reptiles, hunting them.

The Residential Complex Dambovita

The residential complex chosen in the vicinity of the Dambovita Boulevard is different than that in Gh. Lazar Str., generally comprising houses and a smaller number of apartment buildings. It has a surface of 17.7 ha, and is situated in the south-western part of the city. The demarcated area is bordered by a series of broad and busy boulevards limiting the access of species in this perimeter.
Most houses have land fit for recreation and gardening. The apartment buildings are generally surrounded by relatively large green spaces.
Main threats to the quality of the habitats are: the lack of connectivity, reduced water sources, the use of land for recreation (lawn in the court-yards), the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the gardens.
 In the studied perimeters were identified species belonging to the following taxonomic groups:

Plants: our study led to the identification of 452 species of cormophytes, of which 289 herbaceous species and 163 woody species (trees, shrubs, lianas). From the floristic and vegetation perspective, Timisoara has relatively high specific floristic diversity, with numerous allogenic elements, alongside which (especially in the peripheral areas) many species and phytocenoses characteristic to sylvo-steppe persist.

Among the representatives are: Anchusa officinalis– common bugloss, Artemisia vulgaris – wormwood,Bellis perennis – lawn daisy,Bidens tripartita – Three-lobe Beggarticks,Clematis integrifolia – clematis, Cornus mas – European cornel,Cotinus coggygria – smoketree, Dipsacus laciniatus – cutleaf teasel, Eupatorium cannabinum – hemp agrimony,Fraxinus excelsior – ash,Geranium robertianum –Herb Robert,Humulus lupulus – common hop,Impatiens balsamina – garden balsam,Taxus baccata– yew, Typha latifolia - bulrush, Ulmus minor – field elm, Verbascum phlomoides– orange mullein, Vitis vinifera – grape vine.

Invertebrates: there were identified 148 species of invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic, belonging to a number of 100 genera and over 45 families.

Among the representatives we mention: Theridion cinereum Thorell 1875, species found within this study for the first time in the Romanian fauna, Araneus diadematus, Achaeranea lunata, Synema globosum, Philodromus collinus, Oryctes nasicornis – European rhinoceros beetle, Melolontha melolontha - chafer beetle, Cetonia aurata – the rose chafer, Coccinella septempunctata– ladybug, Vespula germanica– wasp, Vespa crabro– the European hornet, Mantis religiosa – praying mantis, Gerris lacustris, Hydrometra stagnorum, Gammarus pulexAnodonta cygnea.

Ichtyofauna (fish): fish species were assessed in two different perimeters, the Bega Canal and the Small Pond. In the Bega Canal, there were 23 fish species identified and in the Small Pond 10 fish species.

Among the representatives are: Esox lucius- northern pike, Aspius aspius – asp, Barbus barbus – barbel, Carassius gibelio – carp, Pseudorasbora parva – stone moroko, Leuciscus cephalus – European chub, Scardinus erythrophthalmus – rudd, Tinca tinca – tench, Sabanejewia bulgarica – Bulgarian golden loach, Silurus glanis – sheatfish.

Amphibians: there were identified 9 species, belonging to 5 different genera; 8 species of anurans (batrachians) and one species of urodela (salamander).

Among the representatives: Rana ridibunda (Pelophylax ridibundus) – marsh frog, Rana esculenta (Pelophylax esculentus) – edible frog, Rana temporaria – common frog, Rana dalmatina – agile frog, Bufo bufo – common toad, Bufo viridis – green toad, Pelobates fuscus – garlic toad, Hyla arborea – European tree frog, Triturus cristatus – great crested newt.

Reptiles: there were identified 7 species belonging to 5 different genera: 3 saurians (lizards), 3 ophidians (snakes) and one chelonian (turtle).

Among the representatives: Lacerta agilis – sand lizard, Lacerta viridis – European green lizard, Anguis fragilis – slow worm, Natrix natrix – grass snake, Natrix tessellata – dice snake, Coronella austriaca – smooth snake, Emys orbicularis – European pond turtle.

Birds: 105 species were identified, belonging to 36 different families.

Representatives: Accipiter gentilis – northern goshawk, Falco tinnunculus – common kestrel, Asio flammeus – short-eared owl, Ciconia ciconia – white stork, Cuculus canorus – common cuckoo, Bucephala clangula – common goldeneye, Upupa epops – hoopoe, Dendrocopos medius – middle spotted woodpecker, Hirundo rustica – barn swallow, Lanius excubitor – great grey shrike, Turdus merula – common blackbird, Fringilla coelebs – chaffinch.

Mammals: 12 species of micro-mammals were identified, 6 species of insectivores,  and 6 species of rodents: Talpa europaea – European mole, Sorex araneus – common shrew, Sorex minutus – Eurasian pygmy shrew, Crocidura leucodon – bicolored shrew, Crocidura suaveolens – lesser white-toothed shrew, Microtus arvalis – common vole, Apodemus agrarius – striped field mouse, Apodemus flavicollis – yellow-necked mouse, Mus musculus – house mouse, Mus spicilegus – steppe mouse, Rattus norvegicus – common rat. There were also identified 17 species of chiropteran, such as: Eptesicus nilssonii – northern bat, Hypsugo savii – Savi’s Pipistrelle, Myotis alcathoe, Miniopterus schreibersii – the common bent-wing bat, Myotis myotis – greater mouse-eared bat.

For each studied perimeter and for each indentified taxonomic group management measures were proposed and measures to provide a favorable preservation status of these inside the perimeter and on the entire territory of the city of Timisoara.
Some management measures proposed:

Measures with general character

The general perspective in approaching the biodiversity preservation in Timisoara must be that admitted in the case of biodiversity preservation in the (semi)natural environment: approaching it at landscape level by considering connectivity (key areas connected by ecological corridors). From this point of view, all parks and semi-natural suburban ecosystems must be maintained.

Due to the fact that the present study was done based on sampling and not extensive study of the entire metropolitan area, its addition/extension is necessary and will bring useful information especially in indentifying the most suitable ecological corridors.

- Directing the preservation efforts towards those areas with great ecological value: Green Forest, all the city’s parks with medium and tall trees (even though they do not shelter species from the red list, their role as habitat for numerous bird and invertebrate species is fundamental), Behela canal.

Measures regarding the biodiversity preservation in the studied perimeters:

- regulating the mowing on the entire surface of the parks, especially in the grassy areas and the bushy ones, or at least on certain surfaces;
- providing spaces with humidity excess and even making some pools and aquatic basins which can be populated with hygrophilic species;
- regulating or even eliminating the use of insecticides, rodenticides etc., in parks to prevent the poisoning of amphibians, reptiles and birds;
- providing management measures similar in the green spaces adjacent to parks, so that a connectivity with the neighboring populations is secured.
- it is imperious the conversion de facto of the Botanical Park in botanical garden, Timisoara being  a large city in which the recreational-educational function of such an institution would be beneficial.
- the establishment of a Scientific Council of the Botanical Garden, by co-optation of specialists from the city (biologists, horticulturists, landscapers etc.).

  • The removal of crows and pigeons populating the canopies.

- underground passages under roads (ducts or grated ditches), making possible the passing of small animals.
- maintaining small areas with tall grass, cvasi-natural, mowed eventually only when entering the cold season.

  • Replacement of the bank stabilization, at least on certain segments, with grate tiles allowing the development of the riparian vegetation.
  • Fishing regulation.
  • Control of waste water drainage and other types of pollutants.
  • Prevention of water drainage from roads to streams.

- dredging interdiction or dredging at long intervals, at least 5 years.
- pool hygienization.
- solving the problem of water level decrease for ponds in Timisoara.
- cleaning the water surface of aquatic plants.
- reduction of stray cats and dogs in the city.
- establishment of a Welcoming and Treatment Center for Birds provided with the means and qualified personnel for the recovery activity of wounded birds found by locals, and not only birds but other vertebrate animals, too.
- limitation of allergenic and invasive plant species.
As a result of the performed studies, we propose the execution of ecological corridors allowing the access of species and thus the improvement of the biodiversity status in Timisoara City. Two corridor types were defined, principal and secondary: in the principal ones the protection measures of the species can be stricter, limitative for human activity; the secondary ones will be more permissive, generally based on the implementation of some regulations and population awareness.