«This document presents the results of a field assessment, competed by a group of specialists, to the designated route of the Lugoj–Deva motorway ...»
On the negative impact of the planned Lugoj–Deva motorway and
presentation of possible mitigation solutions
This document presents the results of a field assessment, competed by a group of specialists, to the designated route of
the Lugoj–Deva motorway (Europe Aid 122273/D/SER/RO ISPA 2004/RO/16/P/PA/002/01; part of TEN-T Corridor
IV) and specifically the sector that will intersect an extremely important ecological corridor between two mountain
ranges in Romania: the Southern and Western Carpathians.
The document presents alternative / supplementary measures, to those proposed by the Final Feasibility Study  and the Environmental Impact Assessment study , to minimize the impact of the motorway on the integrity of the ecological corridor and primarily large carnivore species. The proposed measures have been drafted by the authors and are based on their combined extensive experiences and best practice from across Europe, and taking into consideration the conservation context of the target area.
The document does not present detailed technical / engineering solutions - these will be best developed through collaboration between the developers, architects, construction engineers and specialists in biology and conservation. A monitoring and evaluation programme should be implemented in order to establish whether or not suitable and sufficient mitigation measures have been provided for during the planning and construction phases, guaranteeing minimum impact on the fragmentation of animal populations and habitats.
It is important to highlight that the assessment was limited to those sections of the motorway that will impact on areas crucial for the movement of large carnivore species. No assessment of other sections of the motorway or for other species was undertaken. However, when applied, the proposed measures will contribute to the conservation of to other species of fauna.
1. The conservation relevance of the area Concerned about potential radical changes to the Carpathian landscape, ecosystems and biodiversity driven by EU accession, Valeria Salvatori (2004) conducted a study  aiming to determine the most important areas for large carnivore conservation in the Carpathian range. The study methodology was presented to the European Council in 2002 . The study revealed that one of the most sensitive issues for large carnivores in the Carpathians is the connectivity between the Western Carpathians (Apuseni Mountains) and the Southern Carpathians of Romania.
Fig. 1. Suitability classes for large carnivores in the Carpathians – adapted from Salvatori (2004) Salvatori concludes that there is just one small section of suitable habitat connecting the Western Carpathians (Apuseni Mountains) with the Southern Carpathians, which is indicated on the above map. The Western Carpathians are classified as highly suitable for large carnivores, but are separated from the rest of the mountain range by the Mureş river valley, which functions as a natural barrier. The Transylvanian Plain, situated to the East of the ecological corridor, is ecologically unsuitable and therefore unable to support the movement of brown bear and Eurasian lynx. Movement through the Plain is less of an issue for the wolf as it is much more adaptable.
2. Designation of new Natura 2000 sites
An assessment of the Natura 2000 network in Romania (2008) concluded that new Natura 2000 sites should be designated for large carnivores. One specific issue to be solved was the connectivity between the Western Carpathians (Apuseni Mountains) and the Southern Carpathians of Romania.
#, An assessment of habitat types and species included in the pSCIs indicated that insufficient protection was given to certain habitat types (and their functions) and species and designation of further sites was proposed.
2 As a result, a follow-up research report  supported by the Romanian Ministry of Environment and Forests recommended the designation of a number of new Natura 2000 sites that would safeguard ecological connectivity for large carnivore moving between the Apuseni Mountains (Western Carpathians) and Southern Carpathians of Romania. Designation as Natura 2000 being an efficient means through which ecological connectivity and the Favourable Conservation Status of the species can be maintained. Intensive field assessments paired with GIS analyse confirmed the existence of the last habitat corridor (more than 150 kilometers long but also affected by several major “bottle-necks” and habitat fragmentation caused by existing transportation infrastructure and human developments).
The major concern was to ensure the Favourable Conservation Status for the separate bear subpopulation in the Apuseni Mountains. Based on the recommendations given in “Guidelines for Population Level Management Plans for Large Carnivores” , the report proposed new Natura 2000 sites that will protect major movement/dispersal/migration routes, favourable habitats in central areas and will eliminate major present mortality sinks (please see the Annex). The Lugoj–Deva motorway will intersect one of these proposed Natura 2000 sites – Podisul Lipovei – Poiana Rusca, and thus impact on ecological connectivity and the large carnivore populations.
3. The impact of the Lugoj – Deva motorway
Although, Romania has one of the lowest paved road densities in Europe (0.06 km/sqkm, compared to 3.5 km/sqkm in The Netherlands, for example) , the volume of traffic on national roads is increasing. Some sections of road are now acting as barriers for wildlife.  At present, road construction rates are low. But the development of new motorways and highways are a priority for the authorities and general public. Due to its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Romania has the potential to become one of the busiest transport areas in central and Southern Europe (The Centre for South-East European Studies – CSEES).  Analysis of the intersection of existing and proposed Natura 2000 sites with existing and planned transportation infrastructure reveals a high level of fragmentation impact. Similarly, analysis of the transportation infrastructure against species distribution models for brown bear indicates a high level of fragmentation. 29% of the road network crosses valuable habitat areas.  Unfortunately, at present, species population connectivity and habitat fragmentation are not properly addressed by the environment impact assessments undertaken for road developments.
The existing road network, with sections of variable permeability, in conjunction with human developments represent a major issue for the functionality of the Apuseni – Southern Carpathians ecological corridor. However, new planned transportation infrastructure such as the Deva - Lugoj motorway threaten to block the ecological corridor completely. Without providing proper mitigation measures for de-fragmentation, this will have a major negative impact on ecological connectivity, on large carnivore populations, and on the functionality of the Natura 2000 network.
4. Lugoj – Deva motorway Environment Impact Assessment and de-fragmentation measures Although an EIA was carried out, the impact was assessed only on the immediately adjacent Defileul Muresului Inferior – Dealurile Lipovei (ROSPA0029) SPA Natura 2000 area. The impact on carnivore populations, on ecological connectivity and on the existing Defileul Muresului Inferior (ROSCI0064) SCI Natura 2000 site, situated only 10 kilometers from the motorway location, was not considered.
The Romanian Environment Agency and the Romanian Highways and National Roads Company (CNADNR) have been provided with the new data on Natura 2000 sites and impacts on ecological connectivity. As a result, the existing EIA has been approved with the requirement that mitigation measures be implemented; these should be based on a scientific assessment.  However, no assessment has been carried out and instead two “ecoducts” have been proposed by the Romanian Highways and National Roads Company (CNADNR) at specific locations and with specific construction characteristics (including the width of 80 meters). It is unclear how these ‘mitigation measures’ have been proposed without a proper assessment being conducted.
In order to assess the efficiency of the mitigation measures proposed by the EIA, the authors evaluated the context of the area at the landscape scale and examined the existing fragmentation issues inside and outside the ecological corridor. Aerial photographic maps and a detailed map  of the motorway (horizontal and vertical profiles imposed over terrain details) were used for this purpose.
Sectors were major dispersal routes of large carnivores will be intersected by the motorway were identified and the impact of the construction for each of these sectors was assessed.
Fig. 4. The Lugoj – Deva motorway intersecting a proposed Natura 2000 site and blocking large carnivore’s dispersal routes The motorway will intersect the Podisul Lipovei – Poiana Rusca proposed Natura 2000 site for a length of 11.7 kilometers [between km 48 + 125 and km 59 + 750 points] of which only five sectors still offer viable large carnivores’ passage.
Our assessment clearly indicates that the mitigation measures proposed by the motorway’s Final Feasibility Study and EIA are not appropriate for large carnivores.
6. Proposed solutions This chapter presents the findings for each important sector of the motorway and proposes alternative mitigation measures to ensure a level of permeability required by large carnivores.
SECTOR 1 [1A – 1B] is blocking the 0.6 kilometer-wide movement/dispersal route no. 1. The route consists of a stripe of forest interrupted by a meadow with some agricultural plots. At present, the existing Communal Road and Railway are not acting as major blockage due to low traffic volume, however, their cumulate impact have to be considered.
Fig. 6. Aerial view and vertical profile of the motorway on Sector 1 The existing project includes for “Sector 1” the construction of three box culverts (one of H/W 6.0/6.0 meters and two of H/W 3.0/6.0 meters). These objects and their specifications are not suitable for large carnivores. However, the functionality of the box culverts can be much improved for small to medium sized mammals and reptiles and amphibians by extending their width to at least 12 meters and by ensuring appropriate design and construction. 
SECTOR 2 [1B – 2B] is similar to the first sector as the existing transportation infrastructure is characterized by low traffic volumes. The 0.7 kilometer wide movement/dispersal route for large carnivores is disrupted by a more extended cultivated area.
Fig. 7. Aerial view of the Sector 2 The motorway project includes two box culverts in this sector (H/W 3.0/6.0 and 5.0/6.0 meters, last one designed for an access road). These objects and their specifications are not suitable for large carnivores. However, the functionality of the box culverts can be much improved for small to medium sized mammals and reptiles and amphibians by extending their width to at least 12 meters and by ensuring appropriate design and construction.  Similar to Sector 1, constructing a functional ecoduct here could be difficult and we believe that the best solution is to provide an alternative motorway route for Sectors 1 – 3 (please see fig. 12).
SECTOR 3 [2B – 3B] will block one of the main dispersal route (route no. 2) for large carnivores (in itself only 1.4 kilometers wide) and requires special mitigation measures for de-fragmentation.
Fig. 9. Aerial view of the Sector 3
However, their functionality for small to medium mammals and reptiles/amphibians could be improved by extending the width to 12 meters and by ensuring appropriate design and construction.  To overpass the railway and the forestry road, a 900 m long viaduct is designed in this sector. Although long and relatively high (8.7 m), the functionality of the viaduct as a passageway for large carnivores is questionable and, considering the importance of the sector, we strongly suggest that an efficient ecoduct has to be constructed here.
Fig.10. Aerial view and vertical profile of the motorway on Sector 3 Prior to the viaduct, the motorway is elevated above ground level, and considering the nearby communal road and railway, building a functional ecoduct will be problematic in this sector, too.
If the motorway will go ahead in its current planned location, as an alternative local solution, we are proposing the relocation of the motorway to the North of its current position and onto the forested slope, where functional ecoduct(s) could be constructed. Additionally, in this case, the viaduct will become shorter and motorway’s building costs will be lower. The communal road will have to be relocated to the South, on the open terrain.
However, we believe that most efficient solution is to provide an alternative motorway route for Sectors 1 – 3 (please see fig. 12).
AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE FOR SECTORS 1, 2, 3 As described earlier, functional mitigation measures will be difficult to be implemented in sectors 1 to 3 of the current planned motorway location. However, as the motorway is still in its feasibility study stage and changes to location and design can be expected, we would like to suggest an alternative route for the motorway between sectors 1 and 3.
This alternative route would significantly reduce the motorway’s impact on connectivity and large carnivore species.
Relocating Sectors 1 to 3 of the motorway on to the Southern forested slope of the valley has many key benefits:
- Movement/dispersal routes no. 1, 2 could be efficient safeguard;
- Mitigation measures could target both the motorway and the existing railway;
- The overall cost of the motorway construction and associated mitigation measures could be lower compared to the current planned motorway location.