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Biodiversity conservation and community development in Transylvania
Conservarea biodiversităţii şi dezvoltare comunitară în Transilvania

The Saxon Villages

The Saxon Villages Area of southern Transylvania is approximately 300,000 ha, with a population of about 100,000 scattered in about 150 small villages and settlements. Low intensity agriculture coexists with an abundance of flora and fauna, including many nationally and internationally threatened species. It lies in the triangle between the historic cities of Sibiu, Sighişoara and Braşov - see main map below.

The European importance of the High Nature Value landscape of the Saxon Villages area has only been recognized in the last few years. It is now seen in Romania, and in Europe, as a high priority area for the conservation of its still-working ecology, and for studies to understand how such areas can be preserved or (much more difficult) restored elsewhere in Europe.

Fundaţia ADEPT is pleased to have been one of the leaders of this process of recognition in Romania.

The Târnava Mare area and why it’s so important

ADEPT is focussing its work in the Târnava Mare area, 85,000 ha of particularly rich landscape which lies at the heart of the Saxon Villages area. The Târnava Mare area and its communities now have recognition, support and protection as a Natura 2000 site. See detailed map below.

This is one of Europe’s last medieval landscapes, with probably the most extensive flower-rich grasslands remaining in lowland Europe, essentially unchanged for hundreds of years, in which low intensity agriculture coexists with an abundance of flora and fauna. The landscape still presents a medieval land-use pattern - forested ridges and gullies, pasture and hay meadows on gentler slopes and terraces, and arable land and smaller meadows on the flat valley bottoms near villages.

This kind of landscape has almost entirely disappeared in lowland Europe. High Nature Value pastoral landscapes exist quite widely in the European Alps and Carpathians, but are extremely rare outside the mountain areas of Europe. 

This is perhaps the largest area in lowland Europe with extensive tracts of ancient landscape, intact villages and associated traditional agriculture. The biodiversity-rich meadow-steppic grasslands, lowland hay meadows, scrub, fens, and oak-hornbeam woods are all habitats threatened in Europe and strictly protected under the EU Habitats Directive. The area contains numerous plant and animal species that are threatened at national and international level, including not only Europe’s most extensive non-alpine hay-meadows, with an astonishing diversity of wildflowers, but also the continent’s last lowland bears and wolves.

This is a High Nature Value (HNV) farmed landscape - called HNV because the biodiversity of man-made landscapes is often richer than that of wilderness areas. The mosaic of habitats encourages species diversity. And their protection is more complex, since the interests of local human populations must be taken into account, and the continuation of traditional land management encouraged. The small-scale farming communities and their farming practices provide an opportunity to study historical ecology by direct observation - and this kind of low-input farming is increasingly relevant in current economic conditions. 

The area is threatened by intensification of grassland management and by abandonment of land and of traditional land management.

Maps of the area

Map of Romania showing the area.
Mouse over to enlarge map.

Click here to load a high resolution version pdf (876K) in a separate window
Map of the area showing sites of special interest.
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Click here to load a high resolution pdf (2.8MB) in a separate window.

About the area

The Saxon Villages area

Rural Culture

Natural history

Visiting this special area

Fundatia ADEPT, with local partners, has established the Tarnava Mare Tourist Association, under the name Discover Tarnava Mare, which will promote responsible tourism across the Tarnava Mare area.

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Please visit


Through the year in the Târnava Mare area

This link offers a photographic calendar of activities and flora of the area.

The Historic Countryside of the Saxon Villages of Southeast Transylvania

Historic Villages book
This book introduces the remote Saxon Village district of southern
Transylvania in Romania.

One of Europe’s least known cultural treasures, the countryside presents a remarkable survival of medieval landscape: fortified churches, unspoilt villages, non-intensive mixed farming in ecological balance with nature and wildlife.

Find out more

Sponsorul Oficial - Fundația Orange România