transylvanian rural woods assessment using aerial and satelite


transylvanian rural woods assessment using aerial and satelite
Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
Olimpiu Gabriel GORNIC,
Mihai VODA,
Dimitrie Cantemir University, Bodoni Sandor 3-5, Târgu Mureş, Mureş, România
Abstract: Landsat surveillance system can provide satellite images in different color
spectrum, for a good contrast between woodland, cleared land and land covered by
herbaceous vegetation. Currently these systems are used all over Europe, allowing
authorities and various environmental organizations to monitor the forest situation closely
and consistently. Based on information obtained, they may take appropriate measures for
forests protection and for the afforestation of the cleared areas. By the end of the ninth
century, Romanian forests covered 80% of the entire country, and now reached a
disastrous situation of only 26.76% of the country surface. Unfortunately, the
implementation of satellite surveillance system in the early years after the revolution in our
country was not intended because of various presumed security reasons and then never
desirable, because the timber mafia has been growing too big and reached a level too
high to be stopped so easily. However, Romania`s accession into the European Union,
involved a series of regulations that must be accomplished, being a chance in this Landsat
surveillance direction. Because we are asked to take a number of measures to reduce
carbon dioxide emissions and to raise the percentage of forested areas up to 30%,
according to the European average and ecological limits. So we can only hope that in the
future we will implement satellite monitoring system, through which we shall be able to act
more effectively in the event of illegal deforestation or why not in the case of natural
disasters that can damage large forest areas.
Keywords: woods, Landsat, surveillance, forest, satellite imagery
Information infrastructure of modern society must also contain spatial data. Information structure and
interfaces allow access to these data, which includes also geographic data. All other data, sorted by topics,
are attached to position data or geographical areas. The access to data must be ensured for both experts
and citizens, according to specific access criteria. Geographic information systems are organizing and
structuring geographic data or geodata.
Digital map, along with three-dimensional representations, digital photograms and remote sensing records,
are already multimedia products. Maps of all kind are influencing human perspective on the environment.
Geographic information systems (GIS) allow interactive visualization and multiple maps combination on
different themes, but related to the same geographical area.
The launch of Landsat TM satellite surveillance systems in the eighties provided new and diversified
geographical information to researchers, comparing to previous systems. This widened the identifying
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Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
possibilities of the geographical areas through various color combinations depending on the terrain, climate
zone, azimuth and sun elevation during registration and spatial dimension of interpreted items. All this
required a color combination that is evident trough spectral signature.
In the last years, this problem has been the main subject in many European Union and international
organizations debates for environmental protection. In most European countries, such programs are already
used in order to more closely monitor any movement that takes place in the forest.
These new surveillance methods may underlie the implementation of a new satellite forest surveillance
program in Romania, which now begins to be more affected by the illegal deforestation.
Timber is one of the most important Romanian resource, thousands hectares being cut down in the past 25
years, after the Revolution, without replanting measures. After Gandul magazine, until the IX th century,
80% of Romania was covered by forest spreading from the Carpathians Mountains over the hills and plains.
The removal of Turkish monopoly on grain trade occurred under the Treaty of Adrianople (1829) and was the
engine that triggered massive deforestation of natural oak forests, located mainly in the Romanian Plain.
Between 1829 -1922, so in less than a century, more than 3 million hectares of forest were cleared,
especially in the plains and hills, the percentage of afforestation being reduced to 30% in favor of increased
agricultural areas. Then, just between the two world wars, 1.3 million hectares were also eliminated.
Deforestation abuses were made during the communist period also by exceeding the annual quota cuts in
many river basins. In 1948, Romania had only 28% forest [6].
In the first 12 years after the Revolution, 80 million cubic meters of wood disappeared from state and private
forests, being illegally cut and sold in countries from Europe and North Africa. Assuming that the timber was
sold at price of 70 euros per cubic meter, the gains were about 5 billion write a report of the Court of Auditors
Only in the last 11 years, more than 32.66 million tons of wood in form of sawdust, logs, sticks or plywood,
veneer sheets and other products made of wood were exported, according to National Institute of Statistics
data. On top of the major importers of Romanian wood during the 2002 – 2012 period are countries like
Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Syria, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, China, UAE, Lebanon, Germany, Greece and
Japan [18].
Currently, only 8-10% of the country plains are forested and 15-30% of the hills. The virgin forests have
suffered too, representing only 10-12% of total area of forests in 1974. Subsequently, their share dropped to
about 5%, and that's the actual percentage so far, according to the NIS.
According to a study made by the Forest Research and Management Institute (ICAS), in the moment,
Romania's forest areas represent 26.76% and are below the European average of 30% and below the
ecological limits. Also, this figure is lower than the minimum percentage of 40%, determined by topography
and climate conditions of the country, forests currently amount to almost a quarter of the country total surface
A Greenpeace study reveals that almost half, namely 48.95% of deforestation in the period 2000 to 2011
took place in the current protected areas. Worse is that virgin forests were affected in the first place and
those are among the most valuable. Compared to other European countries, where the remaining surfaces
are much smaller, Romania still has 218,500 hectares of virgin forests, according to Doina Danciu, campaign
coordinator of Greenpeace Romania. After the scientific old-growth forests assessment of Veen in between
2001 and 2004 [12], only 210000 ha were identified, approximately 3.5% of total Romanian forest cover.
Romania’s old-growth forest has decreased substantially from 2 million ha at the end of the 19th century to
700 000 ha in 1945 and 400 000 ha in 1984 [12].
The deforestation phenomenon is widespread, especially in mountainous regions, and the authorities have
the responsibility to manage and monitor forest interventions, says Greenpeace. Also, if the illegal cutting of
trees occurs, it is for the authorities to carry out controls and impose the necessary penalties - and where
appropriate to prepare criminal cases. Research conducted by Greenpeace Romania shows that during
2009 - 2011, there were 30,000 cases of illegal cutting of trees, which have resulted in penalties - fines or
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Academica Science Journal
No. 2 (5) – 2014
Economica Series
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
criminal cases - depending on the seriousness of the offense. Most cases of illegal logging were recorded in
the mountainous areas on the Carpathians [9].
After Burrascano (2010), Knorn et al (2012), the term ‘old-growth forests’, represents old stand age forests
[8] with stand structural complexity including downed and standing deadwood elements, gap mosaics and
diverse canopies in terms of vertical reference [4]. These woods can be found in Gurghiu MountainsBatrana Peak area, in the Transylvanian Sub-Carpathians around Becheci Peak to Sacadat, spreading also
from Solocma Village to Siclod Peak. In the same old-growth forests spreading from Viforoasa Village to
Magherani and Chibed deadwood components are missing or being underrepresented, because their
owners are managing their forests. Moreover these vast forests are recognized for their extraordinary
biodiversity, harboring a large population of brown bear (Ursus Arctos).
Fagaras Mountains deforestation
We all heard what happens in Fagaras, but images taken by Adrian Vălean are frightening. On top of
mountainsides, away from the world, a real carnage is going on. From the River Olt to the Plaiul Foii
Guesthouse a real slaughter is happening every day with new logging roads opening all across the Fagaras
mountains. In the summer of 2014, dozens of new operating areas were opened and the number of service
roads increased more than 10 times comparing to the existing network created 5 years ago. `In the 25 years
since I walk on the mountain I have never met such a situation` writes Adrian Vălean on his Facebook
01005001846&type=3 [13].
Fig. 1 Deforestation in Făgăraș Mountains in autumn 2014 [13]
To realize the manner and the extent to which these deforestation evolved, we marked three affected areas,
near Victoria, Vistisoara and Sambata, using Google Earth. The identified locations are in the northern part
of the Fagaras Mountains, where `shaving` deforestation was performed in the recent years.
Fig. 2 Three affected areas in Făgăraș Mountains [20]
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Fig. 3 Deforestation near Victoria [20]
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Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
In these pictures you can see three portions of forest razed to the ground, with the following characteristics:
- The section of the forest near Victoria has about 1.2 km² and is positioned at 1420 meters altitude,
with 45 ° 39' 1.31 "N, 24 ° 42' 47.92" E coordinates;
- The section near the Viştişoara creek has about 0.63 km² and lies at an altitude of approximately
1470 meters, with coordinates 45 ° 39' 18.27 "N, 24º 45' 06.02" E;
- The section situated near the Saturday creek with an approximate area of 0.62 km², is leaning at an
altitude of about 1,250 meters, with coordinates 45 ° 38' 59.19 "N, 24 ° 46' 28.59" E.
We only used Google Earth and yet the difference between woodlands and cleared forest can be
seen very easily, so we can realize that more professional surveillance techniques like Landsat ETM + and
TM [1], can mark the differences more accurate [2].
Massive deforestation in Harghita
A huge area of forest from Giurgeului Mountains, located in a protected area in Harghita County,
disappeared completely in just three years, and the situation would have remained unknown to the
Romanian authorities if researchers from ICAS wouldn`t have implemented a new method of monitoring
timber exploitation in Romania.
The method used is based on a system of satellite monitoring of forest regions, so as to declare the
newspaper Romania Libera, were discovered a series of massive deforestation in the county.
About 650 hectares of forest were simply cut down between 2003 and 2006, although the Forest Code
states that no one can completely cut more than three hectares in one area. The discovery was made by a
team of Forest Research and Management Institute (ICAS), which develops new systems of satellite
surveillance of forested regions. `The idea was to establish a tool that can monitor all the land regularly and
publicly display the results on a website. The methodology consists in comparing satellite images taken at
different intervals of time. Thus we can see the changes occurred in an area covered by forests`, explained
Vladimir Gancz, one of the researchers in charge of the research project.
After Vladimir Gancz, changes can be observed without being a specialist, because the differences between
woodland and rock are presented in conventional colors. Monitoring can be done manually - going directly to
the area you want to analyze - or there is the option that detects the disappearance of large areas of forest
Fig. 4 Landsat Satellite Images in Infrared and normal colors, left in 1998 right in 2003 [3]
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Copyright  2014 Academica Science Journal. All rights reserved.
Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
Fig. 5 Landsat Satellite Images Infrared and normal colors, left in 2006 right 2010 [3]
The researcher from ICAS presented the data to the state authorities, but no one has shown interest. It is
difficult to say whether the cuts were legal or illegal. But forest razor cutting cannot be done on a surface
exceeding 3 hectares, according to the Forest Code. Or, this is about 600 hectares in three years, which is
doubtful. In addition, there is little chance that all disappeared because of a natural disaster. `It could not go
unnoticed`, it is the opinion of Vladimir Gancz. So the results are good only on paper. He wrote an article in a
scientific journal about the methods used and the results obtained. Romanian authorities were not interested
in the research focused on deforestation. In the Superior Mures Gorge Nature Park, an employee from
Forest National Administration, Sandor Bodo, comparing satellite images of the Forestry Research Institute
to his own map said that shaving cut surface should be part of a protected area. `Yes, part of the Natura
2000 protected areas can make the cuts, but only with special permission and only for maintenance. We
have not given authorization for such a big operation,` admitted Sandor Bodo [3].
Illegal deforestation activities were made also in the western part of the Calimani Mountains, on the Bistra
River Valley and its tributaries, Donca, Cofu, Stejii and Mijlocul, where entire slopes where cleaned off. Even
on the smaller valleys, like Zapodea cu Pod, following a tourist trail to the Scaunul Domnului (Isten Szek)
cliffs, illegal cuts where noticed in the recently declared S.D.Natural Reserve vicinity.
Transilvania University of Brasov in collaboration with ICAS held workshops on GIS technologies applicable
in current Romanian forestry, presented as solutions to massive deforestation issues occurring at present
through a series of satellite surveillance programs [19]. Using their computer program, researchers at the
Institute of Forest Research discovered that in recent years, deforestation in excess has been made across
the country, by taking pictures and comparing with images provided by NASA satellites, which provided a
database of images from 1970 to present. This process can easily highlight heavily deforested areas and see
if further measures were taken for replanting saplings or not.
The surveillance system used by the organization FAO, through the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a satellite surveillance system used on forest monitoring,
which will measure the degradation of forest resources and will be used to take action in areas of massive
The satellite data, retrieved at high resolution can be used for free, thanks to a partnership with other
organizations, in particular with the University of South Dakota State Research Common Center US-EU,
says FAO in a press release quoted by the AFP.
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Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
"Such data have never been provided directly to users in developing countries. Supervision will be less
expensive, more accurate and transparent for those countries that want to participate in reducing emissions
from the cutting and forest degradation. This mechanism will attenuate climate impacts and will also give the
necessary resources to improve both livelihoods, conservation efforts and food security ", pointed out
Jacques Diouf , FAO General Manager.
"Using Landsat images allows us to obtain reliable estimatesand and objectives about the changes in the
forest fund and the configuration of worldwide areas," declared the US Center's Director, Jeffrey Eidenshink
The surveillance system will transmit data related to a global sample geographical areas and supplies the
tools for their interpretation. Through such a program we can regularly monitor forest areas and with the
help of this program we can easily find an area that is starting to be deforested, and from the first moments
we may act directly on the spot, stopping the destruction of forests.
Achieving a "Map of deforestation"
The team "We plant good deeds in Romania!" launched starting on 16 May 2012, an appeal to all those
willing to get involved in the monitoring of forests from our country in order to establish a map of all forest
logging in Romania.
"This supports the fight to reduce carbon emissions, because the fate of forests in Romania concerns us all,"
said the British ambassador from Bucharest, at the launch of this online applications.
"The theft of wood must be stopped. I know there are 3,000 investigations in Romania on wood theft. I think
the government will discover that the website can plant good deeds complement efforts to increase
transparency and to protect forests ", said Mark Gitenstein, the US ambassador in Romania.
For implementation of this application, the US Embassy in Romania has given $ 5,000 to the IT team from
TechSoup, as a prize during a competition on projects, and the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland in Romania has contributed whit 5,000 pounds [10].
The map from the website works like this, any person who discovers
deforestation areas can report it on the interactive map, and later the deforestation will be check by the team.
The map, based on satellite imagery, can not indicate whether the reported cuts are approved or not, or if the
land on which its cut is public or private. This can be found only after they have checked the information
entered on the map. And then if it's found that are illegal logging, the team "We plant good deeds in
Romania!" will complain to the authorities which will take the appropriate action.
But unfortunately here comes a problem, namely the indifference or hidden interests of Romanian legislator,
which are slowing down the rate, leaving a place to those who are stealing the woods in order to make their
work freely.
The law becomes denser and more the forests are thinned
The trees from the natural protected areas disappear as fast as the forests that are not under special
protection, although they should, due to our legislative Systemic very intricate and very tortuous.
This is the conclusion reached by a team of Romanian and American researchers who conducted a field
study this year in our country. "We found substantial disruption even within protected areas until their core
(areas most severely supervised by law). I even established that disruption in strips of forest that surrounds
the protected area are lower than inside these areas" shown in the article published in the journal Biological
Conservation. Researchers have identified that Maramures is one of the areas overexploited in recent years.
"The massive cutting of forests, has become a real threat to the region. All of Maramures Mountains have
become a target for logging companies and timber harvesting is the main source of local income. One
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Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
example is the catchment Tibau, where a forest area of 500 hectares was bred between 2006 and 2009,
"said team leader, Jan Knorn for the newspaper "Romania Libera".
The confusion from property laws and corruption of officials forestry are the main causes for the disastrous
state from Romania.
"The reasons for this are swift land reform and institutional change. Corruption and lack of transparency is
also an important issue, which led to cases where the celaning logging are just a cover for ilegal logging. Our
results show that the forest area remained fairly stable in Romania shortly before and after 1990, but the rate
of destruction has increased sharply in two waves after 1995 and 2005 ", says the article published in the
journal Biological Conservation [3].
Recently, we tried a number of changes to the Forest Code, but that have only raise more questions on the
transparency of the decision of Romanian legislator.
Former deputy minister for Water, Forests and Pisciculture, Doina Pană launched serious accusations
against President Klaus Johannis and said that he was subjected to the foreign influences and was
misinformed not to promulgate the Forest Code. As evidence that not promulgating the Forest Code would
have other reasons, Doina Pană have several acts and deeds during her ministerial mandate. She declined
a request of the Austrian ambassador, who asked that the amendment the Forest Code to be done in a
certain way. Doina Pană refused the request and informed and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who also got a
request. In addition, the company Holz Industry Schweighofer (a company that cut timber in our forests and
exports it for a fortune) would be called for a meeting with the minister, but was refused [11].
President Klaus Johannis has requested reconsideration of the law that brings a number of changes and
additions to the Forest Code, saying that "legislative interventions adopted in the wording of this law are
likely to limit economic activity of operators or group of traders, impacting the competitive environment and
thus on the economy and create the legislative premise of a discriminatory legal treatment. "In addition,
Klaus Johannis cautions that "the rules on the use of wood from the forest public property, that will be
approved through a Government decision, according to art. 60 par. (4) of the Act sent to promulgation,
should be developed with competition authority's opinion" [7].
Besides this there would be Article 20 of the Forestry Code, which have been trying to bring some changes,
that will give a free hand to cut the trees in the areas smaller than 10 HA, which means 100,000 square
meters and is't a very large area.
According to the journal Adevarul, the completion of Article 20 of Law 46/2008, by introducing a new
paragraph (1¹), is perhaps the most complained change to the Forest Code. Such, it's provided here that "the
preparation of forest management plans is mandatory for fund forest properties larger than 10 hectares." In
particular, the requirement does not interfere in the case of small forest owners of 10 hectares. The
arrangement is a system of measures for organizing logging, including restoration, improvement, increase
the forest fund, protection and rational exploitation.
Currently, there are approximately 540,000 hectares of forest owned by persons with less than 10 hectares
area, with more than 300,000 owners.
Another reason to reject the Forest Code would be the problem of holiday houses, which can be placed in
the woods. The draft law on modification and completion the Forest Code allows owners of the woods to cut
out, of up to 250 square meters to build housing or holiday homes, and allows real estate investors to raise
construction in the protection zone of 50 meters from the edge forest. More precisely, it can perform the
removal of land from the forest fund the private property of individuals or legal entities for the construction of
homes or holiday homes. The maximum area which can be permanently taken, including the construction,
access and enclosure of not more than 250 square meters for forest properties larger than 5 hectares and a
maximum of 5% of the forest ownership, but not larger than 200 square meters if the surface is less than 5
hectares [14].
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Academica Science Journal
Economica Series
No. 2 (5) – 2014
ISSN: 2285 - 8067
Watching all this we can only think of the future of our forests and wonder if they will manage a stop of the
massive deforestation, that currently take place because of the legislative issues in our country, due to the
political division and interests.
Let's just hope that in proximate future as we will have a new Forest Code, that implements a satellite
monitoring system, through which will be able to operate more effectively in the event of illegal deforestation,
or why not in the case of calamities which can damage large areas of natural forest.
Because our relationship with nature should be based on the principles of harmony, human life can't exist
outside the ecosystem and neither near him, and the more we advance on the path of development, the
more we suffer. One of the alarming effects of this economic and technological development is the gradual
disappearance of areas of virgin forests and natural protected areas.
Wood are places which have their role and their purpose, because free contact with nature and the outside
world allows our body to grow and mature properly. The migration to the big cities and the decrease of
biodiversity represent the deterioration preconditions of our health, because such processes destroy the
ecological balance and produce the emergence of all kinds of new diseases, due to environmental pollution.
- Olimpiu Gabriel Gornic is Masteral student at Dimitrie Cantemir University, Bodoni Sandor 3-5, Târgu
Mureş, Mureş, România, e-mail: [email protected]
- Mihai Voda is Ph.D. Associate Professor at Dimitrie Cantemir University, Bodoni Sandor 3-5, Târgu Mureş,
Mureş, România, e-mail: [email protected]
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Academica Science Journal
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ISSN: 2285 - 8067
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