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The Steppic Region

The Steppic Region stretches from its very small foothold in the European Union to the foothills of the Altai Mountains on the borders of Mongolia. Covering less than 1 % of the EU territory, the Steppic Region is found in only one EU Member State: Romania. It has specific regional features such as its continental climate and low-lying plains, a lack of water and relentless winds, which all greatly influence its biodiversity.

Within the Natura 2000 biogeographical process, nature protection measures are tailored to best protect the typical features and biodiversity of the region and to target its specific pressures.

The list of sites of Community importance for the Steppic biogeographical region, included in Natura 2000, is updated every year.

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  • The Steppic Region (0.7MB)

Regional features

The Steppic Region includes the entire eastern region of Romania known as Dobrogea. The climate is continental with very cold winters and warm, dry summers. The soil is porous, the wind relentless and the region is affected by drought for many months each year. This results in an arid steppe landscape, where trees have been replaced by huge expanses of grasses and other drought-resistant plants.

The region also counts a number of brackish and saltwater lakes and is crossed by two major rivers: the lower Danube and the Prut. As the land is very flat, the water moves slowly and creates broad shallow floodplains. These river valleys are a haven for all sorts or rare species. Stretching right through the region, the lush green vegetation of the Lower Danube contrasts sharply with the surrounding steppes and provides a vital ecological corridor, with its typical floodplain forests, gallery woods, marshes and sand banks. Its many little islands are a refuge for wildlife away from predators and humans.

Overall, the region includes 25 types of habitat listed in the Habitats Directive. Some are typical of this region: the Ponto-Sarmatic steppes and deciduous thickets and the oak dominated Euro-Siberian steppe woods. Many of the other listed habitat types are linked to the rivers crossing the plains on their way to the Black Sea.

Biodiversity

In total, 39 species of the Habitats Directive are present in this region, including a number of unusual plants like the Echium russicum and the orchid Himantoglossum caprinum, eight rare bat species and eleven fish species listed in the Habitats Directive.

The absence of natural shelter has had a strong influence on the type of animals that live in the region. Small rodents like the European souslik (Spermophilus citellus), the rarer spotted souslik (Spermophilus suslicus) and the steppe marmot (Marmota bobak) have adapted well to the hot arid climate. These abundant rodents attract, in turn, a number of larger mammals, such as the marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna) and the steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii), as well as many birds of prey like the shorttoed snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus), the steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) and the saker falcon (Falco cherrug). The golden jackal (Canis aureus) has also established a small resident population along the coast and inland plains.

Typical birds of the steppes also include demoiselle crane (Anthropoides virgo), great bustard (Otis tarda) and many colourful species of bunting, quail and partridge as well as larks and pipits. Rarer species like the stonecurlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) and chukar (Alectoris chukar) are also present, although they are only occasionally seen in the Romanian part of the region.

Pressures

The soils of the steppes are particularly rich in humus and very fertile. Consequently, they have been much sought after for agriculture. Very little is left of these once widely distributed steppe habitats and what remains is highly fragmented, occurring only on remote plateaux or in isolated pockets within a heavily farmed landscape. Today the vast majority of the steppic plains in Romania have been ploughed over and turned into arable land.

Pockets of natural vegetation are increasingly hard to come by and tend to be restricted to inaccessible places like the Macin Mountains. These ancient mountains are the refuge of many plants and animals typical of the Steppic Region such as the Levant sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), the steppic polecat (Mustela eversmannii) and the Romanian hamster (Mesocricetus newtoni).

The general lack of water has also meant that many of the region’s rivers and lakes have been diverted or drained to provide water for irrigation or to create new farmland. The remaining ones are now heavily polluted by the surrounding farmland.

List of Sites of Community Importance (SCI's) for the Steppic biogeographical region

To reflect the changes proposed by Member States to the list of SCIs, and to ensure that all new sites have a clearly defined legal status, the Commission proceeds to an annual updating of the Union Lists.

The list of updates as well as the first version of the Steppic list are available here

  • 2013/736/EU, 2nd update, C(2013)7352, 7 November 2013
  • 2013/28/EU: 1st update, C(2012)8232, 16 November 2012
  • 2008/966/EC: Commission Decision C(2008)8066 of 12 December 2008 adopting, pursuant to Council Directive 92/43/EEC, an initial list of sites of Community importance for the Steppic biogeographical region

Reference list of habitat types and species of the Steppic Region

The Reference list of habitat types and species of the Steppic Region includes protected habitat types (Habitats Directive Annex I) and species (Habitats Directive Annex II) present in this bio-geographical region by Member State. These are all habitat types and species for which the Member States have to propose Natura 2000 sites. The Reference Lists derive from the conclusions of bio-geographical seminars and are updated when new scientific information becomes available.

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