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Advances in Applied Science Research, 2011, 2 (2): 303-314


Human-Induced Landscape changes in the Carpathian Section of the Arges Catchment (Romania) with a special view to the Vidraru Reservoir Area
Alexandru Nedelea, Laura Comănescu University of Bucharest, Faculty of Geography ______________________________________________________________________________ ABSTRACT The Arges corridor lies in the central part of Romania, more exactly in the middle part of the Southern Carpathians range, and consists of three hypsometric steps developing between 1000 and 2500 m. In this area, human activities have induced significant changes beginning with the 19th century. The most important of these are the massive deforestations meant to expand the grasslands realm, the overgrazing, wood harvesting, the creation of the Vidraru reservoir, the extraction of mineral ores, the excessive tourism, as well as the development of new infrastructure elements (the Transfagarasan road). This paper aims at highlighting the multiple effects of the human influence on this mountain space, especially after the creation of the Vidraru reservoir. The Vidraru artificial lake lies in the upper stretch of the Arges River, but it also penetrates the Brezoi -Titesti Depression. It is fed by two important streams that originate in the glacial section of the Fagaras Mts., namely the Buda and Capra. The hydropower plant served by the Vidraru reservoir is called Cetatuia, but in the scientific literature, it also goes by the names of Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, 16 February or Corbeni-Arges. Keywords: anthropogenic changes, reservoir, deforestations, ecological restoration, Arges, Fagaras, Vidraru, Romania. ______________________________________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION STUDY AREA The Arges corridor lies in the central-southern part of the Romanian territory, in the middle section of the Southern Carpathians range, near the contact with the Getic Sub-Carpathians. The investigated area stretches out on 17’12’’ in latitude and 14’24’’ in longitude, which explains the homogeneousness of the landscape. However, the local morphological conditions are responsible for a series of specific features. The location of the upper catchment of the Arges River within the Fagaras Mts. also explains the alpine, subalpine and mountain morphology, where the presence of the high steps, whose elevations drop to the south (Fig. 1), catches the eye.

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dam building and reservoir creation. roofs were put into position to protect some sections of the road. 304 Pelagia Research Library . 212. as in the case of the southern edge. The effects of these activities. The building of the Transfagarasan road between 1971 and 1974 entailed considerable anthropogenic alterations. steel nets were disposed to protect from falling rocks and streams were stabilized by appropriate engineering works. it marks the contact with the Sub-Carpathian foothills. following the alignment Arefu-Capataneni-BerindestiPoenari-Turburea-Bradet [5]. Incidentally. wood harvesting. Human activities Beginning with the 19th century. overgrazing. Sci. which gradually alter the landscape to a high extent. Massive deforestations were done in the winding sections of the road. and the southern edge of the mountains lying at the contact with the Sub-Carpathians (Arefu-Corbeni Depression). 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ The upper catchment of the Arges River stretches out on 200 km2. have been the lowering of the upper tree line and the wasting and denudation of slopes under the influence of the contemporary geomorphological processes (the gravitational.. uncontrolled tourism. torrentiality. The construction of transportation routes. All these changes affected not only the local topography. The boundaries are clear-cut. strongly encouraged slope dynamics (landslides affecting the regolith. on the other hand. primarily through the slash and burn practice. between the Negoiu and Moldoveanu peaks. aimed at expanding the pastures to the detriment of the forests. being represented by the interfluves that make up the watersheds or by cliffs. more exactly in the subalpine realm. fluvial and cryonival ones being prevalent) [3]. which affected the beech and coniferous forests. and tunnels were dug into the mountains. have turned themselves into alignments that encourage erosion processes (rill erosion. the Topolog catchment to the west and the Valsan catchment to the east. the Transfagarasan road passes through the longest tunnel in Romania measuring 900 m. which mark the contact between the crystalline and sedimentary rocks. At the same time. 2011. Res.8 million m3 of rock were excavated. which crosses the mountain range. In order to build the road. as we have seen previously. combined with the clearing of forest. 3.000 m3 of hard rocks were used and 150. bridges and viaducts were thrown over the rivers and gaps. The same phenomenon occurred later in the upper Carpathian level as well. human activities have brought about significant changes of the landscape. Likewise. which are seen all over the place. mountain peonies and alder were cleared [3].Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. and especially of the Transfagarasan road. Its conspicuous boundaries follow the watersheds that separate it from the neighboring catchments: the Olt catchment to the north. while transport and accumulation became very active). Appl. Consolidations were made. rill erosion and torrentiality) and changed the channel morphology (the downcutting decreased. mudflows). which over the time have had various intensities.000 m3 of embankments were accomplished. lying in-between. The cart roads and the tracks created by man and animals. as well as the appearance of new infrastructure elements (the Transfagarasan road) have largely contributed in their turn to the emergence of the landscape we are seeing today. These works. where the areas formerly occupied by juniper trees. but also the soil and vegetation. made it necessary that slopes be cut in their lower thirds. as well as the mixed forests. on the one hand. As far as the southern boundary is concerned.

305 Pelagia Research Library . 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ Fig. Sci. inasmuch as they are affected by crumbling. inasmuch as they allow people to move from one place to another. Res. which will undermine the roads and endanger the traffic. 2011. The forest roads that follow the main valleys have required over the time a good deal of consolidation works. in order to boost forest exploitation a road network has been created in the Lovistea Depression and along the tributaries of the Capra and Buda streams. If brought to light.. these deposits can easily be eroded by gullies and streams. especially on the sections where cuttings were built in order to penetrate the loose material deposits (screes). 1 General overview on the Arges Transcarpathian corridor Nowadays. Appl. after heavy rainfalls or sudden snow melting many forest roads become impassable. In springtime. falling-ins and torrentiality. Likewise. the forest tracks and roads still preserve their importance.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv.

(Vidraru. hydropower generation. although the number of animals has dropped. slope excavations and cutting of roads or. Moreover. which highlight a very active morphodynamics both upstream and downstream these dams. Topolog) and the adjacent reservoirs have led to important landscape alterations. that the building of dams was responsible for massive deforestations. but today they are all abandoned. The dams built across the rivers draining the Fagaras Mts. On the left side of the Vidraru reservoir in particular. on Mount Vulturul. begins near the point where the Buda stream flows into the Vidraru reservoir. when following an order of the former Agricultural Production Cooperatives. however. Bradet and Gales are still important pastoral centers. But besides these direct changes. Herding is a traditional activity that has continued even after 2009. because the exhaust gas and the newly born reservoirs have suffocated the plants. vegetation has also experienced indirect changes. thus requiring many improvement works in order to protect them against rock falls and slides. At the same time. by the cutting of access roads. One should not lose sight of the fact. especially at the contact with the subalpine realm. either completely disappeared or were reduced to isolated or scattered patches. lead glance and blende. especially induced by the change of local base levels and streams’ long profiles. 306 Pelagia Research Library . Deforestations reached their climax in 1948. the high volumes of excavated materials and the heavy vehicles traffic have altered the soil profile and induced permanent settlings. Thus. on the contrary. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ On the Buda valley. such as wood harvesting. Generally. on the Buda River there are two marble quarries and a small mine shaft for prospecting pyrites. Capataneni. Poienari. which is known as Drumul Ciobanilor (The Shepherds Road). the shepherds expanded the grasslands to the detriment of the forest by slash and burn method. In addition. Cumpana. marble and poly-metallic minerals has led to the opening of quarries and mines shafts. Wood clearances were imposed by the construction of the dam. The hydrotechnical engineering works performed in the Vidraru area impacted differently the vegetation cover. depending both on their type and intensity and on the ecological capacity of the vegetal species to adapt to the new conditions. all these having a strong impact on the topography. The strongest impact on the natural vegetation was felt in the upper forest zone. Turburea.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. the growth of forest species has been slowed down. as well as at the foot of the Raiosu-Museteica ridge (exploitations of marble and poly-metallic sulphides).. Valsan. Appl. as well as by the building of metal structures for the power lines. Sci. Corbeni. some of them endemic. most juniper trees on the southern slopes of the Fagaras Mts. These can be seen at Piscul Negru. in an effort to ensure forage for a growing number of sheep and goats. In the 19th and 20th centuries. there are three forest roads. for reforestations and the building of protection walls. Settlements like Arefu. the engineering works have largely contributed to the extinction of some valuable species from the scientific point of view. The first one is 18 km long and follows the Buda valley as far as the confluence of the Podul Giurgiului and Izvorul Mircea streams. the roads are built along the streams or climb on the interfluves. The second one. Finally. road transport and rural tourism. even though the traditions have altered under the pressure of other economic activities. Res. The presence of crystalline limestones. 2011. climbing afterwards on the Naneasa ridge. the third road is the shortest and follows the Oticul valley. one can note that many ruderal and secondary species have invaded the natural grasslands. The large-scale pastoral activities with transhumant character carried out on the Arges valley left their imprint on the mountain environment.

Yet. Sci. and the local people’s experience regarding the reasonable use of pastoral resources. 2011.. The irrational exploitation and the delay in taking actions to reforest and 307 Pelagia Research Library .. Overgrazing leads to the destruction of grassy vegetation. The great herd owners completely disappeared after 1990. due to the influence of topography on the pastoral settlements distribution [3]. because as soon as the people were forced to join the collective farms the lands began to be brought under cultivation and consequently the pastures receded. Appl. which were set up near the timberline. Edelweiss – Leontopodium alpinum). At present. starting with the end of the 19th century. mostly in the catchments of the main streams: Capra. Most of them are found on the hypsometric step of 1600 – 1800 m (22 sheepfolds). The ecological projects developed within the framework of regional planning may emphasize the necessity to expand the natural reserves. These actions began as early as the middle of the 18th century and they sought to expand the pastures on the high ridges of the Fagaras Mts. a correct evaluation of the relationship between the herding potential and its capitalization is necessary. • in order to expand the pastures the tree line has been lowered through massive cuttings of the beech forests and the burning of the bushes in the alpine zone. The clearances have affected over the time large areas of the Arges sub-basins. inasmuch as no need for new sheepfolds or pastoral tracks has been felt. In comparison with the northern side of the Fagaras Mts. Valsan and Raul Doamnei. however. Because herding is still an important activity. the elements of historical and ethnographic value. which were replaced by Nardus stricta. which encourages erosion. a species with low nutritional value (secondary grasslands). a proper landscape management would require measures to protect the natural environment. Deforestations and wood harvesting are the main human actions responsible for blasting the slopes stability and for triggering an active morphodynamics. The problems began in the period 1950 – 1960. • the steep slopes lying in the alpine level have suffered intense degradation due to the geomorphological processes encouraged by the lack of vegetal cover (destroyed through overgrazing). where sheepfolds climb higher. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ The drop in the number of animals has been beneficial. which mirror a tradition of more than 300 years. the shepherds gave up their traditional occupation and thus the old associations (the shepherd’s nests) ceased to exist. compaction and soil degradation. An important part for the mountain economy was played by the sheepfolds. where firewood was readily available and water was at hand. Buda. Proper conditions were also offered by the southern and southeastern slopes (the face of the mountain). Later on. while those who stubbornly persist in keeping the tradition do not posses more than 50 or 60 head of sheep. on the southern slopes the sheepfolds appeared a little bit later. which will entail the shrinkage of pastures and the elimination of many sheepfolds. wood harvesting became a major occupation for the local population. but the peasants were allocated lands in villages lying far away from their place of birth. Transhumance was the most affected. herding is on the wane. • some plant and animal species have become extinct (Yew tree – Taxus baccata) or have been seriously affected by herding (Chamois – Rupicapra rupicapra. for multiple reasons. The transhumance carried out every year (village – mountain – village) has induced significant changes to the alpine and subalpine levels: • the overgrazing has led to the disappearance of the valuable species. Res. when the large estates were expropriated. and the abusive practices have been confined to very small areas.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. Under the circumstances.

However.2). 308 Pelagia Research Library . it is easy to ascertain that forest prevails. The spatial analysis has allowed us to estimate the ratio between the natural and artificialized landscapes on the basis of local land use. but nevertheless it continues to remain high (70%. that is 243 km2 of forest). slope stability was dashed. Cumpana. it covers about three fourths of the mountain area. The cutting system practiced by some of them has completely destroyed the forests on large areas in the Modrogazu. On the one hand. Likewise. as well as of the areas cleared completely in the exploitation process (2%). Oticul and Cumpana Mare catchments). screes become mobile and land suffers intense degradation processes. Consequently. The quantitative analysis has shown a slight decrease of the percentage of forest cover after 1982. More often than not. a situation that mirrors the reforestation efforts undertaken in the region and the natural regeneration processes (Fig. there are worth mentioning the Arges and the Limpedea gorges.5% (that is about 6. At present. It is therefore wiser to increase the quality of the existing pastures instead of trying to expand them further. They protect the slopes and soil. especially after 1990.5% or 23 km2). the beech forest zone was the most affected. 2011. inasmuch as the young forests were cleared on large areas. Sci. and many other areas (Molivis. The slight increase (1%) that has been noted after 1990 can be put to the account of two factors. rill erosion and torrentiality. Forest harvesting has continued over the last decades as well. when part of the forest was given back to the former owners. especially at the end of the weeks. Cumpana. inasmuch as juniper trees removal entails the appearance of low quality vegetal species (Nardus stricta. in the aftermath of juniper trees disappearance avalanche chutes come into being and erosion exacerbates.4%) are now full-grown woods. because in their absence. In this respect. the natural regeneration process. Valea cu Pesti. Cumpeniţa). Valea Lupului and Calugarita catchments. and on the other hand the massive reforestations with beech saplings of the windthrow areas (0. with effects that are seen everywhere. especially in the case of the beech forests developing in some remote locations (the Modrogazu. which triggered landslides. The decline of pastoral activities and the advancement of organized tourism mark the entrance of the mountain area in a new evolution phase. large areas of juniper trees were cleared off. At that time. Veratrum album). which encouraged the expansion of alpine and subalpine grasslands. From this point of view. Likewise. Res. the Vidraru reservoir. The massive deforestations that occurred after 1950 were meant to increase the grasslands area. The explanation lies in the massive cuttings that mostly impacted the tree line. People must necessarily give up the practice of burning or slashing the juniper tree associations. Stramba.3%). but also the reservoirs against eutrophication and silting. the glacial and periglacial landforms. protection forests usually account for more than 20%.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. Cumpenita. whose beauty attracts many tourists. Oticul. the forests have generally kept their boundaries. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ restore the degraded lands have encouraged slope wasting and denudation. the Moldoveanu and Negoiu horns.. with good density and high productivity (Valea cu Peşti. At the scale of the Forest Services (Muşeteşti and Suici). In order to protect the pastures a special attention should be given to the areas prone to sheetflood or gully erosion. The pastures spread in 30 years from 15 to 21. the young and the rare forests existing in 1973 (1. in the mountain area belonging to the Vidraru Forest Service. Touristic potential is supported by the existence of some natural and anthropogenic elements. Appl. At the same time. they have recreation and regeneration (seeds dissemination) functions. which produce a distinct landscape. On the Arges valley. Piscul Negru). the Transfagarasan road. this kind of forests has a share of more than 30%.

Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. one should also include the hotels in the area (Casa 309 Pelagia Research Library . and the valleys are strongly entrenched. More than that. They grew in importance and size after 1982. and especially after 1990. Limpedea. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ Fig. Here. For instance.. The infrastructure and anthropic changes in Vidraru lake area Tourism development has generated new problems.2. the placement of chalets has often disregarded the avalanche risk. Sci. Appl. From this point of view. The settlements lie at the contact with the Sub-Carpathian hills or along the valleys of the Arges and its tributaries (Arefu. neither the Capra nor the Buda valleys are favorable for the development of touristic facilities. at high elevations the quasi-horizontal surfaces are either missing or inaccessible. and Turburea). 2011. Res.

when the efforts were primarily directed at increasing the mean discharge and the height of the fall by bringing water from the neighboring tributaries. Valea cu Pesti. the mean discharge of 7. 2011. It is fed by two streams (Buda and Capra) originating in the glacial altitudinal zone of the Fagaras Mts. whereas the waterfall reached 324 m. Res.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv.. 16 February. In the forest zone of the Fagaras Mts. which came into being after the building of the Transfagarasan road and the creation of the Vidraru reservoir. Appl. the height of the dam was raised from 96 to 166 m [6].8 m).37 m3/s used for hydropower generation was ensured entirely by the Arges River. which ensure the structure a maximum stability and an excellent 310 Pelagia Research Library . Sci. 3 The Vidraru dam – hystoric preview • the stage between 1954 and 1960. but it also penetrates the Brezoi – Titesti Depression. Cumpana.2).The harnessing of the Arges River for hydropower purposes was done in several stages (Fig.5.. It is embedded in granitic gneisses. without any other extra supply. resistant and watertight. The dam is built of concrete and has a boldness coefficient of 5. and Corbeni-Arges [6]. but in the scientific literature. In that period. it is also referred to as the “mother plant”. there are no permanent settlements.3): • the stage between 1942 and 1954. hydrogeological. The hydropower plant served by the Vidraru reservoir is known as Cetatuia. Piscul Negru and Capra). morphological and geological factors. and consequently the mean discharge grew to 19. Fig. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ Argesana. Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej. At the same time.67 m3/s. but only various types of chalets (Fig. when a vertical break of slope of 178 m was created (from 760 to 581. General data regarding the Vidraru reservoir The Vidraru reservoir lies in the upper stretch of the Arges valley. The site of the dam was chosen based on economic.

with essential influence on sediment amount and quality (structure. both upstream and downstream the dam. some morphographic and morphometric terrain features).000 ha. 4). which depend in their turn upon the main control factors at the reservoir scale. Res. as well as in channel dynamics and morphology. from the triggering. lithology. Cernatul and Dobrogeanul. The creation of a local base level has induced changes in slope dynamics. which has been responsible for the sediment accumulation within the channels. Consequently. At the same time. modified 311 Pelagia Research Library . Under the circumstances.3). upstream the Capra mouth. Appl. but only modified their direction. Fig. the channels and slopes have experienced some kind of geomorphological alterations.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. to the dynamics and finally to the evolution of contemporary geomorphological processes. The height of the dam is 166 m. of which 320 million m3 is the usable volume (Fig. the active. when it can store 465 million m3 of water (accounting for 78% of the annual supply of the Arges River). 2011. 4 Joint profile on the Capra and Arges valleys in the perimeter of the Vidraru reservoir [4]. Raul Doamnei. because it turned into a new local base level. the water has started to undermine the banks and slopes (Fig. it is 15 km long and covers an area of 900 ha at the normal retention level. the whole dynamics of the system is affected. Factors controlling the dam-reservoir system. while the length is 307 m [6]. the width is 25 m at the base and 6 m at the top. Sci. To ensure a high and relatively steady water volume throughout the year some supply tunnels had to be dug in order to bring water from the adjacent sub-basins: Topolog. triggering factors (precipitation.. Valsan. As far as the Vidraru reservoir is concerned. Valea lui Stan. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ imperviousness. The dam has acted as a geomorphological threshold. which is dependent upon the degree of vegetal covering [2]. the artificial lake experiences an intense silting. The reservoir has mitigated the flood waves and removed the flood risk for 10. which controls discharges and water levels) acting in combination with the morphogenetic potential. and secondly. Firstly. quality or intensity [1]. Limpedea. we should mention here the passive factors. The cascade system regulates the functions of the man-made subsystems. the thickness of the sediments lying on its bottom grows by 69 to 90 mm every year. Because 60% of the occupied area lies on crumbly Miocene sedimentary deposits. The creation of the Vidraru reservoir has influenced terrain evolution. which has not interrupted the evolution of processes. Consequently.

2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ Fig. Appl. Sci.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv.. Res.7]. modified 312 Pelagia Research Library . 2011. 5 The Vidraru reservoir area – the geomorphological map [4.

The morphological slope profiles have known significant changes.7 – 2 km/km2 (as shown by the topographic map of 1950) to 3. REFERENCES [1] Grecu F. 1. The deforestations that occurred in the reservoir’s area have encouraged the reactivation of downcutting and sheet erosion. mirrored especially by the increased gradients due to the new base level. which has led to the formation of rills. too. XIII. Valsan. Topolog. the mean gradient has grown from 15 to 250 and the vertical relief-dissection increased by 50 m. 3.9 – 4 km/km2 (according to the present topographic maps). • the dam regulates the discharges. The relation between the liquid and solid flows has changed to the latter’s advantage. • the dam has interrupted the evolution pattern in the long and cross profiles.. Valea Argesului in sectorul montan. Studiu geomorfologic. [2] Ichim I. Limpedea and other rivers. 313 Pelagia Research Library . 2011. Universitară. gullies and torrential streams [8]. the shaping processes have been reactivated (crumbling. SCGGG. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ As soon as the dam was put into place radical alterations in channel and slope dynamics have been observed. several types of geomorphological processes have been identified. pp 229.. [4]. Following the works accomplished in the area (for instance. Comunicări de geografie. project manager Alexandru Nedelea. III. pp 157. drainage density has grown from 1. but it also may store water for future emergency uses. The dam can be considered an anthropogenic threshold that has generated a new local base level and induced alterations of erosion and accumulation processes. Likewise. Bucureşti. many of them encouraged by the slope gradients exceeding 250 (Fig 5). especially on the steep slopes bordering the reservoir. Nedelea A.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. Edit. crumbling or landslides. Sci. CONCLUSION The building of the Vidraru dam has entailed major changes of the geomorphological features of the region: • the dam may function as a temporary threshold that alters the long profile of the Arges. Appl. 1999. landslides) and many anthropogenic landforms have come into being. 2006. Edit. 1966. Studiu de caz: Munţii Făgăraş şi Piatra Craiului. Academiei. the road lying on the left bank of the reservoir). Efectul barajelor în dinamica reliefului.geogr. Nedelcu E. 1986. Bucureşti. The size of transferred fragments exceeding 200 mm in diameter has reached 15% of the solid flow. Acknowledgements The results in this article are part of the research projects PN II/Idei financed by NURCEvaluarea şi monitorizarea riscului la avalanşe în contextul organizării şi amenajării spaţiului montan. These processes have negatively impacted the forest road accompanying the right bank of the reservoir. In the aftermath of the dam building. The water stored in the reservoir has percolated and soaked the bank deposits and the river bed generating block detachments. [3]. Res. Thus. Rădoane M. especially by enhancing the headward erosion.

2002.geogr. [7] Popescu N. Geografie hidroenergetică. SCGGG. Mirton. 237.. XLIX. [6] Pop Gr. Presa Univ. Cluj-Napoca. Sci. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ [5] Paraschiv D. 314 Pelagia Research Library . Appl. 375.. 61. România. Timişoara. AUB-Geogr. 1969. XVI. 1996. pp. Clujeană. Studiul potenţialului geoecologic al Masivului Făgăraş şi protecţia mediului înconjurător. Edit. 171. 2000. Res.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. pp. Edit. 2011. [8] Voiculescu M.