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

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

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

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

. which encouraged the expansion of alpine and subalpine grasslands. because in their absence. Consequently. the Moldoveanu and Negoiu horns. as well as of the areas cleared completely in the exploitation process (2%). It is therefore wiser to increase the quality of the existing pastures instead of trying to expand them further. Likewise. However.5% or 23 km2). 308 Pelagia Research Library . whose beauty attracts many tourists. inasmuch as the young forests were cleared on large areas. Piscul Negru). a situation that mirrors the reforestation efforts undertaken in the region and the natural regeneration processes (Fig. At the scale of the Forest Services (Muşeteşti and Suici). Cumpenita. this kind of forests has a share of more than 30%. Appl. From this point of view.2). The slight increase (1%) that has been noted after 1990 can be put to the account of two factors. especially at the end of the weeks. In order to protect the pastures a special attention should be given to the areas prone to sheetflood or gully erosion. The cutting system practiced by some of them has completely destroyed the forests on large areas in the Modrogazu. in the mountain area belonging to the Vidraru Forest Service. large areas of juniper trees were cleared off. Valea cu Pesti. the natural regeneration process. Touristic potential is supported by the existence of some natural and anthropogenic elements. Oticul. the young and the rare forests existing in 1973 (1. The decline of pastoral activities and the advancement of organized tourism mark the entrance of the mountain area in a new evolution phase. and many other areas (Molivis. More often than not. At present. which triggered landslides. The quantitative analysis has shown a slight decrease of the percentage of forest cover after 1982. with good density and high productivity (Valea cu Peşti. Stramba. the forests have generally kept their boundaries. that is 243 km2 of forest). At that time. People must necessarily give up the practice of burning or slashing the juniper tree associations.5% (that is about 6. they have recreation and regeneration (seeds dissemination) functions. slope stability was dashed. and on the other hand the massive reforestations with beech saplings of the windthrow areas (0. which produce a distinct landscape. but also the reservoirs against eutrophication and silting. inasmuch as juniper trees removal entails the appearance of low quality vegetal species (Nardus stricta. On the one hand. there are worth mentioning the Arges and the Limpedea gorges. The spatial analysis has allowed us to estimate the ratio between the natural and artificialized landscapes on the basis of local land use. On the Arges valley. the Transfagarasan road. in the aftermath of juniper trees disappearance avalanche chutes come into being and erosion exacerbates. Valea Lupului and Calugarita catchments. the glacial and periglacial landforms. especially in the case of the beech forests developing in some remote locations (the Modrogazu. rill erosion and torrentiality. Cumpeniţa). especially after 1990. Oticul and Cumpana Mare catchments). 2011.4%) are now full-grown woods. the beech forest zone was the most affected. At the same time. Cumpana. Likewise. The massive deforestations that occurred after 1950 were meant to increase the grasslands area. Forest harvesting has continued over the last decades as well. protection forests usually account for more than 20%. Cumpana. it covers about three fourths of the mountain area. but nevertheless it continues to remain high (70%. it is easy to ascertain that forest prevails. The explanation lies in the massive cuttings that mostly impacted the tree line. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ restore the degraded lands have encouraged slope wasting and denudation. In this respect.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. The pastures spread in 30 years from 15 to 21. with effects that are seen everywhere. screes become mobile and land suffers intense degradation processes. Veratrum album). the Vidraru reservoir. Sci. when part of the forest was given back to the former owners. Res.3%). They protect the slopes and soil.

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

without any other extra supply. and consequently the mean discharge grew to 19. when the efforts were primarily directed at increasing the mean discharge and the height of the fall by bringing water from the neighboring tributaries.3): • the stage between 1942 and 1954.67 m3/s. morphological and geological factors... the height of the dam was raised from 96 to 166 m [6]. Fig.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv.The harnessing of the Arges River for hydropower purposes was done in several stages (Fig. The hydropower plant served by the Vidraru reservoir is known as Cetatuia. Valea cu Pesti. 16 February. 3 The Vidraru dam – hystoric preview • the stage between 1954 and 1960. General data regarding the Vidraru reservoir The Vidraru reservoir lies in the upper stretch of the Arges valley.8 m). and Corbeni-Arges [6]. resistant and watertight. Cumpana. The dam is built of concrete and has a boldness coefficient of 5. but it also penetrates the Brezoi – Titesti Depression.2). Sci. Appl. which ensure the structure a maximum stability and an excellent 310 Pelagia Research Library . Piscul Negru and Capra). 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ Argesana. but in the scientific literature. it is also referred to as the “mother plant”. In that period. but only various types of chalets (Fig. It is embedded in granitic gneisses.37 m3/s used for hydropower generation was ensured entirely by the Arges River. the mean discharge of 7. At the same time. It is fed by two streams (Buda and Capra) originating in the glacial altitudinal zone of the Fagaras Mts. 2011. In the forest zone of the Fagaras Mts. The site of the dam was chosen based on economic. hydrogeological. which came into being after the building of the Transfagarasan road and the creation of the Vidraru reservoir.5. Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej. when a vertical break of slope of 178 m was created (from 760 to 581. whereas the waterfall reached 324 m. there are no permanent settlements. Res.

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

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

which has led to the formation of rills. gullies and torrential streams [8]. Rădoane M. Efectul barajelor în dinamica reliefului. Valsan. [3]. Bucureşti. REFERENCES [1] Grecu F. • the dam has interrupted the evolution pattern in the long and cross profiles. the shaping processes have been reactivated (crumbling. III. 2011. Likewise. mirrored especially by the increased gradients due to the new base level. 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. drainage density has grown from 1. XIII. project manager Alexandru Nedelea. • the dam regulates the discharges. The relation between the liquid and solid flows has changed to the latter’s advantage. Studiu de caz: Munţii Făgăraş şi Piatra Craiului.geogr. 3. but it also may store water for future emergency uses. The morphological slope profiles have known significant changes. 1966. 1986. Res. Universitară. Comunicări de geografie. Nedelcu E. The water stored in the reservoir has percolated and soaked the bank deposits and the river bed generating block detachments. In the aftermath of the dam building. 2 (2): 303-314 ______________________________________________________________________________ As soon as the dam was put into place radical alterations in channel and slope dynamics have been observed.. pp 157.. especially by enhancing the headward erosion.9 – 4 km/km2 (according to the present topographic maps). The dam can be considered an anthropogenic threshold that has generated a new local base level and induced alterations of erosion and accumulation processes. too. Valea Argesului in sectorul montan.Alexandru Nedelea et al Adv. 2006. The deforestations that occurred in the reservoir’s area have encouraged the reactivation of downcutting and sheet erosion. several types of geomorphological processes have been identified. especially on the steep slopes bordering the reservoir. 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.7 – 2 km/km2 (as shown by the topographic map of 1950) to 3. These processes have negatively impacted the forest road accompanying the right bank of the reservoir. 1. Following the works accomplished in the area (for instance. Thus. Topolog. Bucureşti. Limpedea and other rivers. pp 229. [2] Ichim I. [4]. Appl. 313 Pelagia Research Library . SCGGG. the mean gradient has grown from 15 to 250 and the vertical relief-dissection increased by 50 m. Sci. Edit. Academiei. many of them encouraged by the slope gradients exceeding 250 (Fig 5). 1999. landslides) and many anthropogenic landforms have come into being. The size of transferred fragments exceeding 200 mm in diameter has reached 15% of the solid flow. Studiu geomorfologic. crumbling or landslides. the road lying on the left bank of the reservoir). Edit. Nedelea A.

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

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