Conference Location

Romania contains five biogeographical regions – Continental, Pannonian, Alpine, Pontic and Steppic – and as such supports a wealth of grassland species.

The region of Transylvania within the arc of the Carpathians is known for its low intensity agriculture and species-rich semi-natural grasslands.

The town of Sighişoara is renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it is also at the edge of the Sighişoara- Târnava Mare Natura 2000 area. This Site of Community Interest contains large areas of the priority habitat types 6210* Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) with important orchid sites, and 6240* Sub-pannonic steppic grasslands.

The conference will take place in Sala Sander (Strada Turnului 1, Sighișoara 545400) in the city centre of Sighişoara.

Location of Tarnava Mare area in central Romania, with biogeoraphical regions marked (click to enlarge)

Click here for information on how to get here.


Accommodation is not included in the basic registration fee, but we have reserved a limited number of rooms at special conference rates. This can be selected after the registration process and added to your invoice. Click here to book your accommodation (you need to be registered and logged in).

Hotel Cavaler Sighisoara – 12 rooms available

  • single room € 50 Euro/night (breakfast for 1 person included)

  • double room € 60 Euro/night (breakfast for 2 persons included)

Hotel Rex Sighisoara – 20 rooms available

  • single room € 30 Euro/night (breakfast for 1 person included)

  • double room € 35 Euro/night (breakfast for 2 persons included)

Casa Saseasca – 12 rooms available

  • single room € 25 Euro/night (breakfast for 1 person included)

  • double room € 30 Euro/night (breakfast for 2 persons included)


Description of the area

Târnava Mare SCI lies within the Saxon Villages, a region famous for its historic fortified churches. The landscape is hilly rather than mountainous but shares many features with the adjacent Carpathian Mountains. Much of this countryside is remote, with scattered villages supporting traditional farming communities that have preserved farmland biodiversity and patterns of rural life mostly lost elsewhere in Europe.

Marl and sandy sediments dominate the geology, giving rise to rolling hills and steep-sided valleys, with unstable slopes that slump and erode. As well as the extensive grasslands, with unenclosed arable land in the valleys, the region retains substantial stands of ancient deciduous woodland and wood pasture. The farming practices of the Saxon farmers, who originally arrived in the 12th century from Flanders and Luxembourg, and management subsequent to the departure of most Saxon farmers to Germany in the 1990s, have diversified the vegetation in space and time, with episodes of succession from sometime arable fields to grassland and then to scrub and woods, producing ecological heterogeneity, edge effects and gradients.

The countryside of the Saxon Villages has some 1200 species of flowering plants, a third of the Romanian total, and about the same number of Lepidoptera; also brown bears and wolves, large carnivores usually associated with the mountains and, for example, two birds of major international conservation interest, Lesser-spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) and Corncrake (Crex crex).

The long history and continuation of traditional, non-intensive management – mixed farming, little or no fertilizer input and low livestock densities – has allowed biodiversity to survive, especially in hay-meadows on the higher or steeper slopes, in one of the most extensive tracts left in Europe of High Nature Value (HNV) permanent grassland. This is no rural museum but a living landscape, and the pastures and meadows remain the motor of the rural economy, yielding meat, milk and cheese, and a range of products such as honey, wild fruits for jam, and medicinal plants. The diversity of grasses and forbs in the sward, including orchids and especially 20–30 or more leguminous species, provides quality feed for farm animals and several of the plant species are crop relatives. Especially species-rich are areas of dry steppic grassland on south-facing slopes and hummocks, and damp grassland in some valley bottoms with relict montane plant communities. A characteristic topographical feature is groups of steep-sided hummocks or movile, with ‘gamma’ diversity between and within hummocks often varying over just a few metres – including steppic, Mediterranean, mesic grassland, woodland-edge or even montane floristic elements.

Many of the species, for example several orchids, Prunus tenella and Salvia nutans, are Red-listed in Romania, and four (Adenophora lilifolia, Crambe tataria, Echium maculatum and Iris aphylla) are listed on Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive. Cephalaria radiata, which should still be flowering in September, and Salvia transsylvanica are endemic to Transylvania. This farmed landscape is fragile and the vegetation and biodiversity are under threat from both agricultural intensification and land abandonment. The work of conservationists in the region has had to focus not only on scientific research but also the need to address the needs of farming families and communities at a time of profound economic and social change, building on their past achievements while employing innovative techniques and solutions to sustain the ancient links between landscape and livelihood.

Further reading

Fundatia ADEPT has published several documents on the area.

The Historic Countryside of the Saxon Villages of Southeast Transylvania by John Akeroyd will be available for purchase at the conference, or if wanted beforehand by mail order please contact Nat Page (

Guides to indicator dry grassland flower and butterfly species may be downloaded from the ADEPT website, at

A full list of relevant publications will be made available at the conference.