The International Reserve of Biosphere “Eastern Carpathians” consists of 6 protected areas adjacent to each other in the border zones of three countries – Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine – stretching in and out of the Shengen area.
One of the major objectives UNESCO’s “Man and Biosphere” (MaB) Programme so implemented assumes that the world-wide system of the reserves of biosphere should play a special role in raising the level of environmental education in our societies. Conversely, the protection of the resources of nature of these reserves of biosphere depends, among other factors, on the level of environmental awareness amongst local population and tourists. In the Eastern Carpathians, and especially in Poland – where the photos were shot – the impact of mass tourism is the concern number one for the National Park administration. The alpine-type biocoenoses located at the highest ridges and peaks provides habitat for the most valuable plant and animal species. These locations, at the same time as being attractive vantage points, are excessively trampled over by tourists. The lack of tourist culture and environmental awareness are manifested by wandering from marked paths, sitting on rare sward patches and climbing rock outcrops. This is less of an issue in winter time when the ground is cover with snow, but then, off trails skiing and snow-shoeing disturbe animals that struggle against the adverse weather and try to keep their energy expenses low in order to survive the extreme temperature and lack of food.
In response to that, and to protect large species of primeval forest, the authorities encourage visitors to limit their movements to daylight time, in order to enable animals to move around freely at night and dawn. The Protection Plan and Park Regulations of the Polish Park bans night hiking and overnight stays or the pitching of tents outside designated camp grounds and facilities.
According to the Polish National Park authorities, the ultimate protection of the bison, red deer, brown bear, wolf, lynx and large birds-of-prey is not possible in the National Park. This is because it covers too small an area to be able to enable the protection of animals of large individual home ranges, or those descending in winter to the lower regions, outside the Park’s borders. As a matter of fact, only 70% of the Polish National Park is under strict protection (the “inner zone”). About 30% of the Park is actually in a “buffer zone” where various active measures of nature conservation are implemented, such as the protection of semi-natural ecosystems or the reconstruction of man-made forests stands. To many conservationists, enlarging the current National Park stands as the best chance of caring for nature and the people of the region.