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Ecological reconstruction by reforestation
of a land surface at the foot of
the Retezat Mountains
(Geopark of Dinosaurs Ţara Haţegului)

We are planting early successional (pioneer) tree species on an overgrazed, degraded hill on the foothill of the Retezat Mountains.

The species are: Birch (Betula pendula) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), both of which are native to the area.


In most cases on such unproductive areas, acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) is planted- an invasive species that comes from the North American continent. Acacia, as a species, has a strong growth rate, reaching considerable heights at an early age, but it displaces native species and poses a danger to local biodiversity.

We are creating an experimental plantation using native species of pioneer trees that will highlight the native species suitable for reforestation of degraded areas.

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The Lonely Rock in the Hasmas Mountains
The planting site near Rau de Mori village

This area on the corner of Retezat Mountains has an interesting story. In 1975, the Râul Mare – Retezat hydropower development started, having as its the main element the Gura Apelor dam. It is located at the confluence of the rivers Lapușnicul Mare, Lapușnicul Mic and the river Ses, in the place called Gura Apelor, located 45 km from the town of Hațeg. In fact, it is the largest rock dam with a clay core in Europe.

In 2018-2019, we reintroduced the original species composition on a site in the place of former buildings near the Gura Apelor dam.


In 2022 and 2023 we have planted near the former clay pit, giving back another surfaces altered by former industrial activity to nature.

A fence will be built around the planting site to keep sheep away from the tree seedlings.

When the tree seedlings grow large enough, the fence will be removed.

Planting season: March-April, November (in case if there will be enough humidity in the soil)

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Silver birch (Betula pendula) planted in 2022
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) planted in 2022
European mantis (Mantis religiosa) in the herbaceous vegetation of the planting site
Silver birch (Betula pendula) planted in 2023

During the late Cretaceous period ( 86-65 million years ago) our planting site was part of the Hateg Island a large offshore island in the Thetys Sea.

During the Maastrichtian, the climate of Hațeg Island was subtropical. 

The dinosaurs of the Hateg Island are descendants of dinosaurs, which had evolved much earlier, but they were considerably smaller than their relatives elsewhere like the hadrosaur Telmatosaurus and the sauropod Magyarosaurus. The theory of insular dwarfism—also known as the island rule—widely accepted today was developed in relation with the Hateg Island dinosaurs.


The Hateg Island dinosaurs were dwarfs by comparison to their relatives elsewhere, but as an exception, the Hatzegopteryx thambemba exhibited island gigantism and was one of the largest pterosaurs ever to have lived.

The Sânpetru Formation, where a large number of dinosaur remains were discovered, is at a distance of a few kilometers from our planting site - in the neighbouring valley. 

Mark Witton
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