When thinking about Romania’s geography, the Danube delta and the ancient forests of the majestic Carpathian mountains first come to mind. These are followed by cultural associations: the colorful traditional clothes of Romanian people, and Transylvania, a historical and pop-cultural landmark. It is there, in the castle of Vlad the Impaler, that the legend of Count Dracula started.
However, “a desert” is really not the term that will occur to anyone. In fact, it pretty much contradicts everything listed above. Interestingly, there are deserts and semi-deserts in Romania, and they are getting bigger. They are not a completely natural phenomenon, but a part of the expanding process of desertification.
By definition, desertification is “the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture”. (Oxford Dictionary) Areas that are predisposed to desertification are usually those located in warm, semi-arid or arid climates. The same areas are attractive for agricultural investments because of the long growing season and the opportunity to farm praised thermophilic cultures. As the original plant and forest cover is removed and water bodies are drained or dammed, the climate becomes even drier and precipitation levels decline, further driving the desertification process.
That is precisely the case with Romania’s southern and south-eastern counties. In their Sixth National Communication on Climate Change and First Biennial Report from 2013, the Romanian authorities estimated that the area affected by desertification makes up for about 30% of the country’s total area – more than 27.500 sq miles (~ 71.000 sq km). Desertification occurs mostly in the regions Dobrogea, Moldavia, the south of the Romanian Plain and the Western Plain.