Protected Area “Lacul Ursu şi arboretele pe sărături”

The protected area “Lacul Ursu şi arboretele pe sărături” is located in the incorporated area of Sovata city, in the tourist resort. The area is defined as natural reserve of national interest under Law 462/2001 - pm the regime of protected areas, conservation of natural habitats, wild flora and fauna, representing the category IV IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Its surface is of 79 ha, of which 73.3 ha forest and 5.7 ha aquatic surfaces.Its objectives are to conserve and protect the lakes Ursu, Aluniş, Roşu, Verde, Mierlei and Paraschiva, respectively the forest located on the saline layers afferent to these lakes. The protected area is in the custody of Sovata City Townhall and Forestry Department Mureş – Forestry Division Sovata.


The thin layer of clay soil mixed with sand tiles covering the massive salt makes possible the existance of a very rich ancient forest vegetation.The coexistence of salt, salty soil and the forest is a rare phenomenon, as the salty lands are usually deserted, with underdeveloped halophytic vegetation.

In the relatively thin layer of soil anchors the roots of the most common wood species: (Quercus robur), sessile oak (Quercus petraea) - in a rate of 37.61%, beech (Fagus syilvatica) - 26.41%, hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) -34.25%. In some places we also meet spruce (Picea Abies) -1.71% as well as pine (Pinus silvestris, Pinus nigra).Spruce and also deciduous specimens reach considerable size, so oak specimens measuring over 1 m diameter and spruce trees with diameter of 60-70 cm are not quite rare.

Surprisingly rich and abundant is also the grass vegetation in the forest. In July, the soil is covered for 25-40% with a grassy carpet, comprising 30-35 species.Along with common species such as Urtica dioica, Chelidonium majus, Taraxacum officinale, Gallium sp., Veronica sp., etc., we also notice the presence of endemic flowers as Heartleaf Oxeye (Telekia speciosa - intracarpatic endemism) and rare species as lady's slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) and martagon lily (Lilium martagon).

Other wood species are mixed with those mentioned above: wild cherry (Cerasus avium), aspen (Populus tremula), wild apple (Malus sylvestris), Horn (Corus mas), dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), hazel (Coryllus avellana), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), field maple (Acer campestre), mountain maple (Acer pseudoplatanus). Of the climbing woody species we remark Old man's beard (Clematis vitalba) and ivy (Hedera helix). 


The fauna is characteristic to cvercinea forests of medium hills. In the adjacent areas large carnivores can be met:bear (Ursus arctos arctos L), wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx). The roebuck (Capreolus capreolus) often enters the territory of the protected area, while the red deer (Cervus elaphus) can be found in the adjacent areas. Other species that are found in this area: wild boar (Sus scrofa), badger (Meles meles), tree marten (Martes martes), stone marten (Martes foina), wild cat (Felis sylvestris), etc.

The ornitofauna is rich and one can meet common species like the blackbird (Turdus merula), Oenanthe oenanthe, tit (Parus sp) Nucifraga cariocatactes, Coracias garullus, Cuculus canorus, and from the predatory Buteo Buteo, Pernis apivorus, etc.<0}


Lacul Ursu (Bear Lake)

It is the largest salty, heliothermal lake in Romania, with an area of 40 235 sq m, 1180 m in circumference and a maximum depth exceeding 18 m. It was formed in the period 1875-1880 as a result of complex geological, weather and hydrological events, by the gradual dissolution of the salt by the waters of two rivers (Auriu and Criș-Topliţa), followed by the crumbling of the land. The resulting void was filled by the two streams in a period of about five years, creating the current lake, shaped like a large bear's skin, from where it got its name.

Water still dissolves the salt below the salt massive, so the salinity of Bear Lake has a large variation, depending on the depth: 0-2 m up to 100 g / l, from 2 m to the bottom up to 220-300 g / l. Fresh water from Auriu and Toplița streams, having lower specific density than salt water, remains on the surface and acts as a thermal insulator: allows the penetration of solar radiation that heats the inside layers of the salt water, but also prevents the loss of the heat accumulated, a phenomenon known as heliothermia.

Lacul Aluniş (Aluniș Lake)

It is situated at a distance of 60 m from the western boundary of Bear Lake (Lacul Ursu).The genesis of the lake is closely linked to that of Bear Lake: the excess water from Bear Lake flowed westward into another carstosaline sinkhole that, by collapsing, created Aluniş Lake.The surface of the lake is of 0.37 ha, the maximum depth of 6.4 m, the water table is approx. 4 m below Bear Lake. The excess water flows through Valea Frumoasă and Pârâul Sărat, reaching Sovata creek. The salt concentration is much lower, while the heliothermia phenomenon is also weaker, as here there is no water stratification, characteristic to Bear Lake.

Lacul Roşu and Lacul Verde (Red Lake and Green Lake)

Red and Green lakes are located in the north-western part of Lake Ursu, in a long valley of approx. 120 m. These two linked lakes arose after the intense superficial dissolution of the mountain of salt on the site of some sinkholes. The Green Lake has an area of 0.14 ha and a maximum depth of 2.1 m. The Red La ke is located immediately downstream, it has a smaller area of 0,029 ha with a maximum depth of 1.05 m.

The two lakes are fed from a salty spring nearby, and their surplus water flows into Bear Lake, being its source of salt water. The name of Red Lake comes from the presence of iron oxides, abundant in the related sedimentary structure. Also, it is possible that the toponym is derived from the association with the abundance of crustaceans (Artemia salina) that inhabit it during the summer season.

Lacul Paraschiva (Paraskeva Lake)

Located north of Bear Lake, Lake Paraskeva was formed in 1980, following the accumulation of rainfall in the middle of a salt sinkhole. The sedimentary layer of the lake is so thick that the water collected did not reach the salt substrate, so it is a freshwater lake. It was designed for fishing and is stocked with fish.

Lacul Mierlei (Blackbird Lake)

It is the youngest salt lake, having originated in the early 1950s in a salt sinkhole. Located in the woods, the lake has an area of 0.147 ha and a maximum depth of 1.85 m, being fed by several small salt springs.



In the area between the valleys Răchitiș and Vâlceaua Băilor, the salt deposit as a massive rock from the bottom of the Transylvania depression, gets closer and even emerges to the surface due to geological forces. The geological formation called the Salt Mountain is in the vicinity of Red Lake, in the north-western part thereof. After dripping water and torrential rains, the colluvial deposits in this part of the mountain were affected by superficial landslides, following which the slope was overburden, salt blocks appearing in daylight. Due to the high solubility of the salt, rainwater have dug thousands of ditches separated by more or less flat chine, called by the specialists as limestone pavements.

Natura 2000

The existence and need for preservation of certain natural formations has imposed the assignment of special protected area of national interest (Law 5/2000 - on the approval of the National Landscaping Plan - Section III - protected areas, point 2636; published in the Official Gazette no. 152 of 12 April 2000) the territory "Lacul Ursu și arboretele de pe sărături" (Bear Lake and the arborets on the saltmarsh)

Bear Lake, the largest heliotherm lake in Europe, is the main objective of the preservation along with other five salt lakes (Aluniş, Red, Green, Blackbird and Paraskeva - the latter having almost freshwater).

Other special objectives are:the arborets on the saltmarsh, because of the existence of forest vegetation - secular trees of different species (oak, sessile oak, fir, beech, etc.) well developed on salty substrate, as well as the existence of surface saline formations (Salt Mountain).

In 2011, by the delimitation of Natura 2000 sites (Order no.2387 of 29 September 2011 of MEF), the protected area is part of the Natura 2000 site Calimani-Gurghiu, ROSCI0019.

The site covers most of the two volcanic massifs - Călimani and Gurghiu Mountains.The various morphological aspects of the relief in conjunction with the pedo-climatic issues have favoured the maintenance of a valuable biodiversity, representative for the volcanic mountains in the Carpathians. The existence of compact natural fundamental forests on large expanses (over 100,000 ha), the area of which is not significantly altered by human activity, maintaining the diversity of habitat and species. In this space, the percentage of habitats of European interest exceeds, according to the Manual of habitats, 95% of the surface, the ruling classes being the semi-natural moist grasslands, mesophilic prairies - 5%, alpine and subalpine meadows - 3%, deciduous forests - 16% coniferous forests - 34% and mixed forests - 39%. In this region there is also one of the largest populations evaluated and also an important genetic centre for carnivores in the Carpathians: brown bear (Ursus arctos) - 400, wolf (Canis lupus) - 100-120 and lynx (Lynx lynx) - 70-80. A crucial factor in maintaining favorable value of biodiversity is the lack of human settlements throughout this vast territory, except for Mureș gorge, where there are a number of individual ecological chutes.

The percentage of habitats of European interest exceeds 95%.According to the Handbook of habitats there are 13 habitats, 4 of which of special importance (Habitats Directive), 18 species of birds, 9 species of mammals, two of reptiles, 5 of fish (including Hucho hucho), 6 species of invertebrates (inclusively Rosalia alpina) and 8 species of plants.

Călimani and Gurghiu Mountains are mountains of volcanic origin with steep slopes (average over 30 degrees), highly varied and kneaded relief with volcanic agglomerates, giving specific, picturesque landforms.<0} {0>Morfologia reliefului alături de caracteristicile bio-pedo-climatice specifice favorizează menţinerea unei biodiversităţi deosebit de valoroase.<}0{>The morphology of the land, alongside the specific bio-pedo-climatic characteristics, favor maintaining an invaluable biodiversity.



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2024-05-22 17:49

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