THE DANUBE DELTA INFO
 
THE DANUBE DELTA
 

At the end of the great river Danube`s 2,860 km (1788 miles) journey from the Black Forest mountains in Germany to Romania`s Black Sea coast a natural paradise spreads out. Over countless centuries the silt brought down by the river has enlarged the Delta into a network of channels, lakes, reed isles, woods, pastures and sand dunes that now cover nearly 5,640 sqr km (2,200 sqr miles). This amazing wetland shelters over 360 species of birds, countless species of fish from royal sturgeon to carp and perch, while its 1150 kinds of plants range from sinuous lianas in oak forests to water lilies.It is no wonder that UNESCO designated the Delta a "Reservation of the Biosphere". A small community had lived in harmony with the Delta`s extraordinary ecology, making a living on fishing, breeding livestock, and reed harvesting. The villages, crossed by the waterways, seem untouched by time. As a visitor you can explore this astonishing retreat of natural silence and calm by boat. The extraordinarily rich biodiversity of the Danube Delta is due to the fact that the reed-beds are largely intact and unaffected by human activity. There are no dry roads crossing the 243,000 hectares of the delta, which is why you can only approach this bird-paradise by boat. The Danube Delta, awarded with the worthy status of a World Heritage, forms the most important wetland of the world. This affords the possibility of watching several rare species of birds which are threatened as they are considered top targets for birders and nature lovers.

 

DANUBE DELTA BIOSPHERE RESERVE
 
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION
 

Lies on the coast of the Black Sea in the eastern part of the country in Tulcea County, and encompasses the area between the branch rivers Chilia, Sulina and Sfintu Gheorghe, the former creating the boundary between Romania and the Ukraina. The site also includes the Razelm-Sinoie complex of lakes Razelm, Sinoie, Zmeica and Golovita to the immediate south of the delta.Danube Delta is declared Natural World Heritage Site by IUCIN

 
DATE OF ESTABLISHMENT
 

The latest legislation gives patrimony of the biosphere reserve to the Delta Authority. Decree 264/91 passed on 12 April 1991 places all institute, agency and inspectorate staff under the administration of the biosphere reserve. The environment agency for Tulcea Judet is also subordinate. All public domain and aquatic and natural resources generated are the ownership of the biosphere reserve authority. Further legislation will significantly strengthen the administration of the site. Danube Delta was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1991, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1991 and internationally recognised as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO`s Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1992.

 
AREA
 

679,222ha, including 103,000ha marine. The entire delta region comprises 799,000ha of which 679,000ha are in Romania and 120,000ha in the Ukraina. The Razelm-Sinoie lagoon complex adds a further 88,000ha. Altitude of Black Sea-level is 0-15m

 
PHYSICAL FEATURES
 

The origin of the Delta can be traced to the Ice Age `Wurm 3`. The present geomorphological form has evolved in historical times. The northern part of the Delta is slowly sinking, resulting in measurable water flow increase in the Chilia arm of the Danube. Only 9% of the area is permanently above water (EEN, 1990). The Delta is extensive in European terms (some 12 times the size of Cota Donana Reserve on the Guadalquivir Delta, Spain) with numerous freshwater lakes interconnected by narrow channels with huge expanses of aquatic vegetation. The Razelm-Sinoie complex to the south consists of several large brackish lagoons separated from the sea by a sandbar (Grimmett and Jones, 1989). Every year thousands of tons of alluvial deposits are carried into the Delta by the Danube resulting in a constant reshaping of the river banks and sandbars. The overall basic hydrological and ecological systems of the Delta, although strongly degraded, are considered intact . Rosca-Buhaiova-Hrecisca strictly protected area is considered almost unaltered by man due to the shallow water level making access almost impossible. Perisor-Zatoane-Sachalin strictly protected area is a mosaic of lakes and ponds and reedbeds with parallel strips of sand dunes. Sacalin Island is made up of alluvial deposits with sand dunes and Tamarix. The Delta has been classified into 12 habitat types as follows: aquatic habitats - lakes (0.80m - 2.50m depth) covered with flooded reedbeds; `plaur` - flooded islets; flooded reeds and willows; riverine forest of willows and poplars; cane-fields; sandy and muddy beaches; wet meadows; dry meadows (arid); human settlements; sandy and rocky areas; steep banks; and forests on high ground.

 
CLIMATE
 

The prevailing continental climate, with only 450mm of annual rainfall, is temporarily influenced by proximity to the sea and the humidity rising from countless inland lakes and small waterways (Anon., 1990).

 
VEGETATION
 

This is the largest continuous marshland in Europe which includes the greatest stretch of reedbeds probably in the world. The marsh vegetation is dominated by Reeds Phragmites australis which form floating or fixed islands of decaying vegetation (`plaur`) with some Typha angustifolia and Scirpus sp. Reeds cover some 1,700 sq. km and `plaur` 1,000 sq. km, whilst the total area not included is only 148 sq. km. There are also Water Lilies Nymphaea alba and Nuphar luteus and Stratiodes alloides. The higher ground supports stands of Salix, Populus, Alnus and Quercus. Sandy areas are covered with feather grass Stipa sp. and other steppe species. Forest elements are best observed in Letea Forest, occurring in a series of bands along dunes up to 250m long and 10m wide, where trees reach 35m in height. The species present are Quercus robur, Quercus pedunculiflora, Populus alba, Populus nigra, Fraxinus ornus, Fraxinus angustifolia, Fraxinus palisae, Pyrus pyraster, Tilia tomentosa, Ulmus sp., and the occasional Alnus glutinosa. Among the shrubs are Crataegus monogyna, Euonimus europea, Cornus mas, Cornus sanguinea, Rhamnus frangula, Rhamnus catharctica, Viburnum opulus, Berberis vulgaris, Hippophae rhamnoides, Tamarix spp. and occasional Corylus avellana. The distinctive feature of the forest is the abundance of climbing plants including Periploca graeca, Clematis vitalba, Vitis sylvestris and Humulus lupulus. In spring, the ground is carpeted with Convallaria majalis. Particularly rare and threatened plants include Convolvulus persica, Ephedra distachya, Merendera sobolifera, Plantago coronopus and Petunia parviflora.

 
FAUNA
 

Over 360 species of bird have been recorded, of which over 180 species breed the most important being: Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus (6000 pairs comprising 80% of the world`s population), White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus (3000 pairs comprising 70% of the world population), Dalmatian pelican Pelecanus crispus (estimated at 150 pairs, perhaps now only 40-50 pairs, (which represents 5% of the world population), night heron Nycticorax nycticorax (2100 pairs), squacco heron Ardeola ralloides (2150 pairs), great white heron Egretta alba (500 pairs), little egret E. garzetta (2000 pairs), purple heron Ardea purpurea (400 pairs), glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus (1200 pairs), White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (8 pairs), marsh harrier Circus aeruginous (200 pairs), Saker falcon Falco cherrug (5-6 pairs), red-footed falcon F. vespertinus (60-70 pairs), common tern S. hirundo (2000+ pairs), whiskered tern Chlidonias hybridus (7000+), and black tern C. niger (5000), Rose-coloured Starling Sturnus roseus (1000-5000 pairs). The Delta holds huge numbers of Anatidae in the winter with counts of 200000 white-fronted goose Anser albifrons, up to 10-15 lesser white-fronted goose A. erythropus, 30000 red-breasted goose Branta ruficollis a globally threatened species with almost 85% of the world wintering population present here. The Delta is very important for fish with 45 fresh water species present including threatened representatives of the Acipensenidae . Otter Lutra lutra, Stoat Mustela erminea, and European mink Mustela lutreola, as well as Wild Cat Felis sylvestris are to be found on the floating islands. It appears that little work has been done on mammals since 1970 largely as a result of lack of funding, but the mink population, although its size is unknown, is apparently significant in European terms. The forest areas contain several rare reptiles, including, Elaphe longissiuma, and near the Black Sea coast living the rare Vipera ursini renardii

 
CULTURAL HERITAGE
 

The very long history of trading along the Danube is evident from remains of Greek and Roman settlements (including a lighthouse). Villages surrounding the Delta show a Turkish influence.

 
HUMAN POPULATION
 

Estimated at between 12,000 and 16,000 (most of Ukrainian orthodox Lipki descent), depending on the definition of the area covered and residence status The lower figure is considered to be 50% less than 50 years ago. The population is distributed along the three main waterways, Chilia, Sulina and Sfintu Gheorghe, the main source of drinking water. Most of the younger generation has left the Delta and old fishing villages of reed huts have been replaced by concrete structures, although individual fishing huts are retained. Social problems are exacerbated by low incomes due to set prices for fish. Some constructions are inappropriate to the region such as the blocks of flats and large commercial complex at Sfintu Gheorghe which remain empty .The local population has been involved in small-scale, low-intensity use of natural resources supplemented by outside interests, such as fishing (12,000 boats are registered), cattle grazing and beekeeping, thought on the whole to be integrated to preservation of natural heritage.

 
CONSERVATION VALUE
 

The Delta is the meeting point of Palaearctic and Mediterranean biogeographic zones and represents an unique dynamic wetland ecosystem in Europe (the second largest delta) containing a rich biodiversity of wetland habitats. The site is internationally significant for birds, both breeding and migratory, including a number of globally-threatened species. It is also a vitally important buffer system between the hydrographical basin of the River Danube and the Black Sea.

 
CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT
 

Within the `Delta` biosphere reserve (covering some 679,222ha) 18,145ha are included in a separate biosphere designation (the core zone covers two-thirds of the area, the peripheral areas forming the buffer zone) and 43,790ha in seven nature reserves (two of which overlap with the biosphere reserve). The 18,145ha Rosca-Letea was declared a biosphere reserve in 1979 (the Rosca area has been protected since 1961 and Letea Forest since 1978); the nature reserves are:- Rosca-Buhaiova-Hrecisca (15,600ha but including part of the biosphere reserve), Perisor-Zatoane-Sacalin (15,400ha), Istria (8,000ha), Periteasca-Leahova-Gura Portitei (3,900ha), Popina (90ha), Saraturile (100ha) and Hasmacul Mare (700ha). These existing nature reserves are considered to be undisturbed zones which are totally protected. The biosphere reserve enabling legislation prohibits damaging and potentially damaging activities (Decree 983, 27.9.90) and controls intensive land use incompatible with the maintenance of the wetland ecosystem. At present there are 52,980ha of core zone, at 16 separate sites, 25,500ha of restoration zone, 230,200ha of buffer zone and 267,542ha of transition zone.

 

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