The Danube Delta - Europe's largest remaining natural wetland
With over 300 species of birds and 45 freshwater fish species that find their habitat in its numerous lakes and marshes, the Danube Delta is one of the continent's most valuable habitats for wetland wildlife and biodiversity. The Danube Delta is the second largest river delta in Europe, after the Volga. It covers 799,000 ha, 65,000 ha of which are strictly protected. Approximately 80% of the Danube Delta lies in Romanian and 20% in Ukrainian territory.
In 1991, it was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, inscribed on the World Heritage List and internationally recognised as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1990. The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA) is also an important member of the EUROPARC Federation, particularly to exchange information about wetlands management for the World Wetlands Day on February 2, 2013.
The designation of the pentalateral UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” highlighted the importance of nature conservation and set a framework for increased cooperation between the countries. The multinational approach allows that upcoming threats from unsustainable development (especially navigation) are addressed. From a global perspective, the “Mura–Drava– Danube” transboundary Biosphere Reserve would also serve as a leading example of international cooperation to save this delta, one of the last remaining natural wetland areas in Europe.
The Natura 2000 network protects many wetland habitat types and species in Europe, and other Directives also contribute to improving the quality of wetlands. As complex ecosystems, wetlands are of paramount importance for biodiversity but also because they perform important environmental and economic functions. Naturally functioning wetlands reduce flooding events, improve water quality, store carbon, and represent a valuable cultural and natural heritage. Wetlands have an intrinsic value as they generate unique vegetal, wildlife, fisheries, forestry and recreational resources.
However, the loss of wetlands is widespread. Today, they are affected by human activities in their entire water catchment area. They are among the most threatened ecosystems and landscapes in Europe due mainly to drainage, land reclamation, pollution and overexploitation of wetland resources. It is estimated that two thirds of Europe’s wetlands have disappeared since the beginning of the 20th Century, mainly through “development processes”. This is true for the Danube Delta and River as well. But increasingly, protection initiatives are adressing the threatenin settings. The Natura 2000 programme and network is a strong partner across Europe.
Wetland management in a participatory approach
For many years, protection projects have been implemented along the entire river, including the delta. However, leakage from petrochemical and toxic waste waters continue to be a major threat for fauna and flora as they often cause aquatic organisms to suffocate.
From a wetland management perspective, it is crucial to achieve a durable socio-economical development in the area. Emphasis should be given to establish a constructive dialogue between the decision maker and the public ( i.e. local communities). This calls for education and raising awareness of the public. With access to information and correct understanding and interpretation of information local communities can be encouraged to take part in decision making. Then only, can the unique birds and aquatic richness be preserved, such as the White Pelican, the Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorants, Ferruginous Duck or Night Herons, to name just a few of the most common species.
For the Danube Delta, the aim and hope for wetland management is that with international exchange, the participation of the local communities and volunteers can be reinforced to make them participate in protection activities.
EUROPARC knows of the importance of information, training and education and citizen participation in protected areas and has a large history of supporting PAs to enhance their actions. For the Danube Delta, the EUROPARC network can offer support to enhance the international exchange across our European network, for instance with the Transboundary Parks programme.
To get more insights on the Danube River and Delta, listen to the IUCN Interview “Wild Talk”: http://www.iucn.org/knowledge/multimedia/audio/?1449/Keeping-the-Danube-beautiful
Link to photos of our member Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA) http://www.ddbra.ro/deltapedia/galerie-foto-dd
Link to WWF Living Waters report: http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/mrwdanubecasestudy.pdf
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