Europe’s Unrivalled Wetland
Where the mighty Danube river meets the Black Sea, it has created a massive deltaland, Europe’s largest wetland area. It is still surprisingly wild and relatively undestroyed. And it is now getting wilder…
The 600,000 hectare delta is home to massive amounts of waterbirds of all kinds, most notably pelicans of two species, herons, storks, cormorants and terns. It is a favourite staging area for passage migrants and also wintering grounds for masses of migrating waterbirds from the steppes, the boreal forests and the tundras further north. Here are also lie some of Europe’s very few remaining grazed mosaique forest landscapes, kept in their natural state by the wild horses and wild cattle still present. Soon also again beavers will be back, red deer and fallow deer.
The massive productivity of the many water habitats here has led to the delta harbouring the largest number of fish species anywhere in Europe. Flagship species of which of course are the four species of sturgeon, which once used to wander the entire length of the Danube river all the way up into Germany. The sturgeons have been critically endangered for decades, but fishing bans and reintroductions are now possibly slowly making a difference.
As in many other areas of Europe, traditional farming based on livestock has become unprofitable. The fishing-farming communities here are amongst Europe’s poorest and they are looking for new, alternative sources of income for modern times. Tourism is already reasonably developed in parts of the delta, with several local tour operators, a growing capacity and infrastructure located in the regional hub Tulcea, and relatively good standards of accommodation increasingly provided within and on the periphery of the delta. With a very rich history from ancient times to the present day, the delta and its surroundings offer a multitude of historical remains from Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The “wilderness” concept has an interesting potential of further profiling the Danube Delta both within Romania and abroad, and in that there is a need to better involve the local communities and authorities in the process and its associated economic opportunities.
“The people of the Danube Delta have since long been defined by the amazing environment in which they live. In a distant past they knew ways to wisely use the nature they had always been dependent on. Today, they will have to both remember the old but also discover some new ways, for the sake of people and nature. We contribute in several ways to this process, offering support for developing one of the first community conservancies in Europe, trying to ensure the further rewilding of this unique area and the comeback of its wildlife.”
Alexandra Panait, Danube Delta Project Leader