Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve
A Garden of Eden for People and Wildlife
- Location: Dobrogea, Tulcea County, Constanta County and Galati County in southeastern Romania
- Size: 580,000 hectares
- Established: 1990
If ever there was an Achilles’ heel in both ancient and recent European history, then that was the Danubian Delta. The lower course of the Danube has often been both a defensive and an offensive line for all the great empires establishing their political borders here. The region called Scythia Minor of the Roman and Byzantine world took the shape of a spur reaching into a territory which was difficult to map and supervise. It was the first to be affected by invasions, and also a starting point of military campaigns across the Danube.
A place of hyperborean legends, the Peuce island area of strange and bizarre creatures, the delta was gradually discovered and colonised by Greek and Roman merchants. On the lower course of the Danube, the delta represented the most vulnerable and difficult point to control; it’s no wonder that numerous fortresses and citadels were built around it, starting from the period of the Roman Empire and continuing during Byzantium.
At the end of a course of over 2,840 kilometres, collecting the water from a vast hydrological basin that exceeds 8% of the area of Europe, the Danube has built one of the most beautiful deltas in Europe. The Danube Delta is one of the biggest wetlands in the world. A living museum of biodiversity, with 30 types of ecosystems, the Danube Delta is a natural genetic bank with inestimable value for natural world heritage.
Among the water formations in the delta are running waters, fresh still waters like big lakes and lakes inside polders, isolated lakes with still salted or brackish waters, coastal lagoons connected to the sea and marine coastal areas with semi-closed gulfs. Its wetlands include the largest area of compact reed beds on the planet. The delta’s diverse landscapes range from floating islands, willow formations and meadows on flooded banks, river plains, oak forests, shrubs, grassy areas, steppe meadows, meadows on marine levees, shifting sand dunes with little vegetation, coastal belts and beaches as well as agricultural polders, to forest polders and poplar plantations on river banks.
A Bank of Natural Heritage
The delta is a natural gene bank with inestimable value for the world's natural heritage, with a high density of many species that are rare or extinct in other European areas. Of the 331 species of birds found in the delta, 12 species are protected by law, some of which have been declared monuments of nature because they are endangered. The area has been recognised worldwide as nesting place for many bird populations like the white pelican, the Dalmatian pelican and the pygmy cormorant. There are also important colonies of spoonbill and several nesting species of white-tailed eagle. The Danube Delta is a major stopover site (during spring and autumn) for millions of birds, especially ducks, white storks and numerous predators. In winter the Danube Delta hosts huge groups of swans and geese, including almost the entire world population of red-breasted goose. Also found in the delta are avocets, black-winged stilts, glossy ibises, reed warblers, mute swans, plovers, grebes, marsh harriers, falcons, egrets and gulls.
The fish fauna of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is remarkably rich, with 135 species. The majority are fresh water fishes, like carps, catfish, perches, pikes, breams, rapacious carps or Prussian carps, but there are also marine species that come into the Danube Delta during mating season. Approximately a third of these species has been or still is subject to commercial fishing, including the Danube mackerel and the sturgeon, which has been subject to a ten-year fishing ban since 2006.
The Danube Delta contributes to the Danube Parks Network through joint cooperation with all protected areas along the Danube River and by helping to make people aware of the transnational effect of their actions.