Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

Europe’s unrivalled wetland

Danube Delta

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.

The 580,000 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 also lie some of Europe’s very few remaining grazed mosaic forest landscapes, the beautiful gallery woodlands from Letea and Caraorman. Beavers, are making their return into the area, the area holds healthy populations of golden jackal while white-tailed eagles show a remarkable comeback.

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 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 area has unprecedented potential for wetland restoration and rewilding, in particular the former polders and lakes can be reflooded and reconnected with the Danube river dynamics.


Rewilding vision

For each rewilding area we developed an inspiring vision that shows our ambition for the next ten years. Together with our local partners we work to make this vision a reality.

What are we doing here?

Using natural dynamics as drivers of change

One of the least populated areas in Europe, the Danube Delta offers a unique opportunity to restore a whole spectrum of biodiverse habitats – from open estuarine systems, naturally grazed grassland and vast reed beds through to freshwater marshes, coastal lagoons, shallow lakes and riverine forests.

Working with partners, the Rewilding Danube Delta team is working to significantly improve the ecological integrity and natural functioning of 40,000 hectares of wetland and terrestrial delta habitat, using rewilding principles at on a landscape scale. Revitalised and self-governing natural processes, particularly flooding and natural grazing, will govern landscape formation, driving other natural processes, wildlife comeback, increased biodiversity and the development of a nature-based economy.

The Danube Delta rewilding area is part of the Tauros breeding programme, managed by the Taurus Foundation and Rewilding Europe. The aim of the programme is to bring back a functional, wild version of the auroch – called the Tauros – by establishing viable wild populations of this animal in several European locations. Through their grazing, the growing number of Tauros in the delta are gradually creating a biodiversity-rich mosaic landscape that benefits other species such as wild boar, golden jackal and various rodents. As a result of two translocations in 2016 and 2017, the number of Tauros grazing near Sfantu Gheorghe is now 18 animals.

Promoting a nature-based economy

The Danube Delta region is economically depressed, with high levels of unemployment, rural depopulation, low living standards and a strong dependence on natural resources. There is therefore a continuous risk of unsustainable and unwanted development in this sensitive area.

Rewilding Europe is working to create new opportunities for delta communities by supporting the development of nature-based business. We establish best pratice models, provide business development support, and, where possible, financial support through Rewilding Europe Capital. Our experience in the Romanian village of Sfântu Gheorghe and the Ukrainian village of Orlovka shows that this, in turn, creates incentives for restoration, encourages acceptance of wildlife comeback, and instills a strong sense of pride in the local area.

In collaboration with partners, we are also working to construct nature tourism infrastructure, such as wildlife watching towers, panels and hides. The Rewilding Europe enterprise team is backing this up with theoretical and practical training sessions on the provision of wildlife watching activities.

“Danube Delta is a truly unique ecosystem”

Mykhailo Nesterenko

Mykhailo Nesterenko
Rewilding Ukraine team leader

How would you characterise your rewilding area?
The Danube Delta is Europe’s largest remaining natural wetland – a truly unique ecosystem. The delta region includes extensive examples of unaltered rivers, lakes, reed beds, marshes, steppes, dunes, sandbars, coasts, lagoons, salt marshes and climax forests. Local communities in the Danube Delta (the Danube Delta Sub-Basin District supports more than one million people) have little knowledge and limited capacity to use ecosystems in an economically and ecologically sustainable way, directly impacting living standards and biodiversity. With the delta acting as a historic crossroads, this is an extremely diverse region in terms of nationalities, with each preserving its customs and traditions.

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding area to date?
The restoration of large islands in the Danube Biosphere Reserve, one of the most successful wetland restoration projects in the region. Also a number of community-based projects, in collaboration with the muncipality of Orlovka. These have included local wetland restoration, the reintroduction of water buffalo for natural grazing, and the establishment of a nature park to generate income for the community. We will now take this work further as Rewilding Ukraine.

What would you like to see achieved in your rewilding area in the next five years?
We have a fairly ambitious plan to restore large wetlands in the Danube Delta, as well as steppes in the Danube Delta region. I would also like to see more large herbivores introduced, and the further development of several nature-based economic initiatives. All of this will build on our past success and the partnerships that we have forged over almost two decades of conservation work on the Ukrainian side of the delta.

Our main achievements

Image gallery

Team members

Mykhailo Nesterenko

Team leader, Ukraine

Serban Ion

Team leader, Romania

Răzvan Crimschi

Rewilding officer, Romania

Oleg Dyakov

Field officer, Ukraine

Board members

Romania
Stefan Constantinescu
Serban Ion
Deli Saavedra
Ukraine
Joseph Chernichko
Nataliya Zakorchevnaya
Igor Studennikov

Partners

Rewilding Europe works with three main partners in the Danube Delta. In Romania, this is the recently established foundation called ‘Rewilding Danube Delta’, registered in Tulcea in 2017. On the Ukrainian side, we are working with ‘Rewilding Ukraine’, a new entity established in 2017 as well.

Apart from this, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WWF in Romania on assuring alignment and coordination of all work in the delta, based on a common vision.

These local partners have their own local partners, such as The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority in both Romania and Ukraine, the Danube Delta Research Institute (INCDDD), ICAS, and the municipality of Sfântu Gheorghe; all on the Romanian side.

Contact

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