Biking along the Danube for biodiversity
“The River Danube is said to be home to some of Europe’s most important biodiversity hotspots, and also passes through many different countries and cultures, so it seems like a good place to answer our core question. We will be interviewing local people, visiting a brewery, an eco-tourism hotspot, national parks and much more along the way”, said Will Ashley-Cantello, organiser of the group.
“We are not the first to ask this question. As you know this year will see the publication of a major global research, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which tries to understand how economically important biodiversity is, i.e. if we put a money value on it, how much would it be? The initial results are staggering”, Ashley-Cantello said.
The trio is doing this trip in their spare time, but have been working hard to make it as powerful a communication exercise as possible. They have worked closely with WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme and the Natural History Museum in London, which is the UK Government's delivery body for the International Year of Biodiversity. They have been named as an official partner of the International Year of Biodiversity in the UK.
The result of the journey – blogs, photos, videos – will trigger a discussion and thought about the vital services that we get for free from the plants and animals around us, flood protection, waste treatment, food supply, clean air.
Pete, Andy and Will have all got a bit of a history of getting on their bikes for a good cause. In 2007, Pete and Will cycled the length of the UK, from Land's End to John O'Groats, to try out ways of living a low-carbon lifestyle. With the help of the BBC, they made a film of that journey. Meanwhile, in 2009, Andy rode a tandem bike from London to Morocco, raising money and awareness for the environment and development charity, WaterAid.
You can follow Pete, Andy and Will here.
Biodiversity facts about the Danube
- The river originates in the Black Forest in Germany as the much smaller Brigach and Breg rivers which join at the German town Donaueschingen, after which it is known as the Danube and flows eastwards for a distance of some 2850 km, passing through four Central and Eastern European capitals, before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine.
- The Danube River basin, the most international river basin in the world covering 19 countries, is currently home to 83 million people. 20,000 of them depend on the river and its surrounding ecosystems for their drinking water.
- Wetlands are among the world’s most productive environments. Their biological riches are important not only for nature, but also for humans, providing a host of different services, including: flood and drought management through holding and slowly releasing water, water purification through filtration, production of natural resources (e.g. fish and reeds), recreation and many others.
- The value of the various benefits from Danube floodplains is estimated to be at least €500 per hectare a year.
- Water purification through nutrient retention of Danube floodplains is worth an estimated €369 million per year.
- 100 fish species live in the Danube, while over 5,000 animal species live along the river.
- The Lower Danube and Danube Delta are especially important as breeding and resting places for some 331 species of birds, including the rare Dalmatian pelican, the white-tailed eagle, as well as 90% of the world population of red-breasted geese.
- Beluga sturgeon, which can grow to a length of 6 meters – the size of a large dolphin - are famous for their caviar. They spawn in the gravel banks of the Lower Danube and migrate downstream to spend the rest of the year in the Black Sea.
- In Romania, at the Delta, dry and unproductive land on the major islands of Babina and Cernovca has been returned to the river. The islands have been turned into a mosaic of habitats that offer shelter and food for many species, including rare birds and valuable fish species. The economic benefits of the restoration works (3,680 ha), in terms of increased natural resources productivity (fish, reed, grasslands and tourism), is about €140,000 per year.