Lower Danube Green Corridor

Lower Danube Green Corridor map. rel=
Lower Danube Green Corridor map.
© WWF
Belene Island, Bulgaria. Former floodplain forests and wetlands are being restored in the Bulgarian ... / ©: Александър Иванов
WWF projects demonstrate the benefits of reconnecting Danube wetlands to the river system.
© Александър Иванов

Europe's most ambitious wetland project

WWF's objective: To protect and restore valuable wetland areas along the final 1,000 km of the Danube, including the globally important Danube Delta.
More specifically, the aim is to secure effective implementation of the Lower Danube Green Corridor (LDGC) Agreement, including:
  • Effective protection for 1 million ha of existing and new protected areas.
  • Restoration of 224,000 ha of natural floodplain.
  • Promotion of sustainable use and development along the lower Danube.

Why protect and restore wetlands?

Wetlands are hotspots of biodiversity and provide a myriad of benefits and services, including flood protection, drinking water, nutrient removal, tourism and recreation, fish and fowl. 80% of Danube's wetlands have been lost in the past century because of human intervention. In addition, large parts of the Danube are experiencing river bed erosion due to gravel extraction, dredging and dams, contributing to a lowering of water tables.

Lower Danube Green Corridor

Facilitated by WWF, the Lower Danube Green Corridor Agreement was signed in 2000 by the governments of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova, recognizing a need and shared responsibility to protect and manage in a sustainable way one of the most outstanding biodiversity regions in the world. The Lower Danube Green Corridor Declaration pledged to boost protection for 775,000 ha of existing protected areas and bring another 160,000 ha under protection along the river’s final 1000 kilometres. 

Since 2000, WWF's activities have been focused on practical implementation of the Lower Danube Green Corridor through coordination and policy work with governments and other authorities; demonstration projects; and work with local stakeholders in particular to promote sustainable local development. 

Along the Lower Danube Green Corridor

After squeezing through the Iron Gates gorge and dams between Serbia and Romania, the Danube flows free for 1,000 kilometers through Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. The Lower Danube is one of the last free-flowing stretches of river in Europe.

Dependent on this part of the river are not only Europe’s greatest natural treasures, but also the 29 million people who live in the Lower Danube River basin – people who directly benefit from the many services that the river provides, from drinking water to natural resources and recreation.

In the Lower Danube the natural dynamics of the river have formed and re-formed nearly 200 islands that are home to rich floodplain ecosystems. The islands are important elements of the Danube migration corridor – stepping stones for fish, fowl and other fauna as well as flora on their journeys up and down the river.

The Danube’s greatest jewel is its delta, Europe’s largest remaining natural wetland area and, as regarded by WWF, among the 200 most valuable ecological areas on earth. A total of 5,137 species have been identified along the lower stretch of the river, including 42 different species of mammals, and 85 species of fish.

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.  

Implementation to date

In 2010, 10 years after the agreement was signed, the level of achievement was much higher than expected, with some 1.4 million ha brought under protection to the benefit of some of Europe’s most outstanding wildlife and in enhancing water security, flood control and recreational opportunities for the area’s 29 million people.

Running behind target however was the task of wetlands restoration with the countries slightly more than a quarter of the way to their target of restoring 224,000 ha of former wetlands.

Current projects

Bulgaria
  • Meander restoration is taking place on 3 of the Danube’s tributaries. These model projects are the first of their kind in Bulgaria.
  • With the support of the National Forestry Board, major steps have been taken to protect and sustainably manage floodplain forests, including successful restoration of the natural oak forest on Bulgaria's Danube islands.
Romania
  • Dry and unproductive land in the Danube Delta has been transformed through restoration projects. It has turned into a mosaic of habitats that offer shelter and food for many species, including rare birds and valuable fish species, like pike and carp. The economic benefits of the restoration works in Babina and Cernovca (3,680ha), in terms of increased natural resources productivity (fish, reed, grasslands) and tourism, is about €140,000 per year.
  • Floodplains in the south of Romania will be reconnected to the Danube and land use changes will be promoted to offer a potential for sustainable tourism, natural reed harvesting, fishing and other sustainable economic activities.
  • A pilot project to demonstrate integrated management of the floodplain forest combining nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources will be launched on the Danube islands.
  • The restoration of the island of Carasuhat will begin in 2012. 
Ukraine
  • A Vision for the Protection and Restoration of the Danube Delta was developed by WWF and relevant authorities, including the Odessa Provincial Government and water authorities and published in 2003. Practical implementation of the vision has moved forward since then.
  • Dikes on Tataru Island in the Danube Delta were removed in 2003, restoring natural flooding to 800 ha. The former wetland areas have quickly revived. A herd of hardy cows has been introduced by WWF and the Izmail Forest Administration, which controls the island, to help manage vegetation as well as provide income. Tourism infrastructure is being developed on the island and the first tourists are arriving for angling and other recreation.
  • Lake Katlabuh (10,000 ha) is being reconnected to the Danube system through construction by WWF and the Odessa Water Management Authority of a bridge and removal of a dike. The lake, which was separated from the natural flooding of the river in the 1970s, has been slowly dying, threatening fish stocks in the lake. 
  • The restoration of Ermakov Island is also completed.   
Moldova
  • With the support of the local community, a new management plan is being implemented at Lake Beleu scientific reserve. This first attempt for an integrated management of wetlands will be expanded in the Lower Prut area as part of a Trilateral Biosphere Reserve that is planned between Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

 

  • Orieta Hulea is the Head of the Freshwater Programme at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.  / ©: Andreas Zednicek / WWF
    Europe's most ambitious wetland project -- Interview with Orieta Hulea, Head of WWF's Danube/Freshwater Programme.

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