Cross-border Conservation of Pygmy Cormorant and Ferruginous Duck

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East

Europe/Middle-East > Europe General

Pygmy cormorant
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Summary

This project aims to support conservation of the pygmy cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus and the ferruginous duck Aythya nyroca. Work is focused on supporting these species in Romania and Bulgaria.

A cross-border approach will be adopted to improve coordination of conservation efforts which will address key requirements at breeding and feeding sites. This includes implementation of best management practices at fishponds, reedbeds and surrounding forest lands.

Background

The pygmy cormorant and the ferruginous duck are 2 globally threatened species that regularly occur in the European Union. They are considered as priority species for the purpose of LIFE+ Nature funding.

The pygmy cormorant breeds patchily in southern and south-eastern Europe (75% of its global breeding range), its European breeding population being estimated as less than 39,000 pairs. The breeding population in Romania account for 11,500 -14,000 pairs, and in Bulgaria for 350-400 pairs.

The species receives some protection within the Danube Delta’s biosphere reserve, but is not protected throughout the rest of its range along the lower Danube. It uses the inland wetlands for breeding, feeding and wintering, and is dependent on the conservation of this natural habitat.

Ferruginous duck is evaluated as vulnerable in Europe, its breeding population being estimated at less than 18,000 pairs. The populations in Romania (6,500 breeding pairs) and Bulgaria (230 breeding pairs) are considered of international importance, especially in the context of the overall declining trend. The maintenance or restoration of wetlands along the lower Danube are of vital importance for the breeding populations of these 2 priority species.

Objectives

Ensuring conditions to achieve and maintain favourable conservation status for pygmy cormorant and ferruginous duck in Romania and Bulgaria is the main objective of this project and will include:

1. Coordinated conservation efforts for the 2 priority species through improved, cross-border management of the network of Natura 2000 sites along lower Danube.
2. Increased knowledge of the species status and ecological needs for a wide range of stakeholders in both countries.
3 Disturbance free and improved breeding and feeding conditions at key sites through implementing best management practices of fishponds, reedbeds and forest and improved ecological status of the wetlands used as breeding and feeding sites.

This cross-border approach in the lower Danube area will, for the first time, allow for adequate implementation of the conservation measures required to ensure the sustainability of the populations of the 2 priority species across key Natura 2000 sites.

The project will be implemented by 3 public bodies in Romania and Bulgaria (2 Local Environment Protection Agencies in Romania and Persina Nature Park Directorate in Bulgaria), 2 NGOs (WWF Danube Carpathian Programme and Romanian Ornithological Society and one private company in Romania) over a period of 48 months.

Solution

1. A cross-border protected area will be designated to demonstrate the efficiency of such measures and will serve as an example to be applied in other similar areas. The implementation of best management practices in fisheries which are also Natura 2000 sites, will allow for testing, adapting and demonstrating the effectiveness of such practices and the results will help in the design of compensatory measures to benefit both people and nature.

2. Public awareness of the species conservation needs, the importance of the Natura 2000 network and opportunities for sustainable development in such areas will be raised through seminars, workshops, public events, dissemination of information materials focusing on specific target groups and the general public. The capacity to organise controlled ecotourism will be strengthened at two sites by building small scale visitor centres.

3. At key sites, the breeding habitat of the pygmy cormorant will be enhanced by creating conditions for the expansion of colonies (planting willows) and of ferruginous duck by ensuring a proper management of the reedbeds. These actions will involve active consultations with local stakeholders.

4. Disturbance free conditions will be ensured at key breeding and feeding sites by installing warning signs, delineation of temporary non-intrusion zones during nesting periods, and by implementing suitable regulatory measures of human activities in these areas.

5. As both species are dependent on freshwater ecosystems for feeding and this generates major conflicts with the fishery owners, alternative feeding areas will be provided at key sites by the creation of freshwater pools, flooding abandoned fishponds and improving connectivity of wetlands and adequate water circulation to ensure periods with shallow water, required by both species. These actions will help to improve food availability at these sites.

6. Seminars will be organised for fishermen and hunters to eliminate mortality due to misunderstanding of the species’ ecological needs and mismanagement.

7. A major problem identified across the sites along lower Danube is the disposal of waste in the vicinity of the wetlands. This is likely to affect water quality and lead to eutrofication, therefore action will be taken to collect the garbage at key sites. The same effect is induced by excessive use of fertilisers in intensive fisheries. The owners of the fishponds will be provided with information on best management practices for extensive fisheries.

8. A comprehensive monitoring programme of the populations of the 2 species will provide information on the effects of the conservation measures before and after project implementation.

Achievement

- Population of pygmy cormorant along the lower Danube maintained at 1,590 (Romania) and 770 (Bulgaria) breeding pairs.

- Population of ferruginous duck along the lower Danube maintained at 400 (Romania) and 155 (Bulgaria) breeding pairs.

- The breeding and feeding areas of the 2 species will be increased by at least 1,200ha in Romania and Bulgaria.

- The designation of a cross-border protected area of about 44,297ha in Romania and Bulgaria as a demonstration for integrated conservation actions will serve as a good example for other similar areas and will open opportunities for cooperation in the lower Danube area.

- Overall, the project will contribute to the implementation of the Lower Danube Green Corridor Agreement by increasing the areas of Natura 2000 sites with adequate management, the connectivity between key areas by rehabilitating 1,200ha of wetlands, therefore improving the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 sites along lower Danube.

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