USAMV Cluj-Napoca  

Project title: Plant and Fish Biodiversity in Danube Delta

Coordinator: University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca (USAMV Cluj-Napoca)

University of Natural resources and Life Sciences Wien (BOKU)
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS)
Banat’s University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Timișoara (USAMVB)

Target group: 15 students, MSc ( max. 15 from all CASEE universities)

Budget: Co-financed by CASEE & USAMV Cluj-Napoca*,**
* a 80 EUR additional contribution will be required from each participant
** Transport from hometown to Cluj-Napoca not included

Main purpose: Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots of Europe, where traditional lifestyle is still in harmony with the developing tourism, leisure and industrial fishing, extensive agricultural practices and natural resources. Despite some research activities ongoing there, its extraordinary educational potential has not been used significantly for the moment. Considering all these, the main aim of this summer school is to introduce to life science students the biodiversity of Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, with highlight on its main components: fish and plants with a potential agricultural use.

Motivation in relation to CASEE goals: The ‘EU Strategy for the Danube Region’ represents a high European priority (1), addressing many areas of interest under an integrated approach (e.g. environment, economic development,human resource development, research and technological transfer, etc.). The Action Plan is one of the outputs of the Strategy, identifying the key-priorities for this macroregion. The Danube Delta is a high touristic attraction region, with a well-recognized biodiversity. The region is under environmental protection, being considered a Biosphere Reserve.
Description of the site: Danube Delta consists of an intricate pattern of marshes, channels, streamlets and lakes, being the second delta in Europe as size (5165 km²) but holding the highest biodiversity. It is estimated that 98% of the aquatic European fauna is found in the Danube Delta. The number of animal species living here is well over 3500 (3061 invertebrates and 529 vertebrates). The average altitude is 0.52 m, with 20% of the territory below sea level, and more than half not exceeding one meter in altitude, with dunes on the most extensive strandplains of the delta (Letea and Caraorman) stand higher (12.4 m and 7 m respectively). Danube Delta is divided into 3 main structures: Fluvial Delta, Fluvial-Marine Delta and Razelm-Sinoe lagoon complex. Danube Delta population is dispersed and the average density is approximately 5 inhabitants/km²; the number triples during summer, due to tourism. Regarding the demographic structure of the area, there are: Romanians, Lipovans, Ukrainians, Greeks, Turks, Tatars.

Brief description of the project: The Summer School is designed to last for around 9 days. The school is a mixture of lectures, field trips, student presentations and reading sessions. Each lecturer is expected to give 3 hours of lectures, split into 2 x 1.5 hour sessions. Of the 9 days, 3 will be spent in the campus of the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj-Napoca, and 6 in various locations from Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The field trip will consist of practical demonstration on biodiversity (fish and plant identification), organized in small groups. At the end, each student is also expected to make a presentation, of about 30 minutes.

Fish biodiversity:

  • Over 100 species of freshwater fish are known to be present in Danube Delta. For many of these species conservation areas have been established.
  • Fishing is the main occupation of the inhabitants of the Delta. This activity is rather subsistence, with an archaic and traditional character, fishing being carried on with hand crafted, rudimentary equipment.
  • Students will learn which are the principles for fish identification and among the target species, which are representative for the Danube Delta we mention: beluga (Huso huso), starlet (Acipenser ruthenus), sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedti), pike (Esox lucius), Wels catfish (Silurus glanis), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), pike-perch (Stizostedion lucioperca), shad (Alosa pontica), crucian carp (Carassius carassius), tench (Tinca tinca), bream (Abramis brama) and rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), mullet (Mugil cephalus), mackerel (Scomber scombrus), anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), turbot (Scophthalmus maeoticus), thornback ray (Raja clavata) etc.
  • Students will be familiarized with the principle of sustainable fishing

Forest biodiversity:

  • Field trips will be organized to the main forests of Danude Delta. These forests are either cultivated forests or natural forests. The most common forests in the Danube Delta are the pure thrushes or mixed thruses with white poplar and black poplar, pure willow thrushes or mixed with poplar, common alder thrushes, floodplain mixed hardwood stand (hasmac stands) mixed with oak, poplar and ash, hybrid black poplar stands. The most representsative natural forests in the Danube Delta are the natural reservations  meant to preserve the biodiversity: Caraorman Forest, Letea Forest and Ereniciuc Alder Stand.
  • Caraorman forest has a 2250 ha surface and is placed near Caraorman locality. The most representative woody species are the common oak (Quercus robur), ash-tree (Fraxinus pallisae), poplar (Populus sp.), five stamen tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima), Salix cinerea, common clematis (Clematis vitalba). The forest also has very old oak trees of about 400 years and a circumference of over 4 meters, one of them being called „the kneeled oak”.
  • Letea Forest is the oldest natural reservation in Romania that was established in 1938, when the Romanian Council of Ministers declared Letea Forest a natural reservation. It is located at the north of Letea locality. It covers an area of approximately 2,825 ha. It has a subtropical aspect, due to the presence of the tropical creeper named Periploca graeca. This is a mediterranean plant which finds its most northern refuge in the Danube Delta. Along with this, types of liana (Periploca graeca) and other climbing plants (Vitis silvestris) are woven on the branches of the trees, such as the wild vine, the hop plant and the ivy. Letea Forest is formed mainly from trees like white poplar (Populus alba), black poplar (Populus nigra), elm tree (Ulmus minor), english oak (Quercus robur), greyish oak (Quercus pedunculiflora) silver lime, narrow-leafed ash (Fraxinus pallisae) and common alder (Alnus glutinosa). Along with these ones above, it is completed by a rich scale of sub-shrub species. It is also home for a rich fauna like the red-footed falcon (Falcon vespertinus), the white-tailed eagle (Haliacetus albicilla), the hoopoe (Upupa epops), a snake (Vipera ursinii) and the Danube Delta feral horses.
  • Erenciuc Alder Stand has a surface of 50 ha and it is the only compact alder stand in the Danube Delta. The trees (Alnus glutinosa) grow on high ridges around which the water is present most of the year. The common alder forest provides food, shelter and nesting places for white-tailed eagle (Haliacetus albicilla), a protected species.
  • Students will get familiar with the most frequent woody forestry species in the forests of the Danube Delta are: Acer campestre, Ailanthus altisima, Alnus glutinosa, Amorpha fruticosa, Berberis vulgaris, Carpinuss betulus, Clematis vitalba, Cornus mas, Cornus sanguinea, Corylus avelana, Crategus monogina, Eleagnus angustifolia, Euonymus europaea, Frangula alnus, Fraxinus angustifolia, Fraxinus pallisiae, Fraxinus pensylvanica, Hedera helix, Hippophae rhamnoides, Ligustrum vulgare, Malus sylvestris, Morus alba, Paliurus spina-christi, Periploca graeca, Prunus tenella, Pirus pyraster, Quercus robur, Quercus pedunculuiflora, Rhamnus cathartica, Rosa canina, Rubus caesius, Populus alba, Populus nigra, Populus canescens, Populus tremula, Salix alba, Salix aurita, Salix cinerea, Salix fragilis, Salix purpurea, Salix rosmarinifolia, Salix triandra, Sambucus nigra, Tamarix ramosissima, Tilia tomentosa, Ulmus laevis, Ulmus minor, Viburnum opulus, Vitis sylvestris.

Grassland biodiversity:

  • The thematic field trips planned during the summer school will focus on land-use change in Danube Delta:
  • Documentation and observation of biodiversity at landscape level: observation and assessment of cultured and wild plant biodiversity aspects and sample based field inventories; habitat suitability analyses.
  • Landraces inventory as a local variety of a domesticated plant species, developed by natural processes by adaptation to the natural and cultural environment.
  • Biocultural approach towards sustainable use of natural resources with the specific goal to adapting quality multi-stakeholder settings existing models to the strategy for ethical supply chain management for raw vegetables in Danube Delta area.
  • Discussion with locals and the park management about the conflicts between conservation and utilization.
  • Natural resources under changing environmental conditions: flora ecosystem research and its consequences for a sustainable biodiversity management.
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