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Danube Delta

At the end of a course  of over 2,860 km, collecting the water from a vast hydrological basin that exceeds 8% of the area of Europe, the Danube (the second largest river of the Continent) has during the last 16,000 years built at its mouth with the Black Sea one of the most beautiful deltas in Europe, perhaps in the whole world. The Danube Delta is famous as one of the greatest wetlands of the earth. The wonderful natural habitats formed here offer good living conditions for an impressive number of plants and animals. Among these, reeds form one of the largest single expanses in the world, amd Letea and Caraorman forests represent the northern limit for two rare species of oak thar are more frequently met in the south of the Italian and Balkan peninsulas. Together with the great number of aquaric and terrestrial plants, there are also many important colonies of pelicans and cormorans, which are characteristic of the Danube Delta, as well as a variety of other waterbirds which riside in or visit the delta for breeding or wintering. The large number of fish is also notable, with species of both high economic and ecological value.

Witthout doubt, the impressive  range of habitats and species which occupy a relatively small area makes the Danube Delta a vital centre for biodiversity in Europee, and a natural genetic bank with incalculable value for global natural heritage.

Many of the plant and animal species found in the delta are also important natural resources for economic use as food, building materials and medicines, they have attracted people to the area since ancient times. The human dwellings were chiefly based on the use of these natural resources, so developing traditional economic activities and characteristic cultural and social habits. Later, there was a tendency to overexploit some of these natural resources.

This tendency, which is still seen at the present, time, put increasing pressure on the resources, especially fish and grasslands, and was compunded by the development of economic activities which were not in harmony with the environment; for example, sand mining at Caraorman upset the ecological balance, causing the loss of some areas of natural fish spawning grounds through the sedimentation and eutrophication (or nutrient enrichment) of water channels and lakes. Because of the cumulative negative effects of human activity in the delta, together with those occurring around the delta itself, there was an increasing danger that the natural ecological balance would become irreparably harmed if appropriate measures were not taken to reduce these impacts, to restore already damaged areas, to protect the existing unaffected areas, and to harness local and regional support for these measures.

The factory briefly described above provided arguments for the designation of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDBR) by the Romanian Government in 1990, a decision then confirmed by the Romanian Parliament through law 82 of 1993. The universal value of the reserve was recognised by the Man and Biosphere Programme of Unesco in 1990 through its inclusion in the international network of biosphere reserves. In fact, DDBR possesses all the main features of a biosphere reserve, namely:

a) it conserves examples of characteristic ecosystems of one of the world's natural areas and contains strictly protected core areas, traditional use areas, e.g. for fhising and reed harvesting, and buffer zones to reduce external impacts;
b) it is a land and coastal/marine area in which poeple are an integral component, and which is managed for objectives ranging from complete protection to intensive yet sustainable production;
c) it is a regional centre for monitoring, research, education and training on natural and managed ecosystems;
d) it is a place where government decision-makers, scientists, managers and local people cooperate in developing a model programme for managing land and water to meet human needs while conserving natural processes and biological resources;
e) it serves as a symbol of voluntary cooperation to conserve and use resources for the well-being of people everywhere.

From september 1990, the DDBR was listed as a wetland of international importance especially as waterfowl habitat under the Ramsar Convention, and is among the largest of the 600 or so wetlands so recognised. The universal natural heritage value of the reserve was recognised in December 1990 by the inclusion of the strictly protected areas in the World Heritage List under the World Heritage Convention.