The Danube River with a length of almost 3,000 km is the longest river in the European Union region. If we were lucky enough to travel along its riverbed, we would be amazed by the wonders we would find. However, the Danube River keeps one of its most breath-taking treasures for the end. The Danube flows into the Black Sea forming the Danube Delta, which is considered by the UNESCO the best-preserved river delta in Europe and since 1991 holds the distinction of UNESCO Word Heritage Site.
Hypanis plicata, picture: Alberto Martinez Gandara.
The 600,000 Ha of the Danube Delta serves as refuge for an extraordinary fauna biodiversity represented by more than 4,000 species. Many of those species such as different species of sturgeon, are considered under threat by the IUCN and are protected by regulations at European and regional levels. A very important part of this fauna is what we define as Pontocaspian fauna. This extraordinary diverse fauna is the result of the highly dynamic geology and climate during the last 2.5 Ma in the Pontocaspian region, which includes the Black, Caspian and Aral Sea basins, and therefore the Danube Delta. Remarkable examples of the Pontocaspian biodiversity are the many endemic mollusc species that we can find in the Danube Delta and across the Pontocaspian region. This diverse group is of great importance for the eco-functioning of the aquatic system and serves as food for many species of fish and birds. Sadly, this endemic mollusc’s diversity is currently decreasing as a result of pollution, habitat loss, overfishing and invasive species. The endemic mollusc species have been replaced by a few invasive species causing a serious loss of biodiversity. This trend may increase the vulnerability of the ecosystems such as the Danube Delta to catastrophic events, because a non-diverse fauna is vulnerable for instance to diseases that can decimate an entire population leading the ecosystem to collapse.
Ecrobia spalatiana, picture: Justine Vandendorpe.
PRIDE (Drivers of Biodiversity RIse and DEmise) is an EU funded project in which we study the evolution of the endemic Pontocaspian life forms and their evolution integrating climate, geology and biological approaches. We aim to understand the role and the importance of these biota in the ecosystems and to bring attention to the current adverse situation for these endemic species.
Matteo Lattuada and Alberto Martinez Gandara sampling for living molluscs on the Ukranian coast of the Black Sea.
Sabrina van de Velde identifying mollusc shells on the Caspian shore in Azerbijan.
As a part of the PRIDE outreach strategy, we want to involve local citizens interested in nature and conservation from the Danube Delta area, in both Romania and Ukraine, and raise awareness of the demise of Pontocaspian life forms and habitats and create conditions that support future conservation. We want to call for action to protect and conserve this diverse fauna and the precious ecosystem where occurs.
So, if you are interested in collaborating, do not hesitate to contact us!
- Lea Rausch
- Bucharest University
- Faculty of Geology and Geophysics
- Department of Geology
- Balcescu Bd. 1
- 010041 Bucharest
- Manuel Sala Pérez
- School of Geographical Sciences
- University of Bristol
- University Road
- Bristol BS8 1SS