Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve - Europe's Amazonia
The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is a labyrinth of water and land, made up of countless lakes, channels, islands.
The Danube Delta is the largest European wetland and world's largest reed bed.
The area is particularly well known for the abundance of birdlife: 312 important bird species are present in the Delta, which is an important stopover and breeding area for many bird species. About 90 fish species are fond here, including populations of sturgeon.
The biosphere reserve was declared as both Natural World Heritage and Ramsar site in 1991.
The marsh vegetation is dominated by reeds which form floating or fixed islands of decaying vegetation Reeds cover some 1,700 km² and the floating reed islands (plaur ) 1,000 km² , whereas the total area not inundated is only 148 km² . The Razelm-Sinoe complex to the south comprises several large brackish lagoons separated from the sea by a sandbar. The overall basic hydrological and ecological system of the delta, although strongly degraded, is intact.
The higher ground supports stands of willow, poplar, alder and oak. There are also sandy areas covered with feather grass and other steppe species.
The delta has been classified into 12 habitat types as follows: aquatic, lakes covered with flooded reedbeds; 'plaur', flooded islets; flooded reeds and willows; riverine forest of willows and poplars; cane-fields; sandy and muddy beaches; wet meadows; dry meadows (arid); human settlements; sandy and rocky areas; steep banks; and forests on high ground.
The delta is very important for fish, with 45 fresh water species present. Otter and weasel are to be found on the floating islands.
The approximate surface is 4152 km², of which 3446 km² are in Romania. If one includes the lagoons of Razim-Sinoe (1015 km²), which are located south of the delta proper, but are related to it geologically and ecologically (their combined territory is part of the World Heritage Site), the total area of the Danube Delta reaches 5165 km².
The Danube Delta is perhaps the least inhabited region of temperate Europe. In the Romanian side live about 20,000 people, of which 4,600 in the port of Sulina, which gives an average density of approx. 2 inhabitants per km². The rest is scattered in 27 villages, of which only three, all situated marginally, have more than 500 people (2002).