The Diversity Of Fauna In The Vadu Area

 Greek tortoise in Dobruja (Testudo graeca ibera) (CONSTANTA COUNTY), PART OF THE DANUBE DELTA BIOSPHERE RESERVE The many and diverse species of animals and plants seen in the Danube Delta, many of which have a high scientific, ecological and esthetical value; the patchwork of water and land ecosystems, as well as the extremely beautiful scenery are some of the reasons that led to the constitution of one of the most important natural reserves in the world – the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDBR). It includes some strictly protected areas, with a high degree of biological diversity and unspoiled landscapes, buffer areas, with biological and ecological features and economic areas, consisting of human settlements. Vadu area, in the southern extremity of DDBR, stands out as one of the more important areas, especially when the diversity of the fauna is taken into consideration. It includes an economic area and the buffer area for the strictly protected area of Grindul Chituc (Chituc Spit), in order to limit the impact of human activities on this area. The main access route to this area is by the DJ 226 (county road 226), from Corbu to the village of Vadu, about 8 km away. From Vadu, one may opt or one of the following two choices: - either take the road going down from the center of the village, go round the ruins of the decanting station, and go all the way to the end of the asphalted road, then continue on sand paths up to the shore of the Black Sea; - or, go down a narrow street in the northern part of the village, which leads to the Vadu forest near the village and then to the bank of Lake Sinoe. The main types of ecosystems in the area consist of small lakes with a low water exchange rate, partially covered with floating vegetation, artificial basins called "buhaz" used for decanting residues from the oil industry, floodable low areas with fixed hydrophilic vegetation (reed plots and reed banks), pastures on low marine spits and unstable littoral pastures. The Vadu area is particularly important for the migration and hibernation of many species of birds (the salinity makes the waters in this area freeze at lower temperatures) and for the representative landscapes of the Chituc Spit buffer area. This is where a large number of species and birds gather periodically. Besides nesting species, the area is also frequented by a great number of species that stop here temporarily during their spring and autumn migration, or as winter guests. The area has a high degree of conservation, since it has optimum ecological features for water plants and the animal species of the area: it provides areas for nesting, feeding, passage and hibernation. The ecological value is also emphasized by the recent descriptions of new taxa for Romania's fauna (especially birds). The diversity of fauna, especially birds, in the Vadu area, is also due to its positioning near the southern extremity of Lake Sinoe and its proximity to one of the main bird migration routes. We shall only mention the groups of animals that are of greater interest for tourists: fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. The Vadu area, as an integral part of the Razim-Sinoe lagoon system, but also of the Black Sea shore, is rich in freshwater and saltwater fish, and many of the species are also important for sport fishing: carp (Cyprinus carpio), silver crucian or gibel carp (Carassius auratus gibelio), sheatfish (Silurus glanis), perch (Perca fluviatilis), zander (Sander lucioperca), rapacious carp (Aspius aspius), vimba (Vimba vimba), redeye (Scardinius erythrophtalmus), roaches (Rutilus rutilus), goby (Gobius sp.), mullet (Mugil sp.), sand sole (Pegusa lascaris), European flounder (Platichthys flesus luscus), horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus ponticus). The area is also home to valuable species of reptiles and amphibians, such as: the European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis), spur-thighed Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera), sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), steppe runner (Eremias arguta), grass snake (Natrix natrix), dice snake (Natrix tessellata), smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris), and many others. Those who enjoy bird-watching may observe a large number of species of birds, especially many Charadriiformes and limicolous birds that use the saltwater areas for nesting and the temporary ponds for feeding, as well as valuable species of: Ardeidae, Anatidae, Rallidae, divers, corncrakes, passerines, and diurnal birds of prey. Bird lovers may consider themselves lucky if they have a chance to watch some of the species that render the Vadu area particularly valuable due to their rarity: Temminck's stint (Calidris temminckii), broad-billed sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus), parasitic jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus), red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), collared pratincole (Glareola pratincola), golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola), ruddy sheldrake (Tadorna ferruginea), Sheldrake (Tadorna tadorna), Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), red-crested pochard (Netta ruffian), ferruginous duck (Aythia nyroca), Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus), gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica). Mammals are represented by quite a few species that do not account for large populations in the area: brown hare (Lepus europaeus), the European badger (Meles meles), wild boar (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), insectivores such as the lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens), Southern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) and horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus sp. and Myotis sp.). The diverse and rich trophic resources attract a significant number of predators, such as: least weasel (Mustela nivalis), European polecat (Mustela putorius), steppe polecats (Mustela eversmani), raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procynoides), European otter (Lutra lutra), fox (Vulpes vulpes). Rodents are somewhat better represented, especially mice and rats: wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), field vole (Microtus agrestis), common vole (Microtus arvalis), house mouse (Mus musculus). In the pasture area stretching between Vadu forest and the end of Lake Sinoe there is a significant population of European ground squirrels (Spermophilus citellus), a protected species throughout Europe. Dolphins, the intelligent aquatic mammals, are usually present around the Black Sea shore near Vadu area; groups of individuals belonging to Delphinus delphis and Tursiops truncatus species can be seen looking for food near the shore. The most recently observed species of fauna is the golden jackal (Canis aureus), whose population is expanding rapidly in the southern part of DDBR, while the howls of the packs are frequently heard in the area. The Vadu area is poor in natural resources, as most of them are used by the local population, especially through fishing and grazing. The southernmost point of Chituc Spit, towards the former Mouth of Buhaz, is very much affected by the human presence. Thus, grazing is the main activity with a negative influence on the stability of birds that nest in the area. The former factory used to extract rare metals, whose ruins are to be found at the edge of the village, the support pillars for a conveyor belt lined along the road which was especially asphalted for the use of the factory, as well as the presence of garbage dumps placed at both exits from the village, towards the forest and Lake Sinoe, and the artificial basins have a negative impact on the local landscape. The alteration of the ground-water table had a major impact on local ecosystems, due to the drainage works in the area, leading to an increase in the volume of fresh water and, implicitly, to a substantial reduction of the salinity degree in the water of Lake Sinoe and temporary ponds in the area. The practice of uncontrolled tourism affects all animal species, especially birds. During the summer, large numbers of tourists pass through the area on their way to the beach or the fish collecting point. Consequently, human pressure on the fauna and the biotopes in the area is quite significant, and it should not be neglected. The presence of many species of cynegetic interest leads to the rise of another sporting activity, namely that of hunting. When practiced, hunting most disturbs the species of birds that feed in the artificial basins and at the end of Lake Sinoe. Research carried out over the years, field work and discussions with the locals support the conviction that Vadu area and its surroundings deserve greater attention from the part of wildlife lovers, as the area may still have some fauna surprises in store. Yet, for reasons of protection, we have to mention that it is not advisable to arrange for trips in the area during the birds' nesting period, as access in the strictly protected area of Chituc Spit and its buffer area (Vadu area) is strictly forbidden to tourists. Viorel Cuzic, Mariana Cuzic, Cristina Dinu Danube Delta Eco-Tourist Museum CenterInstitute for Eco-Museal Research, Tulcea Translated by Daniela Oancea 

by Cristina Dinu; Viorel Cuzic; Mariana Cuzic