The impact of aquatic ecosystems provisioning services on tourism

Lead Author: Constantin Cazacu and Mihai Adamescu (Bucharest University, UB)


The Danube River catchment spreads across nineteen European countries before reaching the West coast of the Black Sea (Guttler et al 2013). Just before reaching the sea, the Danube River creates a delta covering about 5100 Km2 that consists of a complex alluvial systems, dominated by wetland ecosystems, of a great socio-ecological and economic importance. Being at the end of the river catchment, deltas are strongly influenced by human activity (Tiron et al 2009) that usually occurs at catchment level.

In the past, wetlands was considered as “wastelands” with reduced or no “benefits” for local economies compared with other ecosystem types (i.e. agro-systems, forests etc.) (Zedler et al. 1998). In some other cases wetlands were considered as “threats” to human health (Dale & Knight 2008) so their surface was reduced or some of their functions were altered (Davidson 2014). Amongst frequent causes of wetland loss can be mentioned the following: i) drainage (for agricultural and urban development) (Chen et al. 2012, Davis & Froend 1999), ii) hydrologic alteration (including channelization, embankments, dikes etc) (Coleman et al. 2008) iii) habitat fragmentation (Mooney et al. 2005) iv) climate change (Giosan et al. 2016) v) nutrient and sediment inputs (Brutland 2008) vii) infrastructure development (Russi et al. 2012), and viii) invasive species (Zedler & Kercher 2004).

Recently, in the last 30 to 40 years, wetlands regained their place among valuable habitats. In this respect, an international convention regarding their conservation as important habitats for migratory birds was adopted at Ramsar in 1971 and was ratified by 169 states (Mooney et al. 2005). This international cooperation played a significant role in changing the trend in wetland loss (Gardner et al. 2015). Thus, two hundred million hectares of wetlands were designated as “Ramsar sites” globally and are now benefiting of conservation management measures.

Large and compact areas of wetlands creates a high number of habitats that hosts a high biological diversity. Due to the fact that such areas are difficult to reach on the ground, people inhabiting here preserves their traditions, and in particular case of Danube Delta, the large number of ethnic communities (i.e. Russians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Turks, Italians and Romanians) gives the area a rich cultural characteristics.

The large number of bird and fish species, the uniqueness of land- seascapes, and the local communities with their traditions, makes these area a nature based touristic attraction. Most tourists coming here to enjoy nature, boating, canoeing and row boating, sport or leisure fishing, birdwatching, or open water swimming (fresh water or Black Sea). Also, the area is very attractive from scientific point of view, many research activities focused on studying climate change impact on deltas’ ecosystems, water circulation, sediment transportation, biodiversity, economic set-up etc.

The proposed storyline explores the link between aquatic ecosystem provisioning services and touristic attraction of the area (eg. large number of water birds attracts a large number of birdwatchers, large number of fish attracts a large number of fishermen).



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