Tataru Island


The tiny Tataru Island is part of a small archipelago in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta and is well known for its rich biodiversity. Until 50 years ago, this part of the Danube Delta remained largely intact, boasting some of the most important wetlands in Europe. However, in the 1960’s various dikes were constructed and wetlands converted to be used for forestry and agriculture. Poplar plantations were installed on Tataru Island and at first, the crop and wood production were economically viable and provided locals with income.

However, as the island's ecosystem began to deteriorate, a number of problems began to arise. Fish population and catch declined due to the disappearance of natural spawning places in the cut off wetlands. Water in the inner lakes became salty and unsuitable for drinking or irrigation. Soil fertility was lost because of the formation of salts during the summer and the lack of spring flooding to cleanse the cut off areas. River water was no longer purified by reedbeds and passed directly into the Black Sea, contributing to the problem of hypoxia, or a ‘dead zone’ at the bottom of the sea. Therefore, the long term costs to the environment and natural resources far outweighed the initial economic benefits.

Tataru Island was the first WWF restoration project in the area. In October 2003, WWF, together with the local forestry authorities who manage the island, removed 6 km of dikes built around the island. This allowed for the re-establishment of natural flooding conditions, creating rich feeding, breeding and spawning grounds for fish, flora and fauna.

Following the removal of dykes that prevented the natural movement of water, the Tataru Island recently experienced its first natural flood in over four decades. The changes were striking. With the Danube once again flowing freely into the island and over the natural bar covered with floodplain forest, sediments carried by the water can be deposited, facilitating the island's growth.  Freshwater flowing into the lake in the island's centre brought shoals of fish, and a colony of herons settled on Tataru to feed in productive meadows and shallow waters.

Today amazing rare birds, such as white-tailed eagles, pygmy cormorants and ferruginous ducks, thrive on Tataru Island, while inner lakes serve as spawning places for young fish from the Danube.

In 2005, a herd of grey cattle was released to roam wild on Tataru Island. Grazing animals, like grey cattle, used to live on the island, but were hunted. Without them the floodplain forest ran wild due to lack of grazing. Four years on, the herd has multiplied and soon it may provide the local community with organic meat.

For the local forestry authority, the restoration work is a milestone in the management of the island.

Working in the region today, WWF aims to restore the island's ecosystem and adaptation of local economic practices to those based on nature. Tataru Island is intended to demonstrate that restoring the natural ecosystem in which floods play an important role may also bring economic benefits.


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WWF staff

Occupation: WWF staff
Location: Bulgaria


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Tataru Island | Danube Delta | wetland restoration | Ukraine