Suhaia – An Aquatic Paradise in Danger

Suhaia – Land of Water, Sun and Birds [1], these are the words with which one of the newest protected areas in Romania greets us. Suhaia Lake, located north of the town of Zimnicea, has been part of the Natura 2000 network (a special protection area for bird life) since July 2007 and is internationally recognized as a Ramsar Site, through the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, signed in June 2012. This article shall attempt a brief presentation of the protected area, showcasing both its natural biodiversity, on the one hand, and its vulnerability, on the other.

In terms of its origins, Suhaia is a lake from Danube’s floodplain, in which the Călmăţui discharges its waters. In the 1960’s a part of Suhaia “survived” a plan to have it drained, in order to integrate its land into the agricultural fields of the Danube’s floodplain. Its regime depends on the hydrological fluctuations of the Danube, with which it is connected via the underground water table, and also of the CălmăţuiRiver. Suhaia is a place well suited for hosting water birds, because the water is shallow, usually less than 2.2 meters in depth [2] (in Romanian, suhat or suhăţie means  shallow water, a place where animals come to drink [3]), and there is plenty of fish in the lake.

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This area is interesting because of the significant bird populations, belonging to protected species (some of them migratory) that feed of nest on the lake [4, 5]. The magic of SuhaiaLake is illustrated by the graceful flight of pelicans, cormorants, egrets, Danubian hawks and many other species. In the nearby fields and on the banks, there are nesting grounds for several birds, such as storks, white wagtails, common house martins and bee-eaters. The forests that border the water offer refuge to a variety of wildlife, such as the Eurasian penduline tit, Savi’s warbler, the eastern imperial eagle, and the common kingfisher,  whereas water banks are a place where plovers, northern lapwings, avocets, grey plovers, sandpipers, black wagtails, common moorhens  and also European otters and water voles come to feed. Above the reeds, one can see many birds fly freely, such as black and white terns, black-headed gulls, little gulls, mallards, garganey, northern shovelers, red-crested pochards, Eurasian wigeons, northern pintails and the western marsh harrier.

The goals of any protected area, including this one, are the preservation of biological and habitat diversity, in addition to supporting sustainable activities that could provide a source of revenue for local populations without disturbing the natural environment.

Unfortunately, Suhaia is an example of a poorly managed protected area. Bird habitats are exploited and affected by illegal fires that aim to clear vegetation, and these actions lead to its fragmentation. Poaching, particularly during the nesting period of important species, in need of protection, is another threat. Because of its recent establishment, the management lacks a proper infrastructure and cannot monitor and guard the protected area. Furthermore, there are no proposals for generating additional income, with the exception of fish farming – and the three billboards that inform people of the existence of a Natura 2000 site do not provide any information on access routes to the lake or any facilities for bird watching that may interest tourists. Therefore, the management addresses only the protection role for this area, neglecting its educational and touristic functions.

Suhaia Lake, a small patch of aquatic wilderness, is thus endangered as a habitat, because of the risk of suffering negative changes and due to the lack of promotion.

Sources:

[1] – Administraţia Fondului pentru Mediu – www.afm.ro

[2] – Ghinea, D. , 1996-1998, Enciclopedia Geografică a României, Editura Enciclopedică, Bucureşti

[3] – DEX – Dicţionarul Explicativ al Limbii Române

[4] – Antipa, G., 1910, Regiunea inundabilă a Dunării: starea ei actuală şi mijloacele de a o pune în valoare, Institutul de arte grafice Carol Göbl, Bucureşti

[5] – Toader, I. , Mardale, A., 1980, Teleorman: monografie, Editura Sport-Turism, Bucureşti

[6]  - http://natura2000.mmediu.ro/site/293/rospa0102.html

[7] - http://ramsar.wetlands.org

Article written by Olimpia Copăcenaru, student at the Faculty of Geography – University of Bucharest, and translated by Mihail-Andreas Mitoşeriu.

Picture: Gabriela Toroimac

Initial article to consult: 

http://greenly.ro/arii-protejate/suhaia-un-paradis-acvatic-in-pericol

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