Braila Islands is a socio-ecological system that is located in the South East of Romania and covers a total surface area of over 2600 km2. It corresponds to the Danube and stretches 78 km between Harsova and Braila. Find more information here

Braila Islands is split into two, Big Island of Braila and Small Island of Braila respectively. 205 km2 of the total area of the Small Island of Braila is recognized as protected, both on a national level (Natural park - 06/03/2000) and on an international level (Ramsar - 15/06/2001).










@RCSES / Small Island of Braila (naturally flooding) in close plan and in distant view Big Island of Braila (agricultural land former natural floodplain)

Once a former wetland, the Big Island of Braila consists of heavily modified ecosystems with 96.4% of the area been converted into agricultural land. Prior to the conversion to agricultural land, the Big Braila Island was a former wetland, part of the Danube floodplain with a large numbers of lakes, ponds and marshes that were linked to each other and connected to the river (Vadineanu et al., 2003).

On the other hand, the Small Island of Braila maintains ecosystems under a natural functional regime and has preserved its natural hydrological conditions. It is the main remnant of floodplains in the area, making it crucial to preserve (European Communities, 2002).

Why is it suitable for testing the IDES tool?

The entire area is part of the Long Term Socio-ecological Research Network (LTSER) an European and world wide network to study the impact of changes at local and regional scales and on long term integrating social and ecological data in response to the decision makers and using a transdisciplinary approach (by engaging with the stakeholders) in designing of research and integrating data and knowledge to solve specific problems (like the impact of land use changes on the wellbeing of local communities, the impact of diking on ecosystem services, the study of biodiversity (from genetic biodiversity to the landscape diversity) and the relationship with the different ecological processes.

The land use change occurred in the late 1960 by transforming important parts of the Danube floodplain mainly into agricultural areas disregarding the multifunctional role of the wetlands and transforming this very diverse area into very simplified systems able to support provisioning services. The impact of such transformation was obvious not only into the Danube Delta but also in the Nord-western part of the Black Sea with eutrophication problems, decrease in fish capture and ultimately a decrease in the wellbeing of local communities across the entire area. For all the above reasons (and many more that are revealed in the GIS storymap) the area was selected to be a pilot site in the IDES project and a testing ground for the IDES tool.

Ecosystem services provided by Braila Islands

The importance of preserving the Small Island of Braila include the multiple ecosystem services which it provides. Ecosystem services are important to everyone as they provide benefits to people, a foundation for sustainable development and are essential for our survival (Anderson, 2015).

Unfortunately, as a result of conversion to agricultural land, in the entire Braila Islands important regulation and cultural ecosystem services were lost or diminished. In the same time the production capacity of the area increased. It is worth noticing that in fact the productivity of the area decreased as well what increased is only the transfer towards human population as a result of huge simplification in the structure of different ecosystems and at landscape level.

Provisioning ecosystem services

Provisioning services refer to products obtained from the ecosystem and this includes genetic resources, food, fibre and fresh water. As a result of the conversion to agricultural land, the Big Island of Braila has high provision services available to human communities. Nevertheless the primary production is higher in Small Island of Braila but that production is not available to human populations but it is consumed in the systems, maintaining high diversity and different ecological processes, allowing also the other categories of ecosystem services to be maintained (regulating and cultural for e.g)  

Regulating ecosystem services

Regulating services refer to the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes. This includes the regulation of the climate, water and in some cases, certain human diseases. Compared to the 1900, Big Island of Braila has low regulating services (carbon retention, nutrient and sediment retention, flooding regulation) while the Small Island of Braila has maintained, a high capacity for regulating services

Cultural ecosystem services

Cultural ecosystem services are the non-material benefits people obtain from nature. This includes recreation, aesthetic enjoyment, physical and mental health benefits and spiritual experiences. As a result of conversion to agricultural land, Big Island of Braila - once of high and very high potential- is now offering low cultural ecosystem services. On the other hand, the Small Island of Braila, has high cultural ecosystem services.

Ecological Integrity 

Ecological integrity refers to the ability of an ecosystem to support and maintain ecological processes and a diverse community of organisms. The Big Island of Braila, once of medium and high relevant potential, is now of low relevant potential. On the other hand, the Small Island of Braila has maintained its ecological integrity.

Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)