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Concept: Danube Delta


SUMMARY Species introduced into new areas often show a reduction in parasite and genetic diversity associated to the limited number of founding individuals. In this study, we compared microsatellite and parasite diversity in both native (lower Danube) and introduced populations of 4 Ponto-Caspian gobies, including those (1) introduced from within the same river system (middle Danube; Neogobius kessleri and N. melanostomus), and (2) introduced from a different river system (River Vistula; N. fluviatilis and N. gymnotrachelus). Microsatellite data confirmed the lower Danube as a source population for gobies introduced into the middle Danube. Both native and introduced (same river system) populations of N. kessleri and N. melanostomus had comparable parasite species richness and microsatellite diversity, possibly due to multiple and/or continual migration/introduction of new individuals and the acquisition of local parasites. Reduced parasite species richness and microsatellite diversity were observed in introduced (different river system) populations in the Vistula. A low number of colonists found for N. fluviatilis and N. gymnotrachelus in the Vistula potentially resulted in reduced introduction of parasite species. Insufficient adaptation of the introduced host to local parasite fauna, together with introduction into an historically different drainage system, may also have contributed to the reduced parasite fauna.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Symbiosis, River, Rhine, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta


Few studies have systematically investigated differences in performance, morphology and parasitic load of invaders at different stages of an invasion. This study analyzed phenotype-environment correlations in a fish invasion from initial absence until establishment in the headwater reach of the second largest European river, the Danube. Here, the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) formed 73% of the fish abundance and 58% of the fish biomass in rip-rap bank habitats after establishment. The time from invasion until establishment was only about two years, indicating rapid expansion. Founder populations from the invasion front were different from longer established round goby populations in demography, morphology, feeding behaviour, sex ratio and parasitic load, indicating that plasticity in these traits determines invasion success. Competitive ability was mostly dependent on growth/size-related traits rather than on fecundity. As revealed by stable isotope analyses, specimens at the invasion front had a higher trophic position in the food web and seem to benefit from lower food competition. Somatic performance seems to be more important than investment in reproduction during the early stages of the invasion process and upstream-directed range expansion is not caused by out-migrating weak or juvenile individuals that were forced to leave high density areas due to high competition. This mechanism might be true for downstream introductions via drift. Greater abundance and densities of acanthocephalan endoparasites were observed at the invasion front, which contradicts the expectation that invasion success is determined by lower parasitic pressure in newly invaded areas. Overall, the pronounced changes in fish and invertebrate communities with a dominance of alien species suggest invasional meltdown and a shift of the upper Danube River towards a novel ecosystem with species that have greater resistance to goby predation. This seems to contribute to overcoming biological resistance and improve rapidity of dispersal.

Concepts: Population, Ecology, Symbiosis, River, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta, Round goby


In the third Joint Danube Survey (JDS3), emerging organic contaminants were analysed in the dissolved water phase of samples from the Danube River and its major tributaries. Analyses were performed using solid-phase extraction (SPE) followed by ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS-MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The polar organic compounds analysed by UHPLC-MS-MS were 1H-benzotriazole, methylbenzotriazoles, carbamazepine, 10,11-dihydro-10,11-dihydroxy-carbamazepine, diclofenac, sulfamethox-azole, 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), MCPA (2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid), metolachlor, cybutryne (irgarol), terbutryn, DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), and several perfluoroalkyl acids (C6-C9; C8=perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)) and perfluorooctansulfonic acid (PFOS). In addition, several organophosphorus flame retardants were analysed by GC-MS. The most relevant compounds identified in the 71 water samples, in terms of highest median and maximum concentrations, were 1H-benzotriazole, tris(1-chloro-2-propyl)phosphate (TCPP), methylbenzotriazoles, carbama-zepine and its metabolite, DEET, sulfamethoxazole, tris(isobutyl)phosphate (TiBP), tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate (TCEP), PFOA, PFOS and diclofenac. The concentrations of these compounds in the samples were generally below the environmental quality standard (EQS) threshold values, with the exception of PFOS, the concentration of which exceeded the annual average water EQS limit of 0.65ng/L along the whole river, and also exceeded the fish biota EQS of 9.1μg/kg. In addition, the proposed EQS for diclofenac, of 0.1μg/L, was exceeded in the Arges River in Romania (255ng/L).

Concepts: Protein, Mass spectrometry, Chromatography, Analytical chemistry, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta, Argeş River


Mosquitoes are arthropods of major importance to animal and human health because they are able to transmit pathogenic agents such as filarioids (Spirurida), vector-borne nematodes, which reside in the tissues of vertebrates. In Europe, recent research has mostly focused on mosquito-borne zoonotic species, while others remain neglected. Mosquitoes are also vectors of avian malaria, which has an almost worldwide distribution, and is caused by several Plasmodium species and lineages, the most common being P. relictum. The Danube Delta region of Romania is one of the most important stopover sites for migratory birds. The local mosquito fauna is diverse and well represented, while filarial infections are known to be endemic in domestic dogs in this area. The aim of the present study was thus to assess the potential vector capacity for various filarial helminths and avian malaria of mosquitoes trapped in the Danube Delta.

Concepts: Malaria, Anopheles, Bird, Vector, Ukraine, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta


Sediment management is of prior concern in the Danube Basin for provision of economic and environmental services. This study aimed at assessing current (1995-2009) sediment fluxes of the Danube Basin with SWAT model and identifying sediment budget knowledge gaps. After hydrologic calibration, hillslope gross erosion and sediment yields were broadly calibrated using ancillary data (measurements in plots and small catchments, and national and European erosion maps). Mean annual sediment concentrations (SSC) from 269 gauging stations (2968 station-year entries; median 19mg/L, interquartile range IQR 10-36mg/L) were used for calibrating in-stream sediments. SSC residuals (simulations-observations) median was 2mg/L (IQR -14; +22mg/L). In the validation dataset (172 gauging stations; 1457 data-entries, median 17mg/L, IQR 10-28), median residual was 9mg/L (IQR -9; +39mg/L). Percent bias in an independent dataset of annual sediment yields (SSY; 689 data-entries in 95 stations; median 52t/km(2)/y, IQR 20-151t/km(2)/y) was -21.5%. Overall, basin-wide model performance was considered satisfactory. Sediment fluxes appeared overestimated in some regions (Sava and Velika Morava), and underestimated in others (Siret-Prut and Romanian Danube), but unbiased elsewhere. According to the model, most sediments were generated by hillslope erosion. Streambank degradation contributed about 5% of sediments, and appeared important in high stream power Alpine reaches. Sediment trapping in reservoirs and floodplain deposition was probably underestimated and counterbalanced by high stream deposition. Factor analysis showed that model underestimations were correlated to Alpine and karst areas, whereas underestimations occurred in high seismicity areas of the Lower Danube. Contemporary sediment fluxes were about one third of values reported for the 1980s for several tributaries of the Middle and Lower Danube. Knowledge gaps affecting the sediment budget were identified in the contributions of some erosion processes (glacier erosion, gully erosion and mass movements), and in-stream sediment dynamics.

Concepts: River, Erosion, Serbia, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta, Great Morava, Rivers of Serbia


Following the radionuclide releases due to Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident, various studies were completed by researchers all over the world in order to measure the surface contaminations by artificial radionuclides. The aim of this study was to evaluate (137)Cs surface contamination and to create an inventory distribution for Transylvania region (Romania) after the Chernobyl event using γ spectrometric measurements on soil samples collected from 153 locations. The results were compared to measured data from the Danube Delta and Moldova Republic, as well as to (137)Cs concentrations from the rest of Europe reported by literature. The (137)Cs surface concentrations in soil samples ranged between 0.4±0.1kBqm(-2) and 301.1±3.0kBqm(-2), having an average of 8.3±0.2kBqm(-2), with more elevated values in the mountain areas (18.3±0.6kBqm(-2)) compared to the hills and plains (2.6±0.1kBqm(-2)). Taking into consideration the cardinal regions, the northern and western regions received the least amount of (137)Cs (2.9±0.1kBqm(-2)), while the southern part received 16.3±0.6kBqm(-2). Sampling points with eastern slope exposure received the highest average (27.8±0.5kBqm(-2)), while southern, north-western and north-eastern ones received less than 8kBqm(-2). Two hotspots are reported at Iezer-Ighiel (72.7±5.9kBqm(-2)) and Tulgheș areas (51.5±0.6kBqm(-2)).

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Ukraine, Nuclear power, Radioactive contamination, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta, Moldavia


Mosquitoes were collected in the Danube Delta during the active seasons of 2011-2013. For Culex spp. mosquitoes, the abundance was calculated. Culex pipiens (sensu lato), (s.l.) and Culex modestus pools were tested for the presence of West Nile virus (WNV) genome, and the maximum likelihood of the infection rate was established. Mean daily temperatures and precipitation were obtained for the closest meteorological station. A negative binominal model was used to evaluate linkages between the temperature/precipitation and mosquito population size. A zero-inflated negative binomial model was used to test the relationship between the temperature and the infection rate. A single complex model for infection rate prediction was also used. The linkages were calculated for lag 0 and for 10 days earlier (lag 1), 20 days earlier (lag 2), and 30 days earlier (lag 3). Significant positive linkages (P < 0.001) were detected between temperature and mosquito population size for lag 1, lag 2, and lag 3. The linkages between temperature and infection rates were positive and significant for lag 2 and lag 3. Negative significant (P < 0.001) results were detected between precipitation and infection rates for lags 1, 2, and 3. The complex model showed that the best predictors for infection rate are the temperature, 20 days earlier (positive linkage) and the precipitation, 30 days earlier (negative linkage). Positive temperature anomalies in spring and summer and rainfall decrease contributed to the increase in the Culex spp. abundance and accelerated the WNV amplification in mosquito vector populations in the following weeks.

Concepts: Mosquito, Dengue fever, Mosquito control, West Nile virus, DEET, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta


The Joint Danube Survey 3 (JDS3; the biggest river expedition in 2013) had offered the unique opportunity for a large-scale monitoring approach for biomarker response in feral fish collected along a Danube stretch from Kehlheim (DE) to Sulina (RO). The advantage of genotoxicity as a marker for pollution exposure in fish is the early detection of possible long-term effects such as cancer. Therefore, genotoxicity was in the focus of the biomarker investigations in fish during the expedition. Blood samples of common bleak (Alburnus alburnus) for the investigation of the micronucleus frequency and comet tail intensity of fragmented DNA material in erythrocytes were collected at 18 and 12 sampling sites, respectively. For 9 sampling sites same samples were used to compare the in-situ data for the comparable genotoxic endpoint in the micronucleus (MN) and comet assay (CM). The data of both in-situ assays showed a significant correlation, indicating the strength and comparability of the data sets. Significant variation in DNA damage in fish along the longitudinal profile of the Danube was demonstrated for both assays compared to reference sites. The results suggest that DNA damage in erythrocytes of fish was mainly affected by wastewater of highly populated regions. No linkage between the results and the general health/dietary status of the fish were revealed, whereas correlation with some genotoxicity drivers in the water phase, suspended particulate matter and sediments could be demonstrated.

Concepts: Mutation, River, Air pollution, Mutagen, Danube, Danube Delta, Alburnus, Common Bleak


In this paper, the development of a Web-based GIS system for the monitoring and assessment of the Black Sea is presented. The integrated multilevel system is based on the combination of terrestrial and satellite Earth observation data through the technological assets provided by innovative information tools and facilities. The key component of the system is a unified, easy to update geodatabase including a wide range of appropriately selected environmental parameters. The collection procedure of current and historical data along with the methods employed for their processing in three test areas of the current study are extensively discussed, and special attention is given to the overall design and structure of the developed geodatabase. Furthermore, the information system includes a decision support component (DSC) which allows assessment and effective management of a wide range of heterogeneous data and environmental parameters within an appropriately designed and well-tested methodology. The DSC provides simplified and straightforward results based on a classification procedure, thus contributing to a monitoring system not only for experts but for auxiliary staff as well. The examples of the system’s functionality that are presented highlight its usability as well as the assistance that is provided to the decision maker. The given examples emphasize on the Danube Delta area; however, the information layers of the integrated system can be expanded in the future to cover other regions, thus contributing to the development of an environmental monitoring system for the entire Black Sea.

Concepts: Decision theory, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Black Sea, Danube, Danube Delta, Izmail


A key challenge for the ecological risk assessment of chemicals has been to evaluate the relative contribution of chemical pollution to the variability observed in biological communities, as well as to identify multiple stressor groups. In this study we evaluated the toxic pressure exerted by >200 contaminants to benthic macroinvertebrates in the Danube River using the Toxic Unit approach. Furthermore, we evaluated correlations between several stressors (chemical and non-chemical) and biological indices commonly used for the ecological status assessment of aquatic ecosystems. We also performed several variation partitioning analyses to evaluate the relative contribution of contaminants and other abiotic parameters (i.e. habitat characteristics, hydromorphological alterations, water quality parameters) to the structural and biological trait variation of the invertebrate community. The results of this study show that most biological indices significantly correlate to parameters related to habitat and physico-chemical conditions, but showed limited correlation with the calculated toxic pressure. The calculated toxic pressure, however, showed little variation between sampling sites, which complicates the identification of pollution-induced effects. The results of this study show that the variation in the structure and trait composition of the invertebrate community are mainly explained by habitat and water quality parameters, whereas hydromorphological alterations play a less important role. Among the water quality parameters, physico-chemical parameters such as suspended solids, nutrients or dissolved oxygen explained a larger part of the variation in the invertebrate community as compared to metals or organic contaminants. Significant correlations exist between some physico-chemical measurements (e.g. nutrients) and some chemical classes (i.e. pharmaceuticals, chemicals related to human presence) which constitute important multiple stressor groups. This study demonstrates that, in large rivers like the Danube, the variation in the invertebrate community seems to be more related to varying habitat and physico-chemical conditions than to chemical pollution.

Concepts: Water, Ecology, Water pollution, River, Pollution, Correlation and dependence, Danube, Danube Delta