The context

In the heart of the Danube Delta, the majestic Dalmatian pelican finds its natural home. But these vulnerable creatures are more than just birds — they are the ambassadors of healthy wetlands.

The wetlands of the Danube Delta are a marvel of biodiversity, where 30 ecosystems intertwine, creating a symphony of flora and fauna.

A myriad of mammals, from playful otters to elusive martens, seek refuge among the lush foliage and meandering waters. Beneath the surface, the delta teems with marine organisms like plankton, worms, molluscs, grubs and sponges.  Sharing these waters are numerous fish species, amphibians and reptiles.

But it’s the birds that steal the limelight, with over 330 different species filling the skies. The Danube Delta is a vital stopover in their awe-inspiring migration from the northern reaches of Europe to the vast plains of Africa.

The challenge

With its unique ecosystem and sparse human population, the Danube Delta is an exceptional playgroundfor researchers studying issues affecting large river-sea systems. However, like other European river mouths, the Delta faces challenges like invasive species and the adverse effects of dams, which reduce sediment transport and cause saltwater intrusion and increased soil salinity.

Addressing these issues and securing the future of the Danube Delta’s exceptional ecosystems will take a concerted effort. That is why the research infrastructure complex DANUBIUS-RI, the Danube International Centre for Advanced Studies on River-Sea Systems, was created.



The plan

DANUBIUS-RI is a distributed research infrastructure complex where partner institutions from ten European countries are working to establish the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (DANUBIUS-ERIC). The collaboration is coordinated by Romania, which is developing DANUBIUS-RI’s Hub and the Danube Delta Supersite, two research facilities known collectively as DANUBIUS-RO. 

The Hub, the DANUBIUS-RI headquarters, is in charge of laboratory analysis. It spans 17 700 square metres and comprises 17 cutting-edge laboratories, including a state-of-the-art aquatic ecosystem laboratory, a versatile multi-purpose building and a mesocosm (a controlled outdoor ecosystem).

The Supersite is a network of observation points and field stations in the Danube Delta equipped with advanced scientific instruments that collect samples and measure a wide range of parameters.

The Romanian government has recognised DANUBIUS-RI as a strategic project of national importance for scientific research and has requested JASPERS support. The European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures also chose DANUBIUS-RI as one of its eight pan-European research infrastructure projects in 2016.

JASPERS contributed significantly to DANUBIUS-RO and to the DANUBIUS-RI project across a wide range of fields. Our innovation experts carefully reviewed the project documents and ensured that the different analyses were suitable for their intended purposes. They addressed crucial questions and facilitated a comprehensive demand analysis, resulting in a well-prepared project. JASPERS also helped ensure that the project design encompassed special requirements for research equipment, in compliance with national and international standards.


The results

DANUBIUS is a significant step towards enhancing knowledge and protecting Europe’s fragile biodiversity and environment.

This infrastructure will enable interdisciplinary research and innovation on river-sea systems, covering environmental, social and economic dimensions. It will focus on four main challenges: climate change, water sufficiency, sediments and their management, and ecosystem health.  

In addition, DANUBIUS-RI will establish a centre to study the eutrophication (excessive accumulation of nutrients) of freshwater and marine ecosystems in Europe. It will analyse the environmental benefits of ecosystem restoration in degraded water bodies — for example, by exploring the potential use of algae as a raw material for biorefineries, and other benefits like nutrient reclamation and water quality remediation. This will provide a knowledge base and practical solutions for the sustainable management of river-sea systems. Ultimately, it will offer scientific evidence to support environmental policymaking at the EU level, addressing the current gaps that exist between land, freshwater and marine environmental policies.