Rescue the Narcissi Valley, Ukraine

The purpose of the NGO Danube-Carpathian Program is to preserve and sustainably use natural heritage, support democratic processes and introduce innovative visions in nature conservation for the 21st century. It is a team of experts and scientists on ecology, conservation biology, sustainable development of natural ecosystems and natural resources and ecological legislation. They carry out research studies, environmental projects implementation, conservation management activities, environmental impact assessment, public campaigns support, work on improving environmental legislation etc.

The Danube-Carpathian Programme will improve the conservation management of Ramsar Site “Narcissi Valley” which contains the largest Central European lowland population of rare pheasant’s eye narcissus, as well as other plant and animal species in the Red Data Book of Ukraine. The “Narcissi Valley” is a biodiversity hotspot for Ukraine, and its wet meadow habitats are critically endangered in the Black Sea Basin. Drier conditions and a lack of traditional mowing or grazing are resulting in invasive bush and tree growth, regular fires, a decrease the narcissus population (by 70% during last 10 years), and a decrease in the quality of the wetland habitat. The project will restore 100 hectares by raising the groundwater table, restoring the flooding regime, mowing grass after fruiting, removing bushes and trees, reintroducing narcissus population in areas in which it has been lost, supporting fragmented cattle grazing, delivering ecological education and tackling fires.

The Update

This project has succeeded and, at times, surpassed all its objectives. The restoration of the flooding regime resulted in 13 dams being built to raise the groundwater level: 6 wooden and the remainder either earthen or beaver dams. The project developed a “beaver imitation” methodology to retain water, and the first “beaver” dam was established in Autumn 2022, followed by more in Spring 2023 with the help of volunteers. However, “beaver” dams proved quite time-consuming and were better for ecological education than routine conservation management. The Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR) needs many more wooden dams to raise the water table, and the various tools purchased through this project will help sustain this work into the future.

120 ha were mowed, mulched, and grazed during the 3 years of this project through the contracting of local farmers who were supported by the project. Selected valley areas were grazed by water buffalos and cows (15 animals) of local farmers and The CBR established its grazing animal herd of 4 water buffalos and 2 cows in 2022. A large barn, called “Buffalo Dwelling”, was also built for the herd. The project organised a volunteer event with 200 participants to support environmental protection measures and ecological education.

Narcissus bulbs were planted in almost 9 ha. A few hundred narcissus bulbs were also planted in fragments of the Valley to reintroduce lost populations.

As a result of these above actions, the project has been able to report that daffodil cover has increased by at least 20% over a total area of 120 ha (in some areas, this was almost 40%). Within this area, the wet meadows have been partially or fully restored, and the groundwater level has risen by an average of 50%.

The project’s communication work reached a phenomenal 2,705,000 people, including a total potential reach in media of over 2,289,000. This included numerous presentations in national, regional, and local media (radio, television, online news publications, newspapers), social media articles, and three videos:

For how to extinguish a fire of dry vegetation click here.

For how Carpathian cheese saves biodiversity click here.

To view the video on “To Save the Narcissus Valley”, click here (and the English version here).

The most unexpected – and unimaginably difficult – challenge faced by the project was the war and occupation of their country by Russia, changing lives and forcing them to adapt during a worrying and difficult time. It also stopped the project for almost 6 months, resulting in the need for more time to adjust and complete all tasks. The project has achieved truly inspirational results during this time, and the Danube-Carpathian Programme is continuing its dedicated work in the Narcissus Valley to support the CBR and work towards the goal of rescuing the Narcissi Valley.