The Aquaterra Ecological Society is a Romanian non-profit registered scientific NGO targeting the study and conservation of natural biodiversity, with experts from different universities and research institutes. Founded in January 1993, we established a research station on the premises of the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Biology, designed to address the problematics of conservation (from field study to captive, ex-situ breeding for repopulation) of rare and endangered fish species for future restoration of their natural habitats and repopulation of native stocks. The Aquaterra Educational Ecological Complex (Aquarium and Fluvarium) won the 1st prize of the Ford Motor Company International Foundation, for the indigenous species of plants and animals conservation efforts, in 2003. In 1996, we won important financial support from Animal Planet, and invested in the establishment of a multimedia research laboratory within the Faculty of Biology (University of Bucharest).
Since 2006, we focused our efforts on establishing a pilot research center in Bucovina (Plutonita village, Suceava county), dedicated to the study of ecological evolution for reforested areas, conservation, restauration and rewilding of montane meadows (species and associations of wild, native herbaceous plants), and, most important, to put in practice our efforts regarding the ex-situ reproduction and breeding of endangered fish species in particular, and other freshwater fauna and flora, in general, for repopulation actions.
From its foundation to the present the Aquaterra Ecological Society has developed more than 30 research grants and programs, as either contract coordinator or partner, on topics such as biodiversity assessment studies, conservation, telemetry, aquaculture, and behavioral studies, reproductive biology, ecological education, and interactive education.
Until custody of Natura 2000 protected areas was officially transferred to the national authorities (ANANP – National Agency of Natural Protected Areas), the Aquaterra Ecological Society has been the successful administrator, for 5 years, of the following Natura 2000 areas: ROSCI0365 Moldova River between Păltinoasa and Ruşi; ROSPA0058 Stânca Costeşti Lake; ROSCI 0403 Vanju Mare; ROSCI0366 Raul Motru; ROSCI0380 Suceava River, Liteni; ROSCI 0321 Upper Moldova River, where programs, projects and strategies for biodiversity conservation were implemented, leading the National Agency of Natural Protected Area to award us the “Excellent” grade, within the last evaluation of administrators, before the protected areas were transferred.
Concerning river habitats initiatives, the Aquaterra Ecological Society was involved as an expert group in the elaboration and authorship of the Asprete (Romanichthys valsanicola) National Action Plan: “Saving the Romanichthys (Romanichthys valsanicola) from extinction through ecological reconstruction, ex situ reproduction and repopulation actions”, and of the Ministry order draft for the approval of the National Action Plan for the conservation of the Danube salmon (Hucho hucho).
Perhaps our most cherished initiative, the Little Rangers Project, represents our legacy of planting the seeds of love for nature. Its came to life in the summer of 2022, when a group of 100 students from the Campulung Forestry College and 50 from local schools in Frasin and Campulung took part in a 2 weeks tree planting program. Our greatest joy was managing to attract and involve in similar nature conservation actions a group of 30 children with autism, who were gifted a wonderful day in nature, in our private owned nature reserve.
In 1995, the Aquaterra Ecological Society organized the National Symposium for the Conservation of Secular Forests in Slatioara and for the prospects of creating the “Rarau-Giumalău” National Park. Through our activities, we succeeded to promote the conservation initiatives for the protected areas in northern Moldavia (Bucovina) – Rarau-Giumalău Massif, by placing information panels for tourists and installing fences that delimit the reservation on a distance of 5 km as well as 8 access gates, trash cans and a mountain shelter on the Todirescu Alpine Plateau.
1. Research regarding the conservation of endangered species.
A pilot farm has been built, consisting of 20 ground basins and one breeding laboratory where activities related to the reproduction of endangered species will take place (Huchen – Hucho hucho, grayling – Thymallus thymallus, zingel – Zingel zingel, streber – Zingel streber, Romanian darter – Romanichthys valsanicola, Danubian long barbel gudgeon – Romanogobio uranoscopus, common dace – Leuciscus leuciscus, burbot – Lota lota, river trout – Salmo trutta fario)
We hope that in a few years we will create a genetic bank composed of live and conserved specimens (by cryogenic methods) in order to reproduce endangered fish species, their growth in aquaculture facilities, and repopulation of natural watersheds (ecological reconstruction).
2. Production of concentrated feed for cows, sheep, and goats (unconventional organic feed)
In collaboration with the National Research-Development Institute for Animal Biology and Nutrition (IBNA) Balotești, we have developed techniques for producing organic feed and concentrated products using over 300 species of plants from the mountain meadows of Romania, with additives and premixes from IBNA.
In this regard, we built a pilot farm where the animals will be raised and we purchased 25 hectares of land. Here, unconventional organic fodder will be produced and tested, which has the advantage of a high nutritional intake, leading to a rapid increase in biomass and an increased amount of milk.
In the future, we will develop a consulting program for young farmers, in order to produce organic feed on their farms and capitalize on mountain agriculture.
3. Implementation of intensive production of American blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) in mountain horticulture in Romania.
With a small research grant, we developed the first intensive cultivation of the American blueberry plant in Romania.
This culture is experimental and aims to bring data on acclimatization and adaptation of the species to mountainous areas in Romania and, if it will be successful, will be used to promote the intensive cultivation of this blueberry plant in Romania.
4. Development of a pilot breeding station for rare plant species in the mountain area
According to the International Red List and the European Union Natura 2000 Program, a land was purchased in this regard and we have a database and specialized personnel in this field.