Floodplain Ecology / Hydromorphology
Fachgruppenleiter/Coordinator: Dr. Ulrich Schwarz, FLUVIUS, Floodplain Ecology and River Basin Management, Vienna, Austria, E-Mail: Ulrich.Schwarz@fluvius.com, www.fluvius.com
The expert group was established end of the nineties to pay attention to the growing knowledge and scientifical interest on floodplain ecosystems within the Danube River Basin and to observe the further destruction and deterioration of still existing floodplain areas along the Danube and its tributaries. In particularly the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme supported by the WWF Floodplain Institute developed successful floodplain protection activities in the Danube Delta, along the lower Danube and the middle course of the river over the last 15 years.
"Biodiversity in the riverine ecosystems, as different as gravel islands, sand cliffs, side-arms or wet meadows, is extremely high. An estimated 5,000 different animal and over 600 different plant species alone in the Austrian Danube Floodplains National Park illustrates the great value of the Danube's ecosystems regarding species protection and gene pool preservation. For some species, the Danube and its wetland areas constitute their main or only habitat: for example 70 % of the world population of white pelicans (Pelecanus ornocratolus) live in the Danube delta; also the rare Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) as well as the white-tailed eagle (Heliaaetus albicilla) find an important habitat here. However, 223 plant and 668 animal species are endangered and can therefore be found on Austria's Red List. Some of them, such as the tamarisk and water chestnut and various river fishes (e.g. the sturgeons) are even threatened to become extinct." (extracted from the WWF Study: Waterway Transport on Europe's Lifeline, the Danube, 2002)
In comparison with many west European rivers, the degree of technical development of the entire Danube is still relatively low. However, this applies to the section downstream of Vienna, in contrast to the upstream section which is an almost uninterrupted cataract of technical impoundments. An assessment of WWF (UNDP/GEF 1999, see map) has shown that over 80% of the original floodplain area along the Danube and its main tributaries (in the map colored in red and yellow outside the bold margin of the recent floodplain) has been lost since the beginning of the 19th century greatly reducing the biodiversity in the region . For instance, spawning grounds for fish, such as the five species of sturgeon traditionally found in the area, have been largely destroyed.
The protection and the management of the still remaining floodplain areas within the Danube river basin as well as first large scale revitalisation experiences from the lower Danube could be challenging tasks for the group for the next time. (Editor Ulrich Schwarz, the two mentioned references can be find on the WEB site of the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme).
Drava Mura The IAD pilot study “Hydromorphological Survey and Map of the Drava and Mura Rivers” reviews hydromorphological assessment methods across Europe focussing on large rivers, highlights the European CEN Guidance Standard (CEN 2004) which offers a methodological framework supporting WFD requirements and presents the survey method adaptations and mapping results.