Current status and restoration options for floodplains along the Danube River



Hein T, Schwarz U, Habersack H, Nichersu I, Preiner S, Willby N & Weigelhofer G (2016) Current status and restoration options for floodplains along the Danube River. Science of the Total Environment, 543 (Part A), pp. 778-790.

Floodplains are key ecosystems of riverine landscapes and provide a multitude of ecosystem services. In most of the large river systems worldwide, a tremendous reduction of floodplain area has occurred in the last 100years and this loss continues due to pressures such as land use change, river regulation, and dam construction. In the Danube River Basin, the extent of floodplains has been reduced by 68% compared to their pre-regulation area, with the highest losses occurring in the Upper Danube and the lowest in the Danube Delta. In this paper, we illustrate the restoration potential of floodplains along the Danube and its major tributaries. Via two case studies in the Upper and Lower Danube, we demonstrate the effects of restoration measures on the river ecosystem, addressing different drivers, pressures, and opportunities in these regions. The potential area for floodplain restoration based on land use and hydromorphological characteristics amounts to 8102 km2 for the whole Danube River, of which estimated 75% have a high restoration potential. A comparison of floodplain status and options for restoration in the Upper and Lower Danube shows clear differences in drivers and pressures, but certain common options apply in both sections if the local context of stakeholders and societal needs are considered. New approaches to flood protection using natural water retention measures offer increased opportunities for floodplain restoration, but conflicting societal needs and legal frameworks may restrict implementation. Emerging issues such as climate change and invasive non-native species will need careful consideration in future restoration planning to minimize unintended effects and to increase the resilience of floodplains to these and other pressures.

Danube river; Flood protection; Floodplains; River restoration; Water framework directive

Science of the Total Environment: Volume 543, Issue Part A

Publication date29/02/2016
Publication date online23/10/2015
Date accepted by journal14/09/2015

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Professor Nigel Willby
Professor Nigel Willby

Professor & Associate Dean of Research, Biological and Environmental Sciences