Every year we celebrate World Wetlands Day on 2nd February to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. Wetlands have dramatically been altered by people and their ecosystems are highly affected by climate change. We have already lost a third of the world’s wetlands since 1970, in Europe this figure is more than 56 per cent. While climate change induces the worsening of extreme floods, draughts, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. The Danube Floodplain project is an opportunity to improve transnational water management and flood risk prevention on the Danube and its tributaries while maximizing benefits for biodiversity conservation.
In Europe, landscapes have already been dramatically altered by people, 90% of floodplains have been lost, rivers have been channeled, dams have been constructed and uncontrolled coastal developments have taken place. All of these changes have occurred together with a widespread loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity on our continent, and thus a loss of functionality of our rivers.
All of these changes are part of a widespread loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity on the continent, and thus a loss of functionality of our rivers. Europe has lost of the majority its natural wetlands, most of them in the last century. Barely 40 per cent of water bodies and less than 15 per cent of floodplains can be considered to be in good ecological status. As a result of these widespread habitat changes, along with pollution and other threats, Europe’s freshwater species are in crisis with 59 per cent of mollusks, 40 per cent of fish and 23 per cent of amphibians threatened with extinction
In Danube Floodplain project new efforts on a complex floodplain management are made which are to give not only value for ecosystem services of the rivers and their floodplains, but to develop new management strategies and steps for a floodplain and river treatment and usage which serves better a healthy ecosystem and ultimately, the human needs.
In the framework of the Danube Floodplain project, project partners have identified those active floodplains (an area on either side of a stream/river which is regularly flooded on a periodic basis) which by applying specific restoration measures can help in mitigation of flood levels. Those potential floodplains were identified as well which are now outside levees but could be also restored and given back to the rivers. This would be highly advantageous not only as a mitigation of extreme weather events, but also for the local economy.