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Volume X |

Floodplains – Links between Countries and Landscapes

Abstract: The primary function of floodplains remains to be to ensure the safe passage of flood waves. As flood control problems are serious along some river sections, this also requires international cooperation. In landscape ecology, floodplains perform two related functions: they are riparian buffer zones (vital for maintaining river water quality) on the one hand and ecological corridors (ensuring connectivity and high biodiversity) on the other. Floodplain wetlands play an important part of the ecological integrity of riverine ecosystems as they fundamentally influence the ecological status of adjacent water bodies. It is all the more important since along most of its length the Danube crosses densely inhabited areas with intensive agriculture, large-scale industries and well-developed communication networks. Consequently, environmental pressure on the active and protected floodplains is of considerable extent and sharp conflicts arise between different land use types. Land use types promoting the fulfilment of the riparian buffer zone function must have priority. Unfortunately, only restricted sections of the Danubian floodplain are retained in seminatural conditions. In the Danube catchment 80% of the former wetlands are now disconnected and cannot fulfil their nature conservation role. The national NATURA 2000 networks are so much dependent on seminatural riparian ecosystems that they cannot be efficient without floodplain restoration measures. Predictable climate change tendencies (increasing drought liability) are also a threat to the survival of floodplains as ecological corridors. Remediation efforts are necessary along extensive floodplain sections and better connectivity is identified as an important target. According to the Danube River Basin District Management Plan (ICPDR 2009, p. 76):”The ICPDR’s basin-wide vision is that floodplains/wetlands in the entire DRBD are re-connected and restored. The integrated function of these riverine systems ensures the development of self-sustaining aquatic populations, flood protection and reduction of pollution in the DRBD”.