We participate in the active protection of bird species of European importance

In the past, the Danube inland delta represented one of the largest and most diverse natural wetland complexes in Central Europe. Large parts of it have been destroyed during last decades; presently habitat loss and destruction continues as a result of former river regulations and poor area management. The decreasing habitat quality and several other factors (e.g. unregulated disturbance by man) have lead to major decrease of populations of the typical floodplain bird species – black stork (Ciconia nigra), night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), little egret (Egretta garzetta), sand martin (Riparia riparia). Nowadays the pressure of the negative factors continues, therefore urgent actions are needed to recover and/or maintain the quality and quantity of the floodplain avifauna.

Project title: Conservation of endangered bird species populations in natural habitats of the Danube inland delta
Danube birds conservation
Project code: LIFE07 NAT/SK/000707

Countries:  Slovakia and Hungary
Project area: Special protected areas Dunajské luhy and Szigetköz

Project beneficiary:
Bratislavské regionálne ochranárske združenie – Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development, Slovakia (BROZ)


Project partners:

Vodohospodárska výstavba, š. p. – Water management construction, state enterprise, Slovakia (VVB)

Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Slovakia – Prírodovedecká fakulta Univerzity Komenského Bratislava (PriF UK)

Észak-dunántúli Környezetvédelmi és Vízügyi Igazgatóság – North-Transdanubian Environmental and Water Directorate (EDUKOVIZIG), Hungary

Szigetközi Természetvédelmi Egyesület – Szigetköz Nature Conservation Association (SZITE), Hungary

Project budget: 
Total costs: 4 577 663 EUR
EC contribution: 2 288 831 EUR (50 %)
Own contribution: 2 288 832 EUR (50%)



Project general objective is to improve the conservation status of the floodplain bird species that are protected in SPA Dunajské luhy and SPA Szigetköz:
– Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
– Garganey (Anas querquedula)
– Gadwall (Anas strepera)
– Purple heron (Ardea purpurea)
– Black stork (Ciconia nigra)
– Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
– Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
– Little egret (Egretta garzetta)
– White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
– Little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
– Black kite (Milvus migrans)
– Night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
– Sand martin (Riparia riparia)
– Common tern (Sterna hirundo)
– Common redshank (Tringa totanus).

For this purpose the most threatened natural habitats of the target species have to be restored; appropriate site management has to be introduced; conditions for long-term sustainability of the conservation status of target species have to be created; and awareness of the key stakeholders and public on the conservation of floodplain habitats has to be raised.

Project objectives are defined in particular areas:
1. Restoration of selected wetlands, dried-up and disturbed river branches and oxbows
2. Restoration of river branch connectivity, water regime and flowing water conditions
3. Land lease or purchase and following introduction of appropriate habitat management
4. Elimination of fish migration barriers at two strategic points
5. Restoration of abandoned meadows as feeding and nesting bird habitats
6. Restoration of birds refugia and nesting areas by planting of native tree species
7. Acquiring of relevant scientific data on target species and their habitats
8. Awareness rising of key stakeholders and public

Project area is spread at both banks of the Danube river from Bratislava to Štúrovo. One part of the area is in Slovakia – Special protected area Dunajské luhy and the other one is in Hungary – Special protected area Szigetköz.

Slovak part of the project area is in the inundation area of the Danube river and in its close vicinity, along the main river and its rich network of branches. The area starts at Devín and spreads to the estuary of Ipeľ.

Hungarian part of the project area is also formed by a large inundation area at the Danube river between villages Rajka and Gönyű, Moson Danube and scattered well-preserved wetlands within the Szigetköz.

Map of the project area:

A – Preparation actions

Action A.1: Elaboration of mathematical hydrological model and calculations 

Responsible beneficiary: VVB

In the past, the inland delta of Danube was one of the largest and most diverse wetland complexes in Central Europe. It’s largest parts were destroyed during the last decades. Today, the loss and destruction of biotopes continues as a result of former regulatory interventions into the rivers flow and the lack management of this area.

• As a result of this action mathematical hydrological model of the left-sided branch-system in the area of Dobrohošť and for the “Istragov” area has been elaborated. For the “Istragov” area 1D hydrodynamical numerical model has been elaborated. It was not necessarz to create the model for the whole left-sided branch-system for the implementation of project actions, and it was also not possible to elaborate it in the time and budget available. Mathematical hydrological model and calculation as well as other detailed documentations elaborated within the preparatorz A-Actions were realised only for the localities targeted by the Conservation C – Actions during the project.
Final results include also application of the model to the actions proposed in the section targeted with the model – calculations defining all required technical parameters of hydrotechnical structurers and suitable water regime.

Action was finished in February and March 2010 according the schedule.

Action A.2: Preparation of technical documentation for restoration of Istragov marsh

Responsible beneficiary: VVB

Istragov is one of the largest islands of the inner Danube’s delta. It is located in the vicinity of Gabcikovo (47°50´20´´ S, 17°33´18´´ V). Since 1992, this location has been cut off from from water supply, due to technical measures taken during the construction of Gabčíkovo–Nagymaros Waterworks. Based on recovery models of the inland delta of Danube, technical documents as well as detailed project documentation were prepared for the restoration of the Istragov marsh, which is a crucial step for the revitalization of the whole  river system near Istragov.

All planned outputs – technical documentation for restoration of Istragov marsh and obtaining of construction permit and all necessary permissions according to Act No 543/2002 on Nature and Landscape Protection were achieved and provided but the action was delayed 5 months in comparison with the original timetable.
Recent status:
Action finished.

Action A.3: Preparation of technical documentation for restoration of Dunajské kriviny river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: VVB

The area of Dunajské Kriviny is located near the village Dobrohošť (47 ° 59’18” N, 17 ° 20’46” V). It is a area of european importance with a environmental protection level 2. The native river branches and channels are completely dried up, because the existing flooding station of the hydroelectric power plant Dobrohošť is not connected to this area. Dunajské Kriviny does not even receive water during artificial floodings since the river arms are clogged with sediments. Based on the hydrodynamic and mathematical models of the Danube river system, technical documents as well as detailed project documentation were prepared for the revitalization of Dunajské Kriviny by building a channel that would reintroduce water to this area.

• Expected results were fully archieved. Technical documentation was finished by 09/2010, 6 months later in comparison to time schedule. In addition, supplement to technical documentation was completed on 2nd November 2011. All the permissions acquired for the first technical documentation were valid also for its supplement, because it was not a major change in technical documentation, however for technical reason the change was necessary.

Delay was caused by the long-lasting public procurement process, which took more than 3 months.
Recent status:
Action finished.

Action A.4: Preparation of technical documentation for construction of the fishway on two strategic points in river branch system 

Responsible beneficiary: VVB

An ichthyological study is necessary to define the ecological and technical requirements of different species of fish, which are going to use the fishway for migration. Strategic locations for the construction of the  fishway were chosen in order to maximize its positive effects. There are two options in place a fishway or a biocorridor. The design was inspired by a already functioning fishway in Hungary.

• The first ichthyologic study was completed in December 2009 by an external provider – Slovak Technical University. Different technical constructions of the fishways were presented in this first stury, but regarding to consultations with experts it was concluded that such technical objects are rather not working in conditions of lowland rivers and their fish fauna and thus it was decided to elaborate supplemnet of this study. The supplemnet was prepared by external supplier AQ-BIOS and it was finished on 29th November 2010. Finally, as consensus of all experts and institutions, construction of fishway within Bakanské ramená river branch was selected and proposed. Another potential place proposed by supplement of the ichthyologic study was the Veľkolélske rameno river branch system.

Fishway I – Bakanske rameno river branch

Consequently to new ichthyologic study supplement, technical documentation was elaborated during 2011. In connection with preparing of documentation a few work meetings and meetings with stakeholders were realised in the office and also in the field. The last official negotiation, where the technical domcumentation was approved, was held on 28th July 2011 and all the documentation was completed and finished in August 2011. The process of issuing of the construction permit was slowed by comments of Slovak Fisherman Association (SRZ), which were expressed just through the last phase before the construction permit wsa isued. In this context several meetings were held and some of the comments have been incorporated to technical doumentation. These changes tok several months, and the final agreement was reached on 9th October 2012. After that new permits ad to be issued. During new permission prosess construction permit was issued on 10th February 2014 (District office of Dunajská Streda). At the same time public procurement was ongoing, in which 7 companies were involved. It was finished in December 2013. The contract with the company which ofer the lowest price during electronic auction (Eurobia SK) was signed on 12th February 2014.

Fishway II – Veľkolélske rameno river branch

Veľkolélske rameno river branch system was next potential place proposed by the supplement of ichthyologic study as fishway. After permission from EC about possibility of realisation second fishway on the Veľkolélske rameno river branch (which is an importatnt fish habitat, that time disconnected from direc contact with the Danbe river), VVB started with feodetic survey and consequently with technical documentation. This restoration will allow fish migration from Danube to Vľkolélske rameno, where they can find suitable spawnin habitats. The last oficial negotiation, where the technical documentation was approved, was held on 30th January 2012 and all the documentation was copleted an finished by February 2012. Analysis of sediments from te Veľkolélske rameno river branch have been ordered and realised. This was necessary for finding out how the sediments dredged out from the river branch should be treated – as inert material or hazardous waste. The results of the analysis werer positive, amount of heavy metals and other of substatnces included in sediments are within allowed limits for free deposition on the soil. This analysis has been an important last step prior to public procurement. Without this it was not possible do decide whether the sediments can be freely deposited in adjacent area or they have to be transported and dumped on special landfill and it was not possible to estimated budged for it..
After elaboration of technical documentation, the process for obtaining of the construction permit started. The construction permit was issued together for the action C.3 and C.6 on 8th April 2013.
Recent status:
Action finished.

Action A.5: Preparation of expert study and technical documentation for restoration of Medvedovske and Velkolelske rameno river branch systems 
Responsible beneficiary: Agravia/BROZ

After a detailed field survey was finished, a study has been prepared, which elaborated on a possible restoration effort and its ecological, technical and legal limits. On the basis of this study a technichal documentation for the restoration of the river arms Medveďovské rameno and Veľkolélske rameno has been prepared.

Expert study for restoration of Medveďovské rameno river branch system was elaborated in 04/2010.
Technical documentation of Medveďovské rameno river branch system was elaborated in 11/2011.

Construction permit for restoration of Medveďovské rameno river branch system was issued in March 2012.

The expert study for restoration of Veľkolélske rameno river branch system was completed in 02/2010.

Technical documentation for restoration of Veľkolélske rameno river branc system was completed in December 2010, acoording original time schedule.
Updated and more detailed technical documentation ofr restoration of Veľkolélske rameno river branch system was completed in 01/2012.
Construction permit for restoration of the Veľkolélske rameno river branch system was issued in April 2013 and was updated including the bridge on 4th April 2014. The same construction permit included actions C.3 and C.6 at the Veľkolélske rameno river branch system.
Technical documentation for the construction of the bridge elaborated and approved.
Recent status:
Action finished.

Action A.6: Elaboration of expert study on restoration of lowland meadows bird habitats by grazing 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

The traditional use of meadows and grasslands, which are an important habitat for many bird species, were virtually abandoned. Currently there is little or no experience with the recovery of alluvial meadows by regulating the intensity of grazing, rotation of animals etc. Suitable locations for the recovery of meadows have been chosen as well as

• External company elaborated the expert study with proposals for lowland meadows restoration by grazing, including maps. The study consists of specific chapters and annex with maps. First part is focused on general description of the natural conditions within the project area and especially on grassland habitats. Next chapters specified proposed natural management and restoration of grasslands as well as summary of various methods of grasslands management – mowing and grazing with explanation of benefits and advantages for each one. Ownership statuses of potential areas for lowland meadows restoration have been also surveyed.
Recent status:
Action finished.

Action A.7: Elaboration of expert study on planting of native trees to create refuges and nesting places for endangered bird species 

Responsible beneficiary: Agravia

Our native species of trees provide a versatile area for nesting, hunting and resting for a large number of bird species. By switching to a monocultural forest management and with the plantation of cultivated species of trees, in case of Danube wetlands the Canadian poplar tree, there was a significant loss of suitable habitat for many animals including birds. The study therefore includes locations and suggestions for planting native species of trees, to create a suitable living condition for specific bird species.

• External company elaborated the expert study for planting of native trees to create refuges and nesting places for endangered bird species by 31/10/2009. The study is including locations and proposals for native trees planting and measuring the possible effect of various alternatives on the target bird species. The first planting of trees according to this study has been realised already in 2009.
Recent status:
Action finished.

Action A.8: Preparation of technical documentation for restoration of Szárazerdei river branch and restoration of wetlands in Ásványi river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: EDUKOVIZIG
• Two sets of updated technical project documentations elaborated for restoration of Szárazerdei river branch and restoration of wetlands in the Ásványi river branch system. EIA process carried out. Documentation for obtaining construction permit submitted to competent building authorities and approved.
Action was slightly delayed, due to problems with the bank guarantee at the beginning of the project. Action preparation started after signing the contract in June 2009. It was not necessary to apply the EIA process for these restoration actions.
Szárazerdei technical documentation was completed on 20/12/2009, 2 months, 20 days later.
Ásványi technical documentation was completed 20/12/2009, 10 days ahead according the time schedule.
Recent status:
Action finished.

B – Land purchase and lease

Action B.1: Purchase and /or long-term lease of the land 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

Purchase of land from private owners is an eff ective way to promote the conservation objectives without limiting the rights of the owners. BROZ concluded dozens of contracts with private owners, many of whom had for the fi rst time fi nancial profi t from forests and other types of land along the Danube. We also concluded long-term leases for 30 years with more land associations for the improvement of their forest property and recovery of neglected areas. Thanks to this activity we can eff ectively protect nature on an area of 100 ha and carry out activities such as conversion of commercial plantations of non-native poplars to natural fl oodplain forests, restoration of grasslands and pastures and suppression of invasive weed species, wetland restoration and fl ooding of dried oxbows or limitation of illegal access of motor vehicles to protected areas. In such a way, we acquired ownership and care of lands in cadastres of municipalities as Ružinov, Dobrohošť, Baka, Sap, Medveďov, Klížska Nemá, Kľúčovec, Číčov, Veľké Kosihy and Nová Stráž. At these localities we can ensure long-term preservation of rare Danube nature in the future. Experience from abroad, but even our own shows that well managed and eff ectively protected natural areas can be attractive for visitors, contributing to the promotion of local Restoration of fl oodplain forests communities which can bring more money and jobs to the region than intensive forest management.

i. Active management and restoration activities – will be realised on lands where project actions can achieve significant improvement of habitats serving for targeted endangered bird species for feeding, nesting, wintering, gathering during day or night, etc. On this land, actions of improving water regime/ flooding, changing of land management practices and application of management which previous private owner were not willing to do because of economic reasons

ii. Passive conservation – will be realised on lands with habitats in good conservation status, which do not need any management. Free development of preserved habitats and undisturbed natural processes are often the best way how to achieve natural structure of habitats, suitable for targeted birds.

iii. Elimination of disturbance of sensitive species – For many species targeted, disturbance by human activities is the key factor limiting their nesting success in the project site. Disturbance is also limiting possibilities of birds to fully use existing optimal feeding habitats. Ownership of the land will allow us to close or remove the roads, exclude hunting and intensive recreation.

iv. Preventing negative development of the land – Development of human activities is a serious problem on private lands in the project site – camping, construction of huts, houseboats, recreational buildings later transformed to normal houses etc . By purchase of small areas strategically located in the project site, we can protect large areas from improper development.

Recent status
Actually  BROZ owns approximately  45 ha land, selection and negotiations with landowners are ongoing continuously

C – Concrete conservation actions

Action C.1: Restoration of Istragov marsh 
Responsible beneficiary: VVB

Istragov, a large marsh complex with an area of 77 ha, was formed of reeds, open shallow waters and many kinds of wetlands. After construction of the Gabčíkovo dam, wetland ecosystems in Istragov were drained and disappeared. The main objective of this activity is to restore the water flow in the marsh as a place of feeding, nesting and resting for target bird species.

In the field we started with the marsh restoration in 2012. Culverts enabling water inflow from the seepage channel were repaired and opened, the channels to Veľký háj and Dedinský ostrov were cleaned and also missing parts of the channels were dug so that water from the seepage channel can flow up to Istragov. In the lower part of the Istragov side-arm a small weir was constructed, which can retain the water that it will not flow out to the old riverbed of the Danube. The effect of the inflowing water was seen in the site Veľký háj immediately; however, it was a bit smaller effect within the Istragov marsh, where the amounts of water are limited, especially during dry periods. Afterwards other supportive measures were implemented. Water level in the seepage channel was increased which caused higher water inflow into the system. The gravel bottom of the channel between Veľký háj and Dedinský ostrov oxbows was sealed with clay, which helped to reduce loss of water through seepage into the ground. Since 2014, at least during major part of the vegetation season, the Istragov side-arm is fi lled with water and during some short periods even the Istragov marsh is being flooded. Some species of aquatic plants and animals appeared in the site again – for example, several species of amphibians started to reproduce here. Some water birds with less niche requirements are living again in the side-arm – Wild Ducks, Grey Herons, Great White Egrets, Kingfi shers and also the rare Black Stork sometimes appears here.

Action C.2: Restoration of Dunajské kriviny river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: VVB

Large river branch system, Dunajske kriviny, cannot fulfil its ecological functions anymore due to lack of water or low water levels. Adaptation of water supply for oxbows in Dunajské kriviny was finished in summer 2013. Former dried oxbows got flooded in the length of approximately 1200 m. Some common fish species got to the side-arm basically immediately and since 2014 we can see gradual restoration of bank and aquatic vegetation and colonization by water animals. Already in 2014, we recorded breeding of Common toad and Agile frog, in 2015 we recorded eight species of water beetles. Kingfisher, one of the project target species, occurs here regularly as it found suitable feeding habitats. Improving water subsidies is also important for the surrounding floodplain forest. In the past, they have been reclassified from the category of commercial forests to protective forests because of lowering of the ground water and related problems with reforestation.

At the present time: Restoration works ended in July of 2013. photos

Action C.3: Construction of the fishway on two strategic points in river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: VVB

River weirs in the branch system are causing barriers for fish migration and spawning. The activity include the construction of two fisways in areas Bačianske ramená (47°53´24´´S, 17°29´58´´N) and Veľkolélske rameno (47°45´13´´S, 17°55´43´´V).

In 2014, a few kilometres long of biocorridor was built. New channels interconnecting separate river side-arms were dug at three places. Another channel was deepened and enlarged. At four sites, pairs of frame culverts with a size of 2×2 meters were placed where channels are crossing the forest roads. Immediately after completion of the biocorridor, fish started to use it and the water flowing through improved water supply in the small side-arms and marshes. In addition to fish, birds also responded to restored habitats – up to four pairs of Kingfisher started to nest here and other species like Black Stork, Grey Heron and Little Egret appeared at the sites.

Action C.4: Restoration of selected dried and isolated river branches 
Responsible beneficiary: VVB

In the past, inner Danube delta was formed as a complex river network. In the present this network is fragmented and fails to accomplish its ecological functions with a significant negative impact on the habitats and its species. Removal of barriers in the river branch system will improve water regime and integrate river branches. Raising water level will renew dried shallow wetlands, small river branches and natural channels. Feed sources (fish, amphibians) for target species as Common Kingfisher, Black Stork, White-tailed Eagle, Black Kite will be provided after restoration.

Activities include integrate 2,5km or river branches what assumes to renew  least 18 ha of wetlands and release river paths for aquatic organisms migration what assumes growth of fish and amphibians in former fragmented branches.

Action is finished. The location we restored is Dolný Rusovský ostrov: All artificial barriers were gradually removed in the years 2013-2014. The nature reserve now has a much improved natural look, now that the side-arms and wetlands are not crossed by concrete and stone weirs or roads. Immediately after completion of the work, during floods, the side-arm was scoured and large quantities of the debris were carried away. Former ordinary illegal entrances of vehicles to the inner part of the reserve have completely disappeared. The movement of people in remote parts of the reserve became less frequent, thus a zone without human disturbance appeared where many sensitive bird species found a refuge. We expect that the nesting sites of some of them will gradually reappear.

And the another location was White-tailed Eagle island: the main problem of the site is lack of water and absence of floods. Therefore any kind of restoration has to start with improvement of the water regime. Because a complex restoration of the river branch system is a technically and fi nancially diffi cult process, which is also time-consuming, we decided to stabilize the area of the island through improvement of the water regime, which the situation allowed. The water level in river branch upstream of the island is quite high that it is able to fl ood the dry lakes in the central part of the island and also the lowered parts of the fl oodplain forests. Digging of a channel connecting the branch and the dry wetlands in the central part of the island was designed. A simple sluice gate in the infl ow part allows to regulate the quantity of infl owing water. The aim is to get some amount of water to the site all year long and a bigger quantity of water during some periods, especially in spring and summer, which allows the temporary fl ooding of depressions on the island.

In 2013 the described solution was constructed and set into operation after agreement of the foresters. After more than 20 years, the water came back to the White-tailed Eagle island. Several of the depressions were permanently or temporarily fi lled with water. Although the restoration of natural vegetation requires more time, the locality already was re-occupied by aquatic birds – the Black Stork is regularly feeding here, the Kingfi sher is nesting, and the Grey Herons and Mallards are coming here. Several species of amphibians started to spawn on the island again.

Action C.5: Restoration of Medvedovske rameno river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

River branch system Medvedovske rameno (47°47´60´´S, 17°38´55´´ N) was flowing freely until the end of 80’s when regulation works on Danube caused disconnection from the main stream on the upper part of Medvedovske rameno. This action changed water regime, water dynamics and the composition of bird and vegetation species. Some of the species had lost completely their habitats and some of them had decreased their feed sources.

In the beginning, the excavated inflow part of the river branch had a shape of straight channel with equal banks. In the end of 2012, immediately after termination of the restoration works, higher flows entered the branch and started fast lateral erosion. The result of this erosion process, which continued also in the first half of 2013, was the enlargement of the river branch to the originally designed 30 meters and also the change of shape of the channel – from straight to slightly meandering. One of unintended consequences was the sedimentation of washed away bank material, which increased its bottom further down in wider parts of the channel and caused restricted flow capacity at low and medium water levels. Subsequently, this material was excavated. Erosion and spontaneous „naturalization“ of river bed occurred only in the area of former river branch without threatening the surrounding land. Continuous erosion in the area of the inflow from the main channel was preventively stopped by the installation of a buried quarry stone dumping. It is worth noting, that the Danube flow 10 200 m3 s-1 in Medveďov in June 2013, which is more than the hundred year flood, had no bigger influence on the shape of the river branch. During following years – 2014 and 2015, the river bed was not changing anymore and was stabilized.

The restored water flow had an immediate influence on animals and plants. Right after the river branch restoration, Kingfishers started to nest here. They used two concave banks for nesting, which were restored. Furthermore, the river branch provides them excellent opportunities for hunting – the flowing water creates depressions, which are filled by clear water during periods with low water levels. The Black Stork, which is in extinction in the area of the Danube floodplains, also started to visit the site for feeding. Of course, rheophilous fish species from the Danube main channel immediately occupied the flowing branch, where they can find good conditions for life and reproduction during some periods. Other phenomenon, which was restored in the area thanks to the fl owing water is the natural regeneration of the softwood willow-poplar floodplain forest on gravel and sand sediments along the river branch.

Please, see the photo gallery.

Action C.6: Restoration of Velkolelske rameno river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

River branch system Veľkolélske rameno (47°44´60´´S, 17°55´47´´V), flowing around Veľkolélsky island, was in the end of 80’s disconneted from the main stream by blocking all inflows during the regulation works on Danube. An artificial runway on a dike from concrete was set up through isolated river branch. River branch system was damaged by these interventions. After every flood, the deposition of sediments rises and disable life in water.

Our main objectives are to interrupt the concrete dike and open the river branch on its upper and lower part, so water can flows through the river branch. We expect sediment loss, fish migration for spawning, renewed nesting and feeding for target bird species.  There will be built a new bridge over an interrupted concrete dike, so the access to the island will remain.

Within 2013 – 2015, the water inflows to the river branch by 100 meter wide inflow channel. One part of the crossing dam was substituted by a new bridge, which allows the water flow, and also allows the visitors and land managers to access to the island. The water now flows through three 15 m wide fields and more than 4 m high, instead of two former culverts, just 2×2 m wide. On both outflows the dam was removed and the river branch is now freely connected with the main Danube channel. Between the outflows, a small island called Golden island is located. This small island is inaccessible by feet now. In 2015 the water flow in the river branch was restored after decades. Positive results and fast returning of wildlife to river branch are confirmed not only by scientists, but also by local fishermen.


Action C.7: Restoration of lowland meadows as feeding and nesting bird habitats 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

The largest area of alluvial meadows on the Slovak side of the Danube has been preserved on the Veľkolélsky Island. However, these meadows were used only minimally after 2000 and they started to become overgrown, therefore our attention was focused right here. We purchased a herd of 70 cattle, 100 sheep, 20 goats and 8 Hucul breed horses and we have introduced a grazing system. Grazing is regulated through mobile electric fences. Cattle are clearly the best for restoration of abandoned and derelict areas. Sheep and horses are again appropriate to maintain low vegetation on already restored grasslands and pastures. Already during the fi rst grazing season in 2009 we saw excellent results. Areas overgrown by two meters tall thicket of weed were managed by cattle in a short time and turned into the low grassy vegetation. The cattle are “mowing down” vegetation even in rough or flooded terrain and under scattered trees. It is impossible to do this work with any kind of machine. During several years of grazing animals reduced continuous stands of invasive plants, especially Goldenrod. On regularly managed meadows and pastures there has been a visibly better expansion of the rare and protected plant species such as Clematis integrifolia or summer snowflake. The grazing was later supplemented with milling of the rest of the invasive tree species and mulching of the sprout shoots of removed plants. Grassing of arable land with seed mixtures of native herb species was used on an area of 20 ha near the villages of Veľké Kosihy and Číčov. In cooperation with local farmers in the villages of Iža and Dunaszeg, we have improved pasture conditions by the Danube by removing non-native invasive trees and by supporting the pasture infrastructure. Overall, during the project we have restored fl oodplain grasslands and pastures on an area of nearly 200 hectares. With the support of water managers in the Hungarian part of the area, we began the grazing of cattle on the fl ood-protection dyke and their buff er zones (out of project activities). Grazing improves the quality and structure of grassland and also saves operating costs for mowing and mulching of the dykes.

Photogallery of our livestock

Action C.8: Planting of native tree species – restoration of natural birds refugia and nesting areas 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

The original floodplain forest along the Danube was largely replaced by plantations of the fast growing non-native Euroamerican poplars. These monocultures are usually harvested after 30 years. For many species of birds and other animals that need old trees for living, these do not provide sufficient nesting and feeding opportunities. A number of typical tree species of varied floodplain forests had become rare under intensive forest management. To support species diversity within the forest and create a mosaic of possible breeding sites for birds in the future, we planted over 45,000 trees of several native species during the project. We planted mostly native poplars – Black and Grey Poplars, then White willow and Common alder at the moist softwood floodplain forest habitats. On the drier and higher situated sites of hardwood fl oodplain forest Pedunculate oak, Narrow-leaved ash and to a lesser extent also maples, elms and wild pears were used. Reforestation was carried out by planting of native trees in groups to gaps in nonnative poplar plantations as well as planting whole forest stands of domestic species at places without trees. Trees were planted on land purchased from private owners or on land used by others after agreement.


Action C.9: Restoration of steep river banks as nesting bird habitats 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

Due to river regulation, vertical river banks almost vanished in the project area  after this type of banks had been reinforced by large stones to minimalise side-erosion of the river bed. Such banks are the only habitats suitable for the nests for sand martin. This bird nests on suitable places in big colonies – by choosing suitable localities, a favourable increase and stabilisation of it´s  nest population in our country will be ensured. Within this action, we restored vertical banks on Veľkolélsky ostrov island in the lenght of 50 m (rkm 1782) in May 2010 and 200 m long and 3 m high bank section at the inflow of river Ipeľ and Danube (rkm 1709). We know that in the past, colonies of sand martin lived in this locality. By restoring vertical banks we are creating favourable conditions for their return in the area. In 2012 almost 1000 pairs of this bird successfully nested on restored vertical bank near Chľaba, which was the largest colony of this species in the whole section of Danube. You can see the process of bank restoration and the colony in a photogallery.

Action C.10: : Restoration of Szárazerdei river branch 
Responsible beneficiary: EDUVIZIG
– Szárazerdei river side-arm restoration was ended in November 2011, when the water returned to the 1.5 km long part of the river bed. The return of lifegiving water received a quick response. Native inhabitants started to return to the river-bed – many fish and water invertebrates found their homes here again. Several species of amphibians, the Grass snake and some aquatic bird species came to live here again. Floodplain forests in surroundings also get more humidity.

Action C.11: Restoration of wetlands in the Ásványi river branch system 
Responsible beneficiary: EDUVIZIG

Planned restoration work was carried out at four locations in 2011. Because of the good results and project savings, the second phase was designed and implemented in 2013, where four other wetlands were recovered in a similar way. By the restoration of wetlands we managed to bring back water to the places that would otherwise gradually lose its specifi c nature and species richness. Overall, we improved the water regime of eight sites where we restored temporarily fl ooded wetlands on an area of 56 ha and permanent shallow lakes on an area of over 11 ha. Besides the lakes and marshes themselves, the water supply in the surrounding softwood fl oodplain forest was improved as well.

D – Results dissemination

We realize various promotion actions during the project:

Action D.1: Web site development and maintenance 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
Website is running.

Action D.2: Publishing of information, educational and promotional materials 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
All published materials can be found in section Publications
Recent status
We publish wall calendars, project leaflets in Slovak, English, Hungarian and German language. We publishe also information booklets, turist map, postcards, pocket calendars and  labels. We prepared gifts and surprises for children and adults too.

Action D.3: Installation of information panels 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
We installed 20 information panels along the project area. All planned information panels were prepared and located along the Danube River and the project site. The locations for information panels were directly places of visible restoration actions or strategical points and places of access to protected areas, where maximum people can see the panels. Information panels were made of wooden construction with metal roof against rain and metal underlay, where the exterior sticker with the graphical design is placed. This construction is rather damage resistant. Also positive messages for readers of panels (no prohibitions or warnings from fine due to breaking of regulations) prevented intentional damaging of the panels.

Action D.4: Installation of bird watching towers 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
We built two towers for observation of birds and other wildlife for experts and visitors of the project area. The high bird watching tower is near the village Baka (photo) and the small tower is in Čunovo, the part of Bratislava.(photo)

Action D.5: Communication and regular meetings with stakeholders 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
Constant communication with stakeholders and meetings with stakeholders was organized. Topics of the meetings: existing regulations and their enforcement in selected localities, importance of selected localities for nature and birds conservation, promotion of functioning nature conservation models from other protected areas, coordination of stakeholders activities to tackle conservation problems, regulation of visitors flow in information of protected areas visitors including local inhabitants.

Action D.6: Presentations and field excursions for students and public 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
Numerous presentations and field excursions for students and public were realized. Different field events were organized, where the visitors can take active part in simple nature conservation activities such as collection and removal of the waste, marking of protected areas etc. Expert guide guaranteed that visitors can have the best experience from the visit (technical explanation, information, answering questions, attractive natural features, observation of wildlife, etc.) and at the same time, they do not caused damage on the nature and environment.
List of realised actions in in section Archive

Action D.7: Interactive travelling exhibition – Bird life in Danube floodplains 
Responsible beneficiary: SZITE
This exhibition showed to the people in a very effective way the importance of the protection of the targeted bird species and habitats. All major towns and main villages connected to the project site on both sides of Danube river (both in Slovakia and in Hungary) were visited by the exhibition. Opening of exhibition took place on 7 December 2009 in Gyor Press releaseThe exhibition visited approximately 30 places in Slovak republic and Hungary. The exhibition has great popularity by visitors. The exhibition saw a total of 20 390 visitors.

Action D.8: Presentation book – Birds of Danube floodplains 
Responsible beneficiary: PriF UK.
Presentation book “Birds of Danube floodplains” was published at the end of the project, with text, tables, graphs, maps and photographs.

Action D.9: Promotion of project on conferences and in media 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
We promoted the project at conferences, organized press conferences and published various articles in press, magazines and on internet including radio and TV reportages. All media outputs are in section Media outputs

E – Project management

Action E.1: Project management 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

Action E.2: Hydrological monitoring 
Responsible beneficiary: VVB
Hydro-morphological, physic-chemical and chemical quality elements were monitored as well as supporting biological quality elements. Based on obtained results of the water quality and the quality and status of the aquatic environment, the characterization can be prepared. Monitoring was used for specification of proposals of restoration actions and monitoring of their impact on aquatic environment. Monitoring of the following quality elements together with frequencies was carried on regular basis: hydro-morphological elements, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, alkalinity, acidity, BOD-5, COD-Cr, N-NH4, N-NO3, P-PO4, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, benthic invertebrates, phytobenthos, phytoplankton, water macrophytes, fish.
Recent status:
This action was realised by an external provider (VÚVH, National reference laboratory), which started the monitoring in September 2009 and continued during the whole project. The action was focused on documentation and assessment of current situation of water formations in the location of left-side branch system of Danube – Istragov and Dunajské Kriviny. The sampling frequency was from 2 (sekected buikigucak qzakuty elements) to 12 sampling per year (other elements of quality). Overall 52 samples were collected and 3586 analysis were performed during 2009-2011.

Action E.3: Monitoring impact of project actions on bird populations 
Responsible beneficiary: PriF UK.

Database of ornithological data was created with estimated several hundred thousand of records. By the end of every year a monitoring report with the most important results was provided to give feedback to the implementation of the concrete conservation actions.

Recent status:
Action successfully finished. All target species (Alcedo atthis, Anas querquedula, A. strepera, Ciconia nigra, Circus aeruginosus, Dryocopus martius, Egretta garzetta, Haliaeetus albicilla, Ixobrychus minutus, Milvus migrans, Nycticorax nycticorax, Riparia riparia, Sterna hirundo and Tringa totanus) in the project area during the breeding season were monitored. Impact on bird communities at C.1 and C.4 action sites was studied in detail.

To be able to evaluate the output of the concrete conservation actions in long-term perspective, we included monitoring programmes also in the After-LIFE conservation plan.

Action E.4: Monitoring impact of project actions on other biota 
Responsible beneficiary: PriF UK.
Model groups of these organisms were selected for monitoring: higher plants, dragonflies, fish and amphibians. These groups were selected because they fulfil following criteria: (i) they are able to indicate changes in the environment; (ii) they may be good indicators of quality of the environment for the target bird species; (iii) partially, they can indicate changes in the food offer of several target bird species; (iv) identification of the model organism up to the species level is relatively easy.
Recent status: Action successfully finished. Higher palnt communities, fish, amphibian and insects have been monitored at the places where C-actions were implemented.

To be albe to evaluate the output of the concrete conservation actions in long-term perspective, we included monitoring programmes also in the After-LIFE conservation plan.

Conclusions of biota monitoring supplement the data obtained during monitoring of the target bird species. Action C.1 created or renewed aquatic habitats that were quickly occupied by water plants, dragonflies, water beetles and amphibians. Rich communities of amphibians were present on several parts of the site, together 10 species were recorded and reproduction of all of them was confirmed. On the other hand, the dragonflies were represented mostly by common species with broad ecological valence and the beetle community was quite poor. Before 1993, when the natural water regime was preserved, there was a rich water beetle community consisting of 110 species and including several rare and threatened species. In 2015 only 18 species of water beetles were present there, all these species are widely distributed and have a broad ecological valence. This indicates the following combination of factors: (i) the actual water regime is not optimal, (ii) the communities need more time for recovering and natural development, and (iii) the general state of the Danube floodplain area is not favourable and several species lost their source populations. Action C.2 also created a new water habitat – before the action there were no amphibians, dragonflies and water beetles present here. In 2014-2015 the site was inhabited by those three groups, however, the numbers of species were quite low and no rare species were recorded here. This is consequence of small size of the area and missing water level dynamics. Restored wetlands of the action C.4 were immediately (2013-2014) colonized by six species of amphibians reproducing in the central part of the wetland. There is high potential for further increase in species number and their populations, which was hindered by the slow filling of the wetlands with water and by the rich terrestrial vegetation, which still covers large parts of the site and drops shadow. Botanical monitoring of the restoration of meadows (C.7) points out different assessment of the meadows when ornithological and botanical views are compared. High diversity of plants and rare plant species are present in places that are mowed (1-2 times annually) or extensively grazed. The intensively grazed parts – important habitats for birds – are occupied by fewer plant species and occurrence of nitrophilic and ruderal species increases here. Therefore the best solution is a mosaic of areas with different use, what is exactly the situation on Veľkolélsky ostrov Island.

Action E.5: Project bookkeeping 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

Action E.6: Networking with other projects 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
Realised actions:
19 March 2009 – Management of reed beds,NP Neusiedler See – Seewinkel, 5 participants
26 March 2009 – Restoration of Danube banks and branches, NP Donau-Auen, Bratislava, 6 participants
4 May 2009 – Danube floodplains – meeting with Austrian-German project LIFE04 NAT/AT/000003 Hang- und Schlucht wälder im oberen Donautal,Bayrisches Staatsministerium für Umwelt, Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz, Landesbund für Vogelschutz in Bayern, Danube river, 10 participants
1 July 2009 – Networking and exhibition with NP DonauAuen, SMOPAJ, PriFUK,Orth an der Donau, 10 participants
5-14 September 2009 – Conservation and management of wetlands of international importance, State Nature Conservancy, MoE of the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus,1 participant
7-10 September 2009 – Networking with project LIFE06 NAT/RO/000177 Conservation and Integrated Management of Danube Islands, Romania, PriFUK, Environmental Protection Agency Calarasi, Bratislava – Komárno, 9 participants
29.10.2009 – Networking with Czech ornithologists – Management of Danube floodplains, Entomologic institute AV?R, SCHKO Pálava, AOPK ?R, ?SE, Veľký Lél Island, 7 participants

15 May 2010 – networking with conservationists from Germany; Landesbund für Vogelshutz, Danube floodplains, 15 participants
17 June 2010 – excursion to Slovanksy ostrov island, Čunovo and Rusovce for conservationists from Romania; Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, 8 participants
28.-29 June 2010 – Managment lowland forests; Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic and  Židlochovice Forest Enterprise, Veľkolélsky ostrov island, 19 participants
12 July 2010 – excursion to National Pard Danube for conservationists; NPDA,DINPI, DDND, DDBRA, Persina, Vojvodinasume (Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania), NPA Danube floodplains, 12 participants
25 September 2010 – networking with Danubeparks, partners Danubeparks, 19 participants
15.-16.4.2011 – Networking with conservationists from Austria and Hungary during Pannonian Bird Experience 2011 connected with information standIllmitz, NP Neusiedler See, 25 participants
19.4.2011 – Networking with conservationists from Czech Republic – Sorbus o.s., Veronica, ZO ČSOP Kněžice, Hamerský potok o.s., BROZ, ČSOP LiteňVeľkolélsky ostrov Island, 14 participants
9.-14.4.2012 – Networking with conservationists from Serbia – NP DjerdapDonji Milanovac, Serbia, 12 participants
7.3.2014 – Networking with conservationists from Croatia – NP Kopački rit, Veľkolélsky ostrov Island, 11 participants

Action E.7: Project auditing 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ

Action E.8: After-LIFE conservation plan 
Responsible beneficiary: BROZ
An After-LIFE conservation plan is a separate chapter of the final report, presented both in Slovak, Hungarian and English. It presented our plans how to continue and to develop the conservation actions initiated during the project in the years after the project was finished and how the long-term management of the project site and targeted bird species and their habitats will be assured.

Project articles and reports  here.

Project photos here. 
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