Project name: Dynamic LIFE Lines Danube
Project scheme: LIFE
Project reference: LIFE18 NAT/AT/000733
Duration: 15/07/2019 – 30/06/2026
Budget: 10 730 658 €
The project “Dynamic LIFE Lines Danube” is an Austrian-Slovak cooperation for the restoration of floodplains along the river Danube. In both countries, a total of 25 km of side-arms will be increasingly connected to the Danube and thus made more dynamic. These waters are the lifelines of the floodplain forests. Over 1,500 hectares of riparian forest are ecologically upgraded. In total, the hard bank reinforcement is removed over a length of 4 km. The project is co-financed by the European Union’s LIFE program.
Re-connection of river branches within the Danube river in Slovakia
The aim of the activity is to prepare a detailed expert study and technical documentation of measures aimed at revitalizion and reconnection of the river branches of the Danube. The study will specify specific sites and types of measures that will improve the current situation.
The action will directly improve habitat conditions for target fish species (Cottus gobio, Gobio albipinnatus, G. kessleri, Gymnocephalus baloni, G. schraetser, Hucho hucho, Rutilus pigus, Sabanejewia aurata, Zingel streber, Z. zingel) – especially by providing spawning and nursery habitats and an overall increase in habitat diversity and lateral connectivity. In present state, the connectivity of most of the targeted river branch systems wih Danube main course is limited to a relatively short time periods of high water. Long sections of river branches are disconnected for significant time periods and often dry out. In such conditions, they cannot serve as suitable habitats for fish.
By designing and implementing the measures, we expect a longer period of connection of the side arms to the main flow (improved lateral connectivity), there will be an increase in the heterogeneity of fish habitats, including spawning and nursery habitats; flow dynamics will be improved, sedimentation and degradation of river branches will be reduced, clogging of the bottom with fine muddy sediments will be reduced, which will lead to an improvement of the groundwater level regime; the flood regime of floodplain forest habitats adjacent to the restored river branches will be improved; there will be the formation of new original habitats (gravel and muddy river banks, steep river banks).
It is expected, that a total area of 1015 ha with occurrence of these target habitats will be improved by the proposed restoration measures – with improved regime of groundwater level, improved flood regime and improved formation of initial habitats (gravel and muddy banks).
Other positive impacts include increased productivity of fish stock, improved feeding and nesting habitats for birds (e.g. Alcedo atthis, Charadrius dubius, Riparia riparia, Haliaetus albicilla etc and increased biodiversity.
Restoration of floodplain forests along the Danube river in Slovakia
The aim of the activity is to develop a detailed expert study on the restoration of floodplain forest habitats and also a database of original genetic material of floodplain forests.
The activity is focused on the restoration of 60 ha of forest habitats by restoring the original composition of woody plants (by planting 60,000 seedlings of original tree species), as well as removing invasive plant species on an area of 100 ha.
The alluvial forests in Slovakia are generally in a worse state than those in Austria since the area of Slovak project areas is not protected as a national park as it is in Austria but only as a Natura 2000 site. This allows the commercial planting of euro-american poplar monocultures on majority of Slovak alluvial forests. As a result of several decades of such practice, the potential for natural rejuvenation (e.g. from sprouts or seed bank) of tree species typical for alluvial forest habitats has been lost in large areas. Moreover, the altered conditions and intensive forestry have led to massive spread of invasive plants, which form dense stands and outcompete young individuals of native tree species. In such conditions, the restoration of target forest habitats must be solved by restoration of original tree species composition – including planting of new trees typical for target alluvial forest habitats.
60 000 individual native trees of different species will be planted on 60 ha of alluvial forests. Of this, 20 000 seedlings of disease resistant elm and ash species will be cultivated and prepared within action C8 by NLC from native genetic resources of Danube floodplain forests. Thus actions C8 and C7 will contribute also to increase in resilience and tree species genetic diversity in target forest habitats on long-term. Care for young trees will be provided for three years to prevent damage as a result of game browsing, overgrowing by weeds, climbers, etc. as well as supplementing new trees if needed. Potential species for planting are typical species of the above mentioned forest habitat types as well as rare native tree species of the targeted area:
Acer platanoides, Alnus glutinosa, Carpinus betulus, Cerasus avium, Fraxinus angustifolia, Fraxinus excelsior, Malus sylvestris, Populus × canescens, Populus alba, Populus nigra, Pyrus pyraster, Quercus robur, Salix alba, Salix fragilis, Tilia cordata, Ulmus laevis, Ulmus minor (listed in alphabetical order).