The Danube floodplain forests belong to the last remnants of floodplain habitats in Central Europe. Theses forests are often compared to the rain forest for their uniqueness, beauty, richness of plant and animal species and high production of biomass. The Danube floodplain forests are important for mantaining reserves of drinking water and providing natural protection against floods.
Floodplain forest habitats can be found alongside rivers, wetlands and in regularly flooded areas. Tree species typical for these forests are willows and white and black poplar trees, species which can sustain regular floods for long periods. European oaks, field maples and English elms create the hardwood floodplain forests in areas which are flooded less often.
Today, native Danube floodplain forests cover less than 20 % of the overall area of the remaining Danube floodplains. Most of the floodplain area is being used for growing monocultures of one tree species – a hybrid Eurasian poplar frown for the paper and timber industry. Today, monocultures of hybrid poplars stretch on over 80% of the Danube floodplain area.
These hybrid poplars are popular for wood production but have little ecologicl value. Their thin and sparse branches do not provide enough support for the large and heavy nests of our native species of birds such as black storks and sea eagles. The plantations are harvested at 25 years of age for wood processing. Such quick rotation not only degrades the soil but impoverishes the forest of deadwood important for insect and fungi. The platation forests also lack mature old growth trees that could provide nesting opportunities for cavity nesting birds. Compared to an undisturbed native forest, the undergrowth of monocultures lacks diversity and is often infested with invasive species. The monocultures of hybrid poplars are not very tempting homes for our native species of fauna and flora as they do not provide enough feeding opportunites and shelter. Because these monocultures are low in biodiversity they also have low ecological stability making the whole area more prone to dieseases, invasive species or climate change. Since native floodplain forests are so rare in the Danube floodplains, our native species of animals and plants have been decreasing to a point that many are becoming increasingly rare. In BROZ we aim to reverse this situation by restoring native floodplain forests and protecting the remaining patches of old growth floodplain forests around the Danube river. Since our foundation we have succeeded in planting over 200 000 native trees in the floodplain area thus restoring around 130 hectares of native floodplain forests.