Restoration of Lakes, Streams, Floodplains, and Bogs in Europe

Volume 3 of the series Wetlands: Ecology, Conservation and Management pp 185-223


Floodplain Restoration of Large European Rivers, with Examples from the Rhine and the Danube

  • Erika SchneiderAffiliated withChair of the WWF-Institute for Floodplains Ecology, KIT Karlsruhe Institute for Technology – University of Land Baden-Württemberg Email author 

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This paper emphasises the relevancy of floodplains and their manifold functions. It shows that the European river floodplains have suffered dramatic changes over the years as a result of man’s interference. The straightening of the river, the floodplains cutting-off from the river by dykes, and drainage for different purposes have led to disturbances and alterations of the complex framework of ecological conditions in floodplain ecosystems. Moreover, all this has caused a radical decrease in the site-specific species and habitat diversity. The loss of floodplains, its consequences and basic principles for the restoration of functioning floodplain ecosystems are described using the two largest European rivers, the Rhine River and the Danube River as an example. The rising risks of floods and the necessity to provide retention areas to defuse the flood risks have brought about a change of minds. It has led to the development of integrated, large-scale concepts for the Rhine and the Danube rivers management which eventually has materialised in concrete projects dealing with flood protection through floodplain restoration. But aside from flood protection measures, an increasing number of projects aiming at the re-establishment of near-natural floodplain ecosystems is being implemented. In these projects priority is given to the manifold functions of the floodplains and their sustainable use. A number of restoration projects implemented on the Rhine and the Danube with special regard to the Lower Danube are presented. The knowledge acquired in these projects may be used elsewhere.


Floodplain functions Floodplain restoration Human impact Loss of floodplains