Original paper

River Restoration in the Danube and Elbe: Research and Management in Large River Basins

Bloesch, Jürg; Hein, Thomas; Teodorovic, Ivana


For about two decades, river restoration is high on the scientific and political water management agenda, as measures are needed to improve the ecological situation of river systems and the adjacent landscape elements. Thus, implementing of measures in the frame of river restoration is an issue integrating ecological, social and economic aspects. While aquatic ecologists and river engineers restore ecosystem services lost by hydromorphological alterations, economic policy aims to mitigate flood damage by restoring lost retention areas. Hence, an intelligent river basin management links these two issues together to create a “win-win” situation for a sustainable use. Considering the still existing large near natural floodplains in the Danube and the Elbe (as compared e.g. to the River Rhine), a wise strategy would be not to repeat the mistakes of the past and not to destroy these areas by disconnecting lateral connectivity through rip-rap banks and flood protection levees and channelization at high costs, just to restore them some time later at high costs again. Rather we recommend to evaluate the ecosystem services of these hotspots of biodiversity and “hydrological lungs and kidneys” of the landscape so as to evidence their economic value. In this way, hard pressures of future infrastructure projects (navigation, hydroelectric power) and land use (urban and industrial development) should be kept out of floodplains, while soft use by eco-tourism (recreation, camping, education) and sustainable agriculture (cattle grazing meadows) should be encouraged.