Wetland restoration secures clean water, flood protection and climate change resilience in the Green Heart of Europe
“We aim to preserve, restore or sustainably manage 2 million ha of freshwater ecosystems along the Danube and its tributaries by 2025, securing essential ecosystem goods and services, from clean water to flood protection, and strengthen resilience to climate change”, said Andreas Beckmann, Director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.
To enhance the protection of valuable wetland areas, WWF supported the development of integrated management plans for the Morava/March-Dyje/Thaya rivers (shared by Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic), the Tisza River (Hungary) and the Lower Danube (in Romania and Bulgaria).
“Hydropower development in the region still poses a major risk to free flowing rivers. We need to ensure that the current boom in construction of small hydro plants brings net benefits in terms of renewable energy that is not outweighed by the loss in ecosystem goods and services,” said Laurice Ereifej, Regional Head of Freshwater at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.
WWF launched campaigns to draw attention to threats faced by natural rivers in Romania and Bulgaria, and to implement guidelines for the development of hydropower across the region. In Romania, we secured a government commitment to designate “no go” areas for hydropower development, and prevented EU funds from being used to support small hydropower development. In Ukraine, we worked with local partners to halt the construction of more than 500 small hydropower plants in the Carpathians.
Meanwhile, WWF experts had two difficult field seasons identifying spawning sites of sturgeons. The Danube is still home to the remarkable fish, which has survived the dinosaurs, but is now on the verge of extinction. “Our Danube expeditions revealed that sites on the Bulgarian side of the river are critical for sturgeon reproduction,” said Laurice Ereifej.
Meanwhile, illegal catches continue to pose a major threat to the sturgeon population. WWF trainings for customs and enforcement authorities on illegal caviar trade contributed to the first major seizure in Romania of 4 tonnes of sturgeon meat and 80 kg of caviar.
Potentially damaging navigation projects on the Danube in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia are on hold, but pressure remains high and so are the risks for sturgeon migration.
For more information:
- Konstantin Ivanov, Communications, WWF in Central and Eastern Europe, +359 884 514 636, firstname.lastname@example.org
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption (www.panda.org/dcpo).
WWF's The Green Heart of Europe initiative across 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe aims to save and protect the five natural riches of the region – forests, wilderness, large carnivores, rivers and wetlands, and the Danube sturgeon. (www.panda.org/greenheartofeurope)