Human activity seriously damages riparian forests in Central and Eastern Europe | WWF

Human activity seriously damages riparian forests in Central and Eastern Europe

Posted on 10 April 2017    
Riparian forests in Central and Eastern Europe preserve plant and animal species now rare in Europe.
© FRED F. HAZELHOFF / WWF
Vienna - Riparian forests have been tremendously damaged by human activities in the Danube-Carpathian region. A new publication, "Riparian forests: benefits, state protection, conservation", introduces the problems facing these forests as well as the current efforts of WWF and partner organizations for their conservation and restoration. Over the past 10 years, WWF has been working to restore valuable riparian and floodplain forest areas in Central and Eastern Europe, along the Danube River, the Drava and other river basins with unique natural habitats, now rare in Europe.

Riparian forests play an important role for both nature and humans. They preserve plant and animal species, prevent bank erosion and reduce the risk of floods by retaining water. The most serious causes of loss and destruction of riparian forests can be attributed to their clearing for agricultural use, replacement with hybrid plantations for intensive timber production, river bed correction and aggregate mining, which subsequently lead to dramatic changes in the river flow regime and erosion. Unauthorized and improperly conducted logging and construction of hydropower plants also seriously damage the riverine forests.

The significant ecological importance of these forests, the damage they have already suffered, and the threats they face today call for immediate efforts for their restoration.

Along the Danube River, the conservation work of WWF includes creation of new riparian forests through forestation activities using typical local species, and improving the structure and functions of existing forests. Restoration activities on the Danube islands aim to recreate conditions that are close to the natural environment. They improve the chances for regeneration and allow for an earlier start of natural processes. This leads to a better recovery of the ecosystem as a whole.

Along the Old Drava, WWF’s main objective is the conservation of the riparian habitat through improving the water regime and biodiversity status of floodplain forests along the oxbows.  The restoration includes the stabilization of the water level through retention structures in the oxbow and the improvement of water supply from the main course of Drava River. The improved water levels secure favorable conditions for the alluvial forest and provide favorable ecological circumstances for other aquatic habitats.

A summary of the lessons learned from the WWF’s conservation work on restoration of riparian forests in the region can be found in the new publication.
Riparian forests in Central and Eastern Europe preserve plant and animal species now rare in Europe.
© FRED F. HAZELHOFF / WWF Enlarge

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