WWF restores wetlands for the benefit of nature and people | WWF
WWF restores wetlands for the benefit of nature and people

Posted on 19 October 2016

The six-country programme along the Danube River continues with great results in the autumn
Vienna - In June 2016, WWF reported the first outcomes of the partnership with The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) aiming to restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube River by 2020. Three months later, WWF has conducted several new assessments of dykes and dams to identify the extent to which they complicate the reconnection of former floodplains and appear to be a barrier for the fish migration; the most detailed ecological baseline study of the 15-km long Old Drava’s oxbow was completed, identifying 17 different habitat types along the oxbow, and two fish translocations were accomplished.

In September and October 2016, as part of the project fish translocations of two rare species were successfully finalized in Bulgaria, and the conditions of the gallery forests in the Old-Drava in Hungary were improved with 15 renewed forest spots and new fishing platforms.

The Living Danube Partnership directly contributes to one-third of the objectives of Danube countries to restore 151.3 km² of floodplain and wetland areas by 2021. “We restore nature not only for the benefit of nature, but also for the benefit of people living by. The healthy river systems can provide drinking water, flood protection, food and also can help to adapt to the climate change,” said Laurice Ereifej, Head of WWF DCP Freshwater Programme.

What is WWF doing?

The Danube is the most international river of the world, which has always been home to diverse natural habitats and bless for the people living by. WWF continuously work to improve the conditions of the wetlands and protected areas and this autumn the following was done:

Hundreds of specimens of two rare species returned to Bulgarka Nature Park

In September and October 2016, hundreds of specimens of the species European bullhead (Cottus gobio), listed in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria, and Golden spined loach (Sabanejewia balcanica) were translocated in the river Panicharka in Bulgarka Nature Park - Bulgaria. These species have become extinct from the river years ago, and today, when the ecological status of the water basin has improved, could not return alone because of a wall barrier.

About 200-250 specimens of European bullhead were brought back to their old home and more than 500 fish from the Golden spined loach species were resettled to Panicharka. The translocations were carried out twice with about 100 specimens each time. “This wouldn’t threaten the initial population and will give chance to the species to disperse. We continue to monitor the new population in Bulgarka Nature Park and its growth rate,” said Stoyan Mihov, Conservation Manager of WWF-Bulgaria.
The restoration activities in Bulgaria also included assessment of the migration obstacles and removing existing dams that are interfering in the river habitat, and building new fish passes as next steps.

Improving the conditions in the gallery forests along the Old-Drava

In 2016, renewal of the forest crop began in the floodplain forest along the Old-Drava. In previous years and decades, there were several plantations in the field, however, inappropriate species were planted quiet often. Recent improvement in the water supply to the oxbow will have a positive effect on the groundwater levels in the surrounding areas; therefore, WWF experts assess it as the right time to make changes to the forest crop in a way that it suits the new conditions better.

15 spots were chosen for the forest renewal; in each 25x25 meters areas were marked. In each area, 50-100 saplings were planted, which were only 30-40 cm in height and not pre-reared. WWF have chosen species, which have a water demand that fits current and expected conditions in the oxbow. The seedlings were in general not high-growing species, but native plants that live in the shrub level. Among them we find: Tatar maple (Acer tataricum), European aspen (Populus tremula), European crab apple (Malus sylvestris), European wild pear (Pyrus pyraster) and European spindle (Euonymus europaeus). In the coming years, the priority will be the nursing of the juveniles planted in 2015.

New fishing platforms built along the Old-Drava

Mainly locals go fishing at the Old-Drava, but in a much smaller number compared to previous periods because of bad conditions and littering. This can be changed by improving the facilities around the river. More than 30 of the old and ruined fishing platforms along the Old-Drava were found useless and ineffective for their purposes, so they were demolished and replaced with new fishing platforms. Also three community purpose jetties were built. The jetties are larger, can fit more people and are suitable for overlooking the whole oxbow from the shore. The new platforms are managed by the fishing association and holders of a valid fishing license can use them. The platforms were built on a fixed height and were based on the same design.

Ecological baseline study identified 17 different habitat types along the oxbow

WWF-Hungary conducted a study including the most detailed assessment of the 15-km long oxbow of Drava done so far. The research identified 17 different habitat types along the oxbow with data and maps about the flora and fauna in the area.

The study showed that gallery forests are in relatively good condition, invasive species appeared only in some small fragments. There are some signs of bad proper water supply, which the project will aim to improve. The bird fauna of the Old-Drava was found quite rich - 90 species appeared along it, 12 of which are strictly protected. The mammal and fish fauna is also significant, many species were found that were not known before.
The baseline assessment will be followed by monitoring and evaluations about the changes of flora and fauna in the oxbow. The monitoring will bring insights about the efficiency of the water retention artefact that is built for the improvement of the water supply.

Together Coca-Cola Company and WWF 

Because water is essential to nature, communities, and business, The Coca-Cola Company and WWF have been working together since 2007 to conserve and protect freshwater resources around the world while helping to improve the efficiency of Coca-Cola’s global operations.

To date, the partnership has led to major conservation gains, including helping to improve the ecological health of seven of the world’s most important freshwater basins across five continents, helping improve the Coca-Cola system’s water efficiency by 20 percent, working to prevent 5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions across Coca-Cola’s global manufacturing operations, and promoting more sustainable agricultural practices in the Company’s supply chain.

Explore more details about our partnership:
http://worldwildlife.org/water/coca-cola and http://wwf.thecoca-colacompany.com
Fish translocations of two rare species were successfully finalized in Bulgaria
© WWF-Bulgaria
Fishing platforms along the gallery forests in the Old-Drava in Hungary were renewed.
© WWF-Hungary
Ecological baseline study identified 17 different habitat types along the oxbow.
© WWF-Hungary