Review: January 22nd-24th
Trilateral Workshop on River Morphology
Sediment balance, islands as stepping stones and dynamic river habitats, restoration actions by Protected Areas and monitoring to assess river dynamics - all of these are important topics for river morphology, and all of them were discussed in the first trilateral meeting of the DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 project. Before the actual workshop, the project managers had one day training on presentations, with topics such as body language, voice, powerpoint, etc.
Monitoring and restoration for river dynamics
On day one of the actual workshop, the group started with very concrete activity planning: The Danube-wide Monitoring of Little-ringed Plover and Sand Martin, both indicator species for dynamic rivers, will be repeated in 2013. This time, it will be part of the Joint Danube Survey, organized by the ICPDR, where the status of the whole river is assessed every 6 years. Our findings will in this way reach a much broader target group and become an integral part for future decisions on river restoration and engineering projects. During the workshop session, responsibilities for monitoring the different river sections were agreed among the Protected Areas, some lessons learnt from the first implementation in 2011 discussed, and ideas for accompanying awareness raising measures collected.
Following this, two presentations on river restoration and engineering projects were the initiators for a short, but fruitful and intensive discussion: Ivan Mitrovic from the waterway authority in Vojvodina (Serbia) - Plovput - presented their approach on river engineering projects with integration of environmental concerns and stakeholder participation. Akos Gaborik from Duna-Dráva National Park presented a planned restoration project along the Dráva River, one of the main tributaries of the Danube.
Sediments and islands
On day two of the workhop, the first topic was sediment balance along the Danube. As the sedimentation and erosion processes provide a vital basis for natural river habitats - by now very rare in Europe due to numerous artificial changes to our rivers - this is a topic of utmost importance. Just as migrating species however, sediment balance is connected along the whole river, therefore a transnational approach is necessary. Igor Liska from the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River presented the role of the ICPDR in this process as well as some project ideas where the DANUBEPARKS Network could potentially contribute. From a more local perspective, Balász Toth from the Duna-Ipoly National Park then presented a sediment project from their area, which will be planned within the project lifetime and should serve as good-practice example for all DANUBEPARS STEP 2.0 partners. A world café gave the chance to all partners for providing input on experienced problems due to disturbed sediment transport, possible solutions that have been tried out, and a joint position on sediment balance that should be developed.
The second topic of this day was the conservation of intact morphological processes. Danube Islands develop only due to natural dynamic processes in a river, and provide valuable and rare habitats to a broad diversity of species. Therefore, they have been selected as flagship areas to conserve. A concept for this was developed by Georg Frank from Donau-Auen National Park and Stela Bozhinova from Persina Nature Park - the Belene island that is protected by Persina is the biggest Danube island in the whole Bulgarian Danube section. The discussion, again structured in a world café, collected the perspectives of all partners regarding the Danube islands protection and three questions: What was the general feedback? Who are the stakeholders and landowners of these islands? What could be the advantages of focusing on the islands of the Danube River?
Study visits & experience exchange
The two days task force meeting was also used for two excursion, that made the whole workshop a trilateral one: The first led the group to Szigetköz, the Protected Landscape Area on Hungarian side in the Slovak-Hungarian border section, in the area of the Gabcikovo dam. The area is morphologically significantly altered, however through management measures some important habitats and valuable biodiversity could be preserved.
The second excursion gave an impression of the restoration project “Naturversuch Bad Deutsch-Altenburg”, which is currently being implemented in the Donau-Auen National Park in Austria. Known restoration measures such as river bank restoration, sidearm reconnection, and groyne restructuring are implemented and tested in their interplay together with one innovative method against the negative effects of significantly reduced sediment transport, especially bedload, in the river: The granulometric soil stabilization adds gravel of slightly bigger size to the river bed to raise the low water levels sustainably, thus ensuring the continuous connection of the main river with the adjacent floodplain.
All in all, the two days of intensive work and many new impressions and inputs were a perfect basis for our joint work on the Action Plan River Morphology, that will be produced within the DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 project and will deal with conservation, restoration, and sediment management measures.