Where do we get the knowledge to make decisions about protection measures? How do we know whether a certain species is threatened? The task of monitoring activities is to gather the facts and figures and thus provide a database for protection and revitalisation measures for habitats and species. In the end, monitoring activities also serve as a benchmark to assess whether the actions have succeeded well enough to protect the ecosystems, as can easily be seen from the connection between the monitoring of indicator species for river dynamics described here and the actions under Morphology. Monitoring the species of the Fauna-Flora-Habitats Directive and Birds Directive of the European Union is also one of the main tasks of Natura 2000 areas – which all members of the DANUBEPARKS Network represent.

For the data collected to be useful for the whole river, and for us to draw conclusions on the status of the entire river’s ecosystem, a coordinated way of data collection is needed. This is where the DANUBEPARKS Network comes in: identifying the species to be focused on and elaborating transnational monitoring concepts and databases. This coordinated work helps to identify gaps and evaluates the success of protection measures for the Danube River as a whole.

Activities STEP 2.0

While in the first project we implemented activities on fish, birds and mammals, in the DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 project the energy was focused only on the Danube-wide monitoring of indicator species for river dynamics: Little-ringed Plover and Sand Martin.

Sand Martin (© Ivan Vidakovic / Kopacki rit Nature Park)
This activity brought very valuable results and therefore drew the interest of the ICPDR. Within the second project, the monitoring was repeated as a part of the ICPDR’s Joint Danube Survey, and also included the downstream stretches of important tributaries. Additionally, monitoring indicator species links very well to our activities under Morphology, as the results gained from this monitoring can be directly used to plan restoration actions and measure their success.


Activities 2009-2012

Fish Monitoring (© Duna-Ipoly National Park)
The first DANUBEPARKS project concentrated on three sets of monitoring activities:

Fish are of course the most logical animals to monitor in a river ecosystem. The DANUBEPARKS Network created a fish database where data from all the protected areas was collected in a consistent format for easy comparison, so that the status of certain species can be analysed for the whole river and not just a short river stretch.

Birds are abundant in the floodplains, but a joint monitoring approach focused on two selected species because they are indicators for dynamic river systems. These are the Little-ringed Plover, breeding on gravel islands and sandbanks, and the Sand Martin, breeding in holes on steep river slopes. Both habitats only occur in naturally developing rivers shaped by the succession of floods and low waters. With the implementation of the Danube-wide monitoring in 2011, the status of river dynamics was assessed all along the river and not only in the protected areas.

Tree chopped by Beaver (© Fiala)
Last but not least, handbooks were developed to monitor two mammal species that inhabit floodplain areas.Beavers are typical river and floodplain animals, but they occur in very different populations along the river – in theAustrian Donau-Auen they are abundant, whereas in the Hungarian Danube protected areas they are close to extinct. Our Slovak partners put together a Beaver Manual, and the Hungarian partners did a study on the reintroduction of beavers.  The European mink was once a typical inhabitant of the Lower Danube areas, but now is critically endangered. The Danube-Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority therefore produced a handbook for European mink monitoring and protection measures.

As mentioned above, monitoring species and habitats for these areas is an important part of Natura 2000 management. The Danube Delta produced a Natura 2000 handbook, based on bilateral discussions and study visits, to coordinate the monitoring and protection approach regarding the Natura 2000 species, habitats and tasks for the future of the entire Danube River.