Riparian forest habitats are a substantial part of the river
ecosystem. Sadly, around 90% of these zones have been lost in the past century
due to human intervention. DANUBEparksCONNECTED aims to restore riparian
forests by detecting gaps in the riparian forest corridor for conservation or restoration
measures. Such reforestation activities can mitigate climate change
significantly by raising the carbon storage capacity of the Danube riparian zones.
Danube Riparian Forest Fitness Check
To determine the current status of riparian forests as
habitat corridors throughout the Danube, a Riparian Forest Fitness Check was
carried out, based on satellite data from the Copernicus Land Monitoring
Services, a unique dataset on riparian zones. The GIS data was analysed based
on factors such as the size of forest complexes and fragmentation, as well as
habitat typology. Built upon the Fitness Check, a roadmap towards a Riparian
Forest Corridor was jointly developed.
Testing and demonstrating the Riparian Forest Corridor
In Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia, as well as in Bulgaria and
Romania, much focus was put on the reforestation of gap areas in-between intact
forest complexes with domestic species, the conversion of plantations used by
intense forestry into native stands, and the management of invasive alien tree species.
Diverse and productive riparian forests are of outstanding
importance for bat conservation, as they prefer habitats of old growth forests.
To put the results of the Riparian Forest Fitness Check to the test, a survey
of bats as indicator species was conducted in the Upper, Middle and Lower Danube,
examining about 100 sampling sites. Outstanding results show that Protected
Areas house an abundance of species of great significance.
The survey also indicates that 10-20 m3 of standing dead and
hollow trees per hectare are recommended for a healthy riparian forest habitat.
A deep-rooted strategy
The protection of Riparian Forests requires strong cross-sector
cooperation. Three study visits in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Danube brought Protected
Areas and forest enterprises together.
These study visits presented a good opportunity to discuss
pilot actions, demonstrate good practice projects, and plan follow-up activities
regarding the Riparian Forest Corridor.