The LIFE WILDisland project aims to protect and revitalize the last remaining wild islands along the Danube. The planned measures aim to redynamize the hydrological regimes and remove some physical obstacles, such as groynes and sedimentation to also improve the conservation status of the valuable softwood forests along the banks.
In order to assess and document the effect of the project activities, local monitoring programmes will take place at each of the project sites.In Austria, considerable river restoration measures will be carried out below the Abwinden-Asten Hydropower Plant near Linz as well as in the Donau-Auen National Park, Lower Austria.
An external expert was hired to study the vegetation cover at the two project sites to be able to later compare sample plots before and after the restoration measures. Following an extensive field work over the summer of 2023, we are happy to announce we have some preliminary results from the area below the Abwinden-Asten Hydropower Plant.
The survey found seven homogeneous areas, which were assigned to five out of fourteen preliminary set habitat types, characteristic for floodplains and riparian areas. Anthropogenic structures, such as paved paths and embankment were also present in the area. A large part of the survey area is dominated by old softwood alluvial forest, while the remaining area is mainly occupied by forest edge vegetation, largely isolated water bodies and hardwood riparian forest. The entire area was found to be overaged. Due to the bank fixation, lack of dynamics and free-flowing sections in the fully sedimented old-arm, the development potential for all studied areas was classified as low. Additionally, due to the high embankment below the Hydropower Plant, there are no gravel sections or island-like structures, suitable for characteristic riparian bird species. This means that the typical riparian vegetation will eventually be replaced by stable forests and bushes. This would gradually and completely change the value and species composition of both flora and fauna of the area.
We believe that the reconstruction the side-branch provided within the WILDisland project will result in the dynamization of the landscape, initiating river dynamic processes and creating a dynamic riverine landscape with high value for softwood habitats. The technical plans have all been finalized and submitted by the WILDisland partner Verbund for approval by the relevant authorities and we hope that the revitalization works will start in 2024.