DANUBEPARKS - The Network of Protected Areas
The Danube is a truly international river – no other river flows through so many countries. Despite serious human interventions, the river still is of high transregional importance for the protection of biodiversity in South East Europe and an important nature corridor for Europe.
Thus the process for the establishment of a network of Danube Protected Areas already started in 2007. The cooperation has been started in the course of two projects supported by the EU Programmes ETC-SEE (European Territorial Cooperation, Sout-East Europe) Programme.
Please note: Details regarding the projects DANUBEPARKS 2009-2012 und DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 are available further down on this website.
Goals of cooperation are the optimization of habitat management by way of knowledge transfer; the development of shared conservation programmes; and making the voice of the Danube protected areas heard at an international policy-making level thanks to concerted Danube-wide strategies and the implementation of exemplary pilot projects. Shared topics are as diverse as the range of locally relevant issues for each protected area: from river revitalisation to habitat preservation and flagship species, from monitoring to the creation of educational measures for environmental awareness.
DANUBEPARKS has become an important partner for both the EUSDR (EU Strategy for the Danube Region) and the ICPDR (International Commission for the Protection of the Danube). Networks from different sectors, including NEWADA Duo (Network of Danube Waterway Administrations) and the DCC (Danube Competence Centre) also cooperate closely with the protected areas to seek integrative solutions to shared challenges. As a matter of course, major environmental protection groups such as WWF Danube Carpathian Programme and BirdLife International are among our most important partners.
In January 2017, a further project called DANUBEparksCONNECTED implemented measures to strengthen the Danube as a habitat corridor and to promote ecological connectivity. DANUBEparksCONNECTED was financed by the EU Interreg Danube Transnational Programme and ended in November 2019. Numerous measures for habitat improvement and species protection were successfully implemented along the Danube in the course of the project together with partners from protected area and forest administrations, the energy sector and navigation.
Two work packages of DANUBEparksCONNECTED are excellent examples of international cooperation along the Danube:
WILDisland - Initiative to protect the last wilderness islands
Within the framework of DANUBEparksCONNECTED, an inventory of all islands along the Danube was generated for the first time. With impressive results: from the source in Germany to the Romanian-Ukrainian Danube delta there are over 900 islands (total area 137,000 hectares). Surprising and encouraging at the same time: 147 islands are still completely in a natural state. The WILDisland initiative was launched to protect these natural jewels forever. Agreements have been worked out with forestry and waterway administrations, and in Bavaria they have even been signed at ministry level. Successful revitalizations were implemented, and in Austria the branch near the island of Wolfsthal was reactivated.
DANUBE FREE SKY - Saving lives through cooperation
The Danube is an important migration route for birds. Ducks and geese, terns, rare birds of prey and storks use the river for orientation. More than 12,000 kilometres of power lines are found in accompanying floodplains, 200 high-voltage power lines cross the Danube as often invisible obstacles. Every year tens of thousands of birds deadly collide with these power lines. As part of DANUBE FREE SKY, bird protection markers were installed. The marked power lines become more visible and the risk of fatal collisions is reduced by 90%. On the Austrian Danube, almost all Danube-crossing power lines have now been marked in cooperation with power grid operators. DANUBEparksCONNECTED thus permanently saves the lives of thousands of birds every year. The follow-up project LIFE Danube Free Sky will start in September 2020, in which further Danube-wide measures for bird protection will be implemented.
The DANUBEparksCONNECTED project was funded by the European Union through the Danube Transnational Programme. More information about DANUBEparksCONNECTED can be found here. An overview of the implemented measures for ecological connectivity along the Danube river are presented in the final brochure.
The experiences of DANUBEparksCONNECTED will be used to formulate the Guiding Principles for Ecological Connectivity.
Learn more about DANUBEPARKS
The project website www.danubeparks.org provides information about all joint activities, and all project results are also available for download.
Partnership of Protected Areas along the Danube
DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0
Just how important the Network of Protected Areas along the Danube can be for nature conservation in Europe can be seen by the successful collaboration of the early years as well as its naming as a “flagship project” by the EUSDR, or EU Strategy for the Danube Region. Thus the network of protected areas will continue what they have begun in the form of the DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 project.
Building on existing strategies and action plans, Danube-wide nature conservation measures have been implemented. The European Territorial Cooperation SEE (South East Europe) programme provided co-funding means of €2.2 million during the period October 2012 to September 2014. The project report offers an overview of all activities and success stories.
Flagship Species Protection – Black Poplar and White-tailed Eagle
Among other activities, the Danube-wide survey of important Black Poplar populations as well as the protection of outstanding individual specimens have been essential in promoting the health of this flagship species of dynamic riparian forests. In order to preserve the genetic variability of the Black Poplar, genetic and morphological analyses were carried out and pilot reforestation projects were implemented.
Building on the successful “Action Plan for the Conservation of the White-tailed Eagle”, coordinated and Danube-wide conservation measures have been drawn up. The first Danube-wide White-tailed Eagle winter census featured the active inclusion of the general public in order to heighten awareness of the species.
River Morphology and Dynamics
The Danube-wide monitoring of two indicator species for dynamic riverine habitats, the Little-ringed Plover and the Sand Martin, was repeated as part of the Joint Danube Survey. As led by the ICPDR, this cooperation signals increased political significance for the topic.
The protected areas have also drafted an action plan for the revitalisation and protection of dynamic riverine habitats. In addition to the planning of model river revitalisation measures, this Danube-wide concept also includes conservation measures for the “wild” Danube islands which are strongly impacted by natural river dynamics.
To improve the visitors’ experience at DANUBEPARKS, a cornerstone has been set in Nature Tourism: With the involvement of all Protected Areas, the establishment of a joint visitors centre in proximity to Budapest has been planned. Furthermore, Quality Criteria’s for Tourism Offers in Protected Areas have been developed and should result in the improvement of visitors’ offers.
How many visitors can be carried by a Protected Area without bringing negative impacts to the eco system? A study on carrying capacity answers this question for the Danube Delta and the Danube Riparian Forest at Neuburg – Ingolstadt.
Cooperation takes place among 12 protected areas in eight different Danube countries. A project budget of €2.7 million has facilitated the implementation of a variety of vital measures. The most important outcomes of these first major projects are outlined below, according to field. Additional information is available in the project report, available as download here.
Elaboration of a Danube-wide conservation concept for riparian forests and creation of transnational management plans helped ensure the international coordination of habitat management planning. Thanks to the implementation of pilot measures for habitat improvement (revitalisation of meadows, reforestation, purchase of land in valuable locations), visible results were achieved and much additional experience in this area of conservation was gained.
The development of a joint strategy among all Danube protected areas to address the hot-button issue of river navigation versus conservation was an important milestone in the exchange of views and experience and serves as the foundation for cross-sector cooperation in future. Thanks to the implementation of several river revitalisation projects, former river branches could be reconnected to the main current, and groynes could be erected in a more environmentally-compatible manner.
The „Action Plan for the Conservation of the White-tailed Eagle“ drafted in the course of this project has been adopted by the Council of Europe/Bern Convention and now serves as the foundation for conservation measures. The monitoring of eagles and protection of nesting sites has already commenced, and data obtained is being entered into the Danube-wide White-tailed Eagle database.
Monitoring and NATURA 2000
A Danube-wide monitoring of two indicator species for dynamic riverine habitats – the Little-ringed Plover and the Sand Martin – has opened up a whole new view of river morphology relevant for the entire Danube. Publications on beaver management as well as a fish species database augment the activities of this project.
A joint strategy for nature tourism now forms the base for future projects. In the first several years of cooperation, boat and cycling tours were developed and joint training programmes for nature guides were organized.