The rich and unique biodiversity and riverine habitats along the Danube and its tributaries have been under severe pressure due to human activities since the 19th century.
In order to enhance nature conservation along the Danube, the ICPDR is working to compile an inventory of the species and habitats conserved in protected areas based on a list currently containing 250 sites officially nominated by the Danubian States. The final selection of areas for protection will occur when the European Natura 2000 Network was completed in 2005. Natura 2000 is one of the European Union’s most ambitious environmental programmes.
A DRBMP map shows 55 protected areas containing aquatic, wetland or waterside habitats of basin-wide importance. The national laws of Danubian and other European states are crucial factors, since each state is authorised to define the limits, extents and restrictions for every protected area within their territory.
Agreements under international law, such as the Danube River Protection Convention, the Convention on transboundary river courses and lakes, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the World Heritage Convention and others, determine the procedures for the designation of protected areas.
These numbers are based on the findings of the Danube Basin Analysis 2004. The inventory on protected areas is currently updated in the frame of the development of the Danube River Basin Management Plan (according to the WFD).
Map 16: Protected Areas (2.95 MB) Important Water-related Protected Areas for Species and Habitat Protection Layers: Areas for species and habitat protection (< 10,000 ha, 10,000 - 50,000 ha, > 50,000 ha), Transboundary co-operation
The floodplains and wetlands of the Danube basin are uniquely valuable ecosystems in global terms, although few areas are still in their natural or near-natural state. Over the last two centuries in particular, most of the larger floodplain areas have disappeared. Protected wetlands provide habitats for endangered species, help to even out flood peaks and reduce flood damage by storing surplus water.
The habitats created by the Danube and its tributaries host a unique mix of species. But many habitats are degraded by man-made changes to the river profile and width, water depth and flow velocity following the construction of dams, weirs and canals. Many migratory fish including sturgeon species and the Danube Salmon are endangered or close to extinction by being disconnected from their spawning grounds and habitats or by being over-exploited.
Article in Danube Watch 02/2006
ICPDR Danube Watch: The ICPDR in the spotlight
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