The project is based on the trans-national contracted action plan of the bilateral general project, the management plan for the Natura 2000 site "Morava-Dyje floodplains", and the management strategy of the nature reserve "Lower Moravia floodplains". It will build on the experiences and findings of a previous LIFE Nature project to ensure a sustainable implementation. The measures already carried out will be also applied to adjacent areas.
The Untere March-Auen project's overall aim was to restore near-natural river dynamics in the Lower Morava floodplains in the eastern part of Austria. Before the project, the river bed was regulated, the connection of 36 oxbows to the river cut off and 75% of the banks were reinforced. The project aimed to restore floodplains and foster land-use practices that preserve biodiversity and endangered species and habitats. Project actions sought to improve the conservation status of EU Habitats Directive habitats, such as floodplain forests and floodplain meadows, as well as of a wide variety of Habitats Directive species including the fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina), Danube crested newt (Triturus dobrogicus), European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), European weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis), green snaketail (Ophiogomphus cecilia), red and black kite (Milvus spp.) and common tern (Sterna hirundo). In total, the project measures will affect an area of at least 200 ha, improving the conservation status of seven habitat types and 11 species included on the Annexes of the Habitats Directive, and 15 species listed in the EU Birds Directive.
The Untere March-Auen project restored near-natural river dynamics in the Lower Morava floodplains in the eastern part of Austria.
Specifically, the project team restored natural river sections and side arms over a total length of 7.3 km, including at the river mouth and restored seven islands of the Morava wetlands.
The project team introduced a traditional grazing regime using Konik horses on 76 ha, , around which they constructed fences and shelters and identified two suitable areas for grazing by heck cattle. They maintained and restored typical meadows on 17.6 ha; maintained and restored small water bodies ("Sutten") on 21.3 ha; and constructed 15 artificial nest platforms for raptors, storks and terns.
They released more than 3 000 young weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis) into floodplain water bodies and side arms of the river Morava to improve the conservation status of this species; improved the connectivity of the river Morava with its side arms and the adjacent alluvial plain; and improved the conservation status of target species of natural lowland rivers.
Project actions led to the improvement of the conservation status of target habitat types of the EU Habitats Directive that are typical for lowland rivers, in particular, alluvial forests and alluvial meadows of river valleys.
The project contributed to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy through actions aimed at halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services; the Habitats Directive through actions aimed at improving the conservation status of target habitats and species; and the Birds Directive by implementing actions to improve the conservation status of target bird species, such as providing 13 artificial nesting platforms for white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and black stork (Ciconia nigra) in the project area.
The project contributed to the implementation of EU regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species (IAS). For example, the removal of bank reinforcement structures had a negative impact on round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), which is an alien fish species living in the river Morava; and the removal of recently-established box elder (Acer negundo) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), both fast-growing trees native to North America.
The project's river restoration measures contributed to achieving a good qualitative and quantitative status of water bodies within the project area, as required by the EU Water Framework Directive. The project also aligns with the Floods Directive (2007/60/EC), as the river restoration measures improve the flood protection of residential areas further downstream. In addition, the project actions support the European Climate Change Programme and the European Green Deal, both climate change mitigation (e.g. conversion of arable land to pastures) and climate change adaptation by reducing the vulnerability of habitats to the effects of climate change (e.g. river restoration measures).
In terms of socio-economic impacts, the project actions to restore habitats and protect species will boost eco-tourism to the benefit of local communities. Local companies were also subcontracted to implement project measures.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).