The Wachau Valley is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Austrian Danube, hosting several natural habitat types and species of community interest. The area is, however, affected by a number of threats: the regulatory measures put in place in the 19th and 20th centuries have strongly separated the floodplain and the river, preventing regular flooding; the dramatic increase in sedimentation processes due to the construction of a power plant; the occurrence of invasive alien plant species; and massive direct alluvial and riparian forest destruction due to orchards and intensive forestry. These issues have led to habitat loss and degradation, which is having negative effects on the conservation status of a number of species.
The project aims to restore alluvial and riparian forests and to improve the conservation status of several species protected under the Habitat and Birds Directives. In order to achieve this aim, the project plans to: Establish the protection of the wilderness areas of the islands of Schönbühel and Pritzenau; Restore alluvial forests in areas currently used as orchards and dominated by non-native tree species; Create a free-flowing side arm in the area of Rührsdorf/Rossatz from remaining disconnected side arms; Improve the already existing side tributary system Rührsdorf/Rossatz through a new inflow from the Danube; a bridge for higher water discharge; and the creation of new gently sloping river banks; Create 20 ponds for amphibians; Get conservation contracts signed (partly through compensation payments) for 300 old trees; Support the population of white-tailed eagles through the installation of four artificial nests; and Increase public awareness and stimulate sustainable tourism activities through the installation of an educational trail in Rührsdorf/Rossatz.
Expected results: The establishment of a wilderness area with around 50 ha of natural alluvial as habitat for bats and feeding habitats for the white-tailed eagle and black stork; Founding of two new protected areas on the islands of Pritzenau and Schönbühel; Creation of a 1.4 km-long free-flowing side arm; Improvement of the river dynamics of an existing side arm by introducing a new inflow/overflow area; Building around 2.8 km of new natural river banks (along side arms), gentle sloping gravel banks and steep river banks; Creation of 20 ponds as spawning areas for amphibians; Conservation of the black poplar through reforestation with saplings and restricting the use of 300 old trees; Installation of four artificial nests for white-tailed eagles; Design and creation of a nature trail about alluvial forests.