With its riparian zones and riverine habitats, the Danube forms an ecological network and is one of the main bio-corridors in Europe. The Danube corridor and its adjacent areas attract hundreds of bird species. Every year millions of birds follow the Danube on their spring and autumn odysseys to and from distant migration sites. However, many of these species have undergone dramatic declines in recent decades. Bird mortality caused by power lines and other electric utility structures has been documented for over 380 species, with critically endangered andthreatened bird species among these. Over 2 000 km of eight types of above-ground power lines that are dangerous for birds can be found within the LIFE DanubeFreeSky project area, including electric railway infrastructure. These represent a considerable threat for wintering and breeding populations of the target bird species. The majority of birds are killed by only a portion of the potentially dangerous lines, which need to be identified and dealt with by the energy companies responsible. A transnational approach is necessary to achieve adequate results.
The main goal of the LIFE DANUBE FREE SKY project is to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services along the Danube river. It aims to achieve this through the following specific objectives: Reduce bird mortality on power lines within 23 Special Protection Areas (SPA) and 9 Important Bird Areas (IBA), and increase the population of 12 target species, by installing flight diverters and insulating dangerous poles on power linesand railways (avoiding around 1 200-2 200 deaths every year); and Start/strengthen cooperation and increase the efficiency of adopted measures at transnational level by key stakeholders in the area.
The project will contribute to implementation of related EU environmental policy and strategies, including EU macro regional strategies for the Danube, Alpine, and Adriatic and Ionian regions (EUSDR, EUSALP and EUSAIR).
Expected results: Increased populations of target bird species in the project area by 2025 as follow: - Lesser white-fronted goose: by 16 wintering individuals to a total of 60; - Imperial eagle: by 4-7 breeding pairs to 13-17; - Great bittern: by 170 breeding pairs to 220 ; - Red-breasted goose: by 2 000 wintering individuals to 5 000; - Greater spotted eagle: by 8 wintering individuals to 37; - Lesser spotted eagle: by 3-9 breeding pairs to 17-25; - Corncrake: by 139 breeding pairs to 265; - Saker falcon: by 5-9 breeding pairs to 34; - Great bustard: by 20-30 breeding attempts in Hungary to 485; - European roller: by about 70 breeding pairs to 610-840; - Red-footed falcon: by about 50-60 breeding pairs to 347-414; and - Dalmatian pelican: by at least 30 breeding pairs to 210-300, recovering the breeding population in Bulgaria;(/li> Increased visibility on almost 250 km of top-priority power lines; Almost 3 300 poles insulated to protect birds from electrocution, including on railways; More than 10 ha transformed from arable land into pastures in Slovakia, increasing the presence of priority bird species by at least 30%; Digitised network of medium-voltage power lines in Serbia; 20 alternative nesting opportunities for saker falcon, 300 for European roller and 50 for red-footed falcon; First conflict map of priority areas for bird protection prepared for the Danube region, available to relevant energy companies and railways; First international GIS online database established for the Danube region; Guidance document for mitigating the negative impact of power lines; and Improved coherence of the Natura 2000 network from a transboundary perspective.