Beauty and wilderness of Danube floodplains was continuously deteriorated by human impacts. Construction of the Gabcikovo water dam caused direct clearance of minimum 2,500 ha of floodplain forests and influence of water regime of other areas. Intensive forestry has in the few decades rapidly changed the face of the Danubian landscape. Unique forests have been destroyed, natural and diverse forests have been replaced by monocultures - only one species of non-native hybrid poplar, planted for maximal wood production. The last refuges of the rare species of fauna and flora were endangered.
The Danube floodplain was designated a Ramsar site in 1993 because of several reasons. The system of river branches, oxbows and forests represent the largest inland delta in Central Europe. The site hosts large amount of rare, vulnerable and/ or endangered species of plants and animals.
Forest management is the most serious impact which has led to the large scale destruction and degradation of vast majority of Danube floodplain forests. Recent forest management practices are focused only on maximization of wood and pulp production, using large scale clear-cuts (up to 5 ha), removal of the top soil layer by using heavy bulldozers and planting of trees of hybrid poplars and other non-native tree species.
A regional NGO BROZ located in Slovakia, has developed a project for EU funding scheme LIFE. The main objective of the project is to preserve last remaining natural floodplain forests in Slovakian part of the Danube floodplain and to introduce sound, sustainable forest management in the area. Thew project actions were focused especially on changing the unsustainable forest management practices and to prevent the loss of natural floodplain forest habitats due to reforestation. Several interventions have been implemented ranging from administrative measures, intervention in changing management practices and enhancement of public participation in integrated water, forest, land and ecosystem practices.
The five year project resulted in several successful achievements. A Sustainable Forest Management Strategy has been elaborated to give a base for new forest management plans. The Strategy is now used as a guideline document formulating the standpoint of State Nature Conservancy on the forests management plans. Inventory of local sources of genetic material for afforestation was made to support local forestry administration in identification and removal of invasive species.
The project included interventions to increase public awareness and increased capacities of local environmental authorities in application of modern ecosystem protection practices.
- Regular and frequent personal contact project partners and stakeholder and dedication of the project team is a must. The Personnel presence in the project site and numerous accidental meetings with foresters in the field helped us to build the trust and change the image of conservationist “who come from the city with different silly ideas and do not know anything about the area and forest management”.
- It is not necessary to involve all the partners if they will not have a significant contribution. It was important to follow up actions/ control and cooperation is very important to maintain project achievements.
- The river restoration project is in line with IWRM principles, as the project resulted in multi-purpose water functions: restoring the natural ecosystem, securing provision of drinking water, and the enhancement of flood protection (improvement of flow capacity of the inundation zone).