National Id
Site name
Danube stretch of the Wachau
Within an Austrian LIFE Nature project, gravel banks have been established along the Danube in the Wachau, and dried site-arms have been reconnected. The measures aimed at improving biodiversity through providing spawning habitats, as well as controling erosion and run-off. As a particularity, the gravel used in the project stemmed from maintenance works for the shipping channel of the Danube. The project has been initiated and implemented by a local association (Arbeitskreis Wachau), which includes several communities.
Light or indepth?
RBD code
Climate zone
warm temperate dry
Mean rainfall
Mean rainfall unit
Average temperature
Mean runoff
Mean runoff unit
600 - 750 mm
Case Study Info
Average slope range
Monitoring impacts effects
Monitoring parameters
The development of bird and fish species has been monitored.
Application scale
River Basin
Installation date
Performance timescale
Size unit
Favourable preconditions
Truncated remains of old dristributaries were available for reconnection. Gravel was available from maintenance works for the shipping channel of the Danube.
Inflow volume
Inflow volume unit
Peak flow rate
Public consultation
Design contractual arrangement
Arrangement type Responsibility Role Comments Name
Design consultation activity
Activity stage Key issues Name Comments
Implementation phase
Amongst others, the project has organised the Austrian LIFE-platform in 2005 and was presented at various meetings, conferences and events. The project was also awarded the first prize in the 'Milestones - Dr. Erwin Pröll future prize' in the 'In Uniso with Nature' category.
Intensive media work
Implementation phase
Networking activities have taken place with experts from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and Poland.
Networking activities
Implementation phase
Visits to target groups
37 visits to target groups have been made during the project.
Design land use change
Land use change type
Design authority
Authority type Role Responsibility Name Comments
Initiation of the measure
Arbeitskreis Wachau regional development group
The Arbeitskreis Wachau is a cooperation platform of 13 communities of the Wachau as well as representatives from viticulture, culture and nature conservation.It is the initiator of the project, and also responsible for the implementation of the measures.
via donau - Austrian Waterways Association
via donau is digging gravels for maintaining the shipping channels. This material is being used to restore the gravel banks and islets within the project.
Wachau community
Local communities
LANIUS association
Federal State of Lower Austria
Financing through the Lower Austrian Landscape Fund.
Lower Austrian Fisheries Association
The angling club hat set initial impulses for the project and has showed persistent efforts to get the project accepted. Their local relationships were also important for getting the consent of numerous landowners. They have also contributed to the financing.
National water authority
Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Protection
Key lessons
Within the LIFE Nature Project, different sub-projects have been successfully implemented in the Wachau. This included the establishment of gravel banks, and the reconnection of dried up site-arms. Based on the pilot project experience of reusing gravel dredged from the shipping channels to recreate gravel banks and islets in the Danube, a gravel plan has been set up that foresees that all gravel excavated from the navigation channel between 2005 and 2020 would be brought back into the Danube River. Both gravel structures and reactivated lateral river channels serve as spawning ground for the fish fauna and as resting and breeding sites for aquatic birds.
Success factor(s)
Success factor type Success factor role Comments
Attitude of relevant stakeholders
main factor

The commitment of local stakeholders has been crucial for launching and implementing the project.

Public participation
secondary factor

The commitment of the local angling association was important to convince the more than 20 local landowners to make their land available.

Financing type Comments
EU-funds: LIFE+
European Union financing through the LIFE Nature fund.
National funds
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Protection.
Sub-national funds
The State of Lower Austria
Local funds
Contribution of the Arbeitskreis Wachau regional development group with communities and LANIUS.
Private funds
Contribution of the Lower Austrian Fisheries Association and the Austrian Waterways Association via donau.
Barrier type Barrier role Comments
secondary barrier
The implementation of the project needed the consent of over 20 local landowners.
Driver type Driver role Comments
Organisation committed to it
main driver
The Arbeitskreis Wachau regional development group and the angling association committed themselves to the project and set initial impulses.
Financing share
Financing share type Share Comments
European funds
National funds
Private funds
Policy description
"Although the main river flows free, a dramatic loss of structural diversity has occurred within the past few decades: elimination of gravel banks and other interventions, and the disappearance of the lateral channels due to increasing sedimentation of cut-off river arms during the periodic floods" (Seehofer, 2008). The regulated open Danube offered poor habitat for spawning and survival of young fish. The project goal was to improve habitat by connecting dry oxbows to the Danube and to create 'man-made' gravel banks.
Quantified objectives
No quantified objectives are available.
Policy target
Target purpose
Improved Biodiversity
Erosion Control
Runoff control
Policy pressure
Pressure directive Relevant pressure
Policy area
Policy area type Policy area focus Name Comments
Policy impact
Impact directive Relevant impact
Policy wider plan
Wider plan type Wider plan focus Name Comments
Policy requirement directive
Requirement directive Specification
Costs total
5 200 000
Costs total information
The costs include also works to protect dry grasslands, which are not NWRM relevant.
Ecosystem improved biodiversity
Information on Ecosystem improved biodiversity
One of the target species of the project has been the huchen (Hucho hucho). In general terms, spawning grounds for fishes and resting areas for birds have been improved.
Ecosystem impact climate regulation
Not relevant for the specific application
Restoring hydraulic connections
Restoring hydraulic connections unit
Ecosystem erosion control
Information on Restoring hydraulic connections
6 km of former side-arms have been reconnected to the Danube.
Information on Ecosystem erosion control
One of the aims of the project is to counteract the excavation of the shipping channel.
Water quality overall improvements
N/A info
Soil quality overall soil improvements
N/A info