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River restoration efforts to have positive impact on Little Ringed Plover numbers

Our partners at DANUBEPARKS recently conducted an inventory on gravel-nesting birds at both DANUBE4all and WildIsland project sites. The aim was to check the status and availability of gravel-nesting birds, such as Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper after several high-water waves at the end of May. These species perfectly camouflage their eggs on the ground between the stones and are very vulnerable to disturbance and water level fluctuations.

Little Ringed Plover | Charadrius dubius Freepik/Wirestock

Alarmingly, not a single breeding pair of Little Ringed Plover was present at the site this year.

A previous survey, done between 2011 and 2014 stressed the outstanding value of the Danube Islands for characteristic biodiversity. It also showed that about 90% of bird flagship species such as Little Ringed Plover and Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) breed on river islands, thus becoming a symbol of intact river dynamics and natural habitats. Islands like Schwalbeninsel (LIFE WILDisland project site) and the Paradeise island (DANUBE4all project site) were, and should be, the most important breeding sites but have lost their habitat quality. This is in large part due to sedimentation processes and succession, which results in the loss of gravel banks and and overgrowth of bush and tree vegetation.

Graph: Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) monitoring on Paradeise island

Data and graph courtesy of Matthias Schmidt/BirdLife Austria

This is where the river restoration works as part of DANUBE4all can have great impact. We expect that the restoration of the natural processes and river dynamics on this, and our two other project sites, through the planned embankment removal and groyne adaptation, will significantly improve the situation and provide more space and quality of habitat for such bird species, prompting a welcome recovery in their numbers.

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