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Two new papers published as part of DANUBE4all!

Researchers from institutes in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Serbia have published two seperate papers - one relating to large river floodplain multi-functionality and the other to river connectivity.

Floodplains provide an extraordinary quantity and quality of ecosystem services (ES) but are among the most threatened ecosystems worldwide. The uses and transformations of floodplains differ widely within and between regions.

In recent decades, the diverse pressures and requirements for flood protection, drinking water resource protection, biodiversity, and adaptation to climate change have shown that multi-functional floodplain management is necessary. Such an integrative approach has been hampered by the various interests of different sectors of society, as represented by multiple stakeholders and legal principles.

In this study, the researchers present an innovative framework for integrated floodplain management building up on ES multi-functionality and stakeholder involvement, forming a scientifically based decision-support to prioritize adaptive management measures responding at the basin and local scales. To demonstrate its potential and limitations, the researchers applied this cross-scaled approach in the world's most international and culturally diverse basin, the Danube River Basin in Europe.

Large-scale evaluations of anthropogenic pressures and ES capacities were conducted, as well as participatory modelling of the local socio-ecohydrological systems. Based on assessments of 14 ES and 8 pressures, the study recommends conservation measures along the lower and middle Danube, restoration measures along the upper-middle Danube and Sava, and mitigation measures in wide parts of the Yantra, Tisza and upper Danube rivers.

Connectivity is a crucial property of the river-floodplain ecosystem. It controls the movement of water and matter and allows organisms to reach different habitats. Reduction of connectivity and the associated fragmentation and isolation effects, which impacts ecological function and biodiversity, is one of the most critical threats to floodplain systems globally. This study shows that different connectivity aspects are important for different ecosystem properties, such as chemical properties and macrophyte coverage. It also demonstrates how the presented approach can be an essential tool for prioritizing systems for management measures and restoration actions in river floodplain systems.

A graph theoretical approach was used for analyzing possible transport pathways in the system (directed, undirected, overland, seepage) and relate them to ecosystem functions in a river-floodplain system impacted by engineering structures (Danube River, Vienna, Austria). The researchers studied essential ecological functions using indicators on sediment composition and quality, hydrochemical conditions, and macrophyte coverage. The results indicate that sediment transport and composition are widely driven by directional flow and connectivity. In contrast, the exchange of water and nutrients is dominated by seepage exchange in the floodplain. Macrophytes dominate in water bodies which are not relevant for directed transport.

The graph theoretical approach, solely based on remotely sensed data, can be used to classify floodplain water bodies related to their essential function and importance in the network and to identify main deficits and potential restoration measures. It can, therefore, be an essential tool for prioritizing systems for management measures and restoration actions.

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