A drone image of the turquoise streams of the Danube running through native and monoculture forests

Slovakia

Restoring The Floodplain Forests of the Danube

A drone image of the turquoise streams of the Danube running through native and monoculture forests

Restoring The Floodplain Forests of the Danube

Slovakia

TREES PLANTED
3,000
TONNES CO2 SEQUESTERED*
1272  

Reforesting the Southern Carpathians

TREES PLANTED
3,000
TONNES CO2 SEQUESTERED*
1272  

Project Summary

In April 2020, we launched our project to restore one of the last remnants of Central Europe’s floodplain forests. With our local partner Broz, we’ve planted 3,000 trees along the Danube river in Slovakia.

The project aims to restore this unique forest and conserve the diversity of fauna and flora that inhabit the area. By planting open areas with native trees, such as poplars, elms and maples, we are working to increase forest cover and habitat availability for species like the locally endangered black stork, the charismatic beaver and the rare large copper butterfly. Floodplain forests are an important carbon sink and their restoration has the potential to sequester a large amount of carbon and contribute to the fight against the climate crisis.  

A lush floodplain forest with thrive undergrowth and a stream running through at golden hour
A tree planter sorts through the tall saplings
A tree planter carries saplings with a planted tree in the foreground
Tree planters place a tree into the ground
Soil pours from a shovel into a hole where a freshly planted sapling stands

Twinflower (Linnea borealis), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica), pine martens (Martes martes) are all present in the area. 

Tree species

Silver poplar (Populus alba), black poplar (Populus nigra), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), narrow-leafed ash (Fraxinus angustifolia), European white elm (Ulmus leavis), field elm (Ulmus minor), common oak (Quercus robur), Norway maple (Acer platanoides).

Priority Species

Black stork (Ciconia nigra), stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), large copper (Lycaena dispar).

Tall saplings with green leaves stand in an open area with a rich forest in the background

A Wet Paradise

The Danube floodplain forests are a rich, biodiverse forest habitat. Their unique beauty means they are often compared to rainforests. With over thousands of species recorded in this floodplain habitats, this endangered forest is a vital habitat for many of Europe’s plants and animals.

The Ecosystem

Endangered Forests

Protecting Europe’s riparian woodlands

One of the most endangered forest habitats in the world, today, only 5-20% of the Danube floodplains are forested. They grow along rivers and streams and are characterised by an intricate dynamic flooding and dry periods, a variety of different water conditions (slow flowing, fast flowing, standing and quick drying water bodies) and high groundwater. These diverse conditions mean the forests can support a diversity of species. They also play an important role in filtering and cleaning water supplies and providing natural protection against floods.

A beautiful orange large copper butterfly sits on a light purple wildflower against a green background

Project Summary

In April 2020, we launched our project to restore one of the last remnants of Central Europe’s floodplain forests. With our local partner Broz, we’ve planted 3,000 trees along the Danube river in Slovakia.

The project aims to restore this unique forest and conserve the diversity of fauna and flora that inhabit the area. By planting open areas with native trees, such as poplars, elms and maples, we are working to increase forest cover and habitat availability for species like the locally endangered black stork, the charismatic beaver and the rare large copper butterfly. Floodplain forests are an important carbon sink and their restoration has the potential to sequester a large amount of carbon and contribute to the fight against the climate crisis.  

A lush floodplain forest with thrive undergrowth and a stream running through at golden hour

Tree Species

Silver poplar (Populus alba), black poplar (Populus nigra), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), narrow-leafed ash (Fraxinus angustifolia), European white elm (Ulmus leavis), field elm (Ulmus minor), common oak (Quercus robur), Norway maple (Acer platanoides).

A tree planter sorts through the tall saplings

Priority Species

Black stork (Ciconia nigra), stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), large copper (Lycaena dispar).

The team plants saplings in the snow
A recently planted sapling
A bucket of saplings ready to be planted
A ranger stands amongst felled trees

A Wet Paradise

The Danube floodplain forests are a rich, biodiverse forest habitat. Their unique beauty means they are often compared to rainforests. With over thousands of species recorded in this floodplain habitats, this endangered forest is a vital habitat for many of Europe’s plants and animals.

Tall saplings with green leaves stand in an open area with a rich forest in the background

A Wet Paradise

The Danube floodplain forests are a rich, biodiverse forest habitat. Their unique beauty means they are often compared to rainforests. With over thousands of species recorded in this floodplain habitats, this endangered forest is a vital habitat for many of Europe’s plants and animals.

The Ecosystem

The Ecosystem

Endangered Forests

Protecting Europe’s riparian woodlands

One of the most endangered forest habitats in the world, today, only 5-20% of the Danube floodplains are forested. They grow along rivers and streams and are characterised by an intricate dynamic flooding and dry periods, a variety of different water conditions (slow flowing, fast flowing, standing and quick drying water bodies) and high groundwater. These diverse conditions mean the forests can support a diversity of species. They also play an important role in filtering and cleaning water supplies and providing natural protection against floods.

An endangered black stork sits on a roof against a backdrop of green and golden leaves

A Diversity of Life

What makes this ecosystem special?

The unique floodplain forests are home to a diversity of mammals, like the Eurasian river otter and beaver. They are also an important habitat for birds, with a high density of species comparable to other forest types. The locally endangered black stork and white-tailed eagle nest on the tall trees while the black woodpecker occupies the natural cavities in the tree trunks. With over 60 fish species, 109 molluscs and thousands of insects species, these forests are teeming with life. Among the busy communities of these forests, you can find the rare stag beetle and beautiful large copper.

Threats

A beautiful orange large copper butterfly sits on a light purple wildflower against a green background
A brown bear walks across a forest road

A Diversity of Life

What makes this ecosystem special?

The unique floodplain forests are home to a diversity of mammals, like the Eurasian river otter and beaver. They are also an important habitat for birds, with a high density of species comparable to other forest types. The locally endangered black stork and white-tailed eagle nest on the tall trees while the black woodpecker occupies the natural cavities in the tree trunks. With over 60 fish species, 109 molluscs and thousands of insects species, these forests are teeming with life. Among the busy communities of these forests, you can find the rare stag beetle and beautiful large copper.

An endangered black stork sits on a roof against a backdrop of green and golden leaves

Threats

Non-native monocultures

Unsustainable forest management has caused the destruction and degradation of huge swathes of the native Danube floodplain forests. Traditional management practices has focused on maximising wood and pulp production, through large scale clear-cuts, the removal of top soil as well as the planting of hybrid poplars and other non-native tree species. A lack of food and shelter in these non-native monocultures means they are unable to support the diversity of species found in native forests. Harvested at an age of 20-40 years, these forests are unable to reach maturity. Old trees in which woodpeckers and other birds could nest are entirely absent, as well as the dead wood that many insects and fungi rely on. The rich native herbs, fungi and trusses of the undergrowth are also unable to re-establish in that time period.

Hydrological degradation

Humans have severely altered the hydrology of the area and caused significant damage as a result. The Danube floodplain habitats rely on healthy rivers and waterbodies as well as periods of flooding and high groundwater levels. However, decades of regulating watercourses, construction of dams and draining of flooded areas, has left these unique floodplain habitats in poor condition and a fraction of the size they once were. With increase temperatures and decreasing rainfall brought on by the current climate crisis, the future of this unique habitat is at even greater risk.

Non-native monocultures

Unsustainable forest management has caused the destruction and degradation of huge swathes of the native Danube floodplain forests. Traditional management practices has focused on maximising wood and pulp production, through large scale clear-cuts, the removal of top soil as well as the planting of hybrid poplars and other non-native tree species. A lack of food and shelter in these non-native monocultures means they are unable to support the diversity of species found in native forests. Harvested at an age of 20-40 years, these forests are unable to reach maturity. Old trees in which woodpeckers and other birds could nest are entirely absent, as well as the dead wood that many insects and fungi rely on. The rich native herbs, fungi and trusses of the undergrowth are also unable to re-establish in that time period.

Hydrological degradation

Humans have severely altered the hydrology of the area and caused significant damage as a result. The Danube floodplain habitats rely on healthy rivers and waterbodies as well as periods of flooding and high groundwater levels. However, decades of regulating watercourses, construction of dams and draining of flooded areas, has left these unique floodplain habitats in poor condition and a fraction of the size they once were. With increase temperatures and decreasing rainfall brought on by the current climate crisis, the future of this unique habitat is at even greater risk.

Hybrid poplar plantations, with an uncharacteristic weed-infected herb layer that hinders the natural rejuvenation of alluvial forests

Hybrid poplar plantations, with an uncharacteristic weed-infected herb layer that hinders the natural rejuvenation of alluvial forests.

A still clear pond surrounded by tall reeds and shrubs with autumn colour trees in the background

The Danube floodplain

Restoring the Floodplains Project Map

Restoring the Floodplains Project Map

Sources & Further Reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

  1. 1. *This is the potential CO2 captured in trees and soil over a 50 year period The interplay of sedimentation and carbon accretion in riparian forests” - I Reiger et al. 2014 – Geomorphology – Vol. 214 –  sciencedirect.com

2. “Floodplain forests, the most endangered forest type in Europe… and the clock is ticking” – WWF 2004 – wwf.panda.org

3.Restoring Floodplain Forests in Europe” – F Hughes, M González del Tánago and J Mountford – Vol. 16 – springerlink.com

Sources & Further Reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

  1. 1. *This is the potential CO2 captured in trees and soil over a 50 year period The interplay of sedimentation and carbon accretion in riparian forests” - I Reiger et al. 2014 – Geomorphology – Vol. 214 –  sciencedirect.com

2. “Floodplain forests, the most endangered forest type in Europe… and the clock is ticking” – WWF 2004 – wwf.panda.org

3.Restoring Floodplain Forests in Europe” – F Hughes, M González del Tánago and J Mountford – Vol. 16 – springerlink.com