Link flood reduction with ecological restoration

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Link flood reduction with ecological restoration

Category 03. Flow dynamics improvement

General description

The measures for ecological restoration projects in Europe on the River floodplains before the issue of WFD have been addressed to one or two river floodplain functions/services: water storage for flood mitigation, nature/biodiversity conservation or both (Marin et al., 1997; Vadineanu et al.,1998; Schiemer, 1999; Smits et al., 2000; Hughes F.M.R, 2000; Klijn and Duel, 2000; Cals and Drimmelen., 2000; Morris et al., 2005), nutrient cycling (Heiler et al.,1995) and less to the multiple ecological objectives as river system integrity and ecological status. More emphases was given to measures aiming to restore lateral connectivity between rivers and floodplains since 2001, aiming to improve ecological status and integrity of the rivers but also to restore water storage function of the floodplains. Concepts as ,,fluvial territory”, ,,room for rivers” ” or ,, free space for rivers”, ,,espace de liberté fluvial”, ,,erodible corridor”, or simply ,,wetland (or floodplain) restoration”, have been developed across Europe, supporting restoration of the connectivity between the river and its floodplain for multiple purposes, including flood reduction. The concept ,,Room for Rivers” was promoted in the Netherlands in 1996 as an alternative to a new round of dike raising to prevent floods (Silva et al., 2001; Buijse et al., 2002; Vis et al., 2003), whereas the term ,,Fluvial Territory” is related to the Spanish River Restoration Strategy, 2007 (Ollero et al., 2007; Ollero et al., 2009) which is an adaptation of the French ,,espace de liberte fluvial” and ,,erodible corridor”(Piegay et al., 1996; Malavoi et al., 1998; Piégay et al., 2005). Similarely, the Italian term ,,fascia di pertinenza fluvial” (Govi and Turitto, 1994). All these terms define flood strategies based on enlargement of the fluvial space that includes river bed, riparian corridor and the floodplain in their dynamics.


The large-river floodplain restoration projects are long term undertakings. Beside the complexity of the floodplain ecosystems, the present land use and the degree of adverse effect of restoration works on economic activities or flood defense structures could hamper implementation. When looking at the reconstruction of a floodplain, first the function must be defined (Plateew et al., 2001). However, experience shows that political and socio-economical conditions (property, status of the area, political decision-makers) play a far more important role in implementation of floodplain restoration projects than the actual land use (Gunther-Diringer D., 2000). The private ownership is often a serious constraint for implementation and a limitation of the dimension in space.

Expected effect of measure on (including literature citations):

  • HYMO (general and specified per HYMO element)
  • physico � chemical parameters
  • Biota (general and specified per Biological quality elements)

All the concepts described aim, to reduce floods in a natural way reducing the peak flows by overflowing inside the riparian and floodplain areas what slows down the wave of flood, mitigating the risk and saving in defences and compensations. It is, in fact, a new defence system, a resiliency strategy, opposite to the traditional resistance strategies (dikes, embankments, etc.). This strategy is in line with both EU Water and Floods Directive requirements. The effects of ecological restoration on the river hydrology were subject to sound hydraulic modelling exercises and predictions of reducing flood peaks downstream of creating storage room for floodwater (Nielsen et al., 1991 ; Hooijer A., 1996 ; Plateew et al., 2001). An assessment by WWF International of the four pilot implemented floodplain restoration projects in Europe, has confirmed the effect on mitigation of flood (Zockler et al. 2000).

Temporal and spatial response

Pressures that can be addressed by this measure


Case studies where this measure has been applied

Useful references

Buijse A.D. Coops H., Staras M., Jans L.H., van Geest G.J., Grifts R.E. Ibelings B.W. Oosterberg W., Roozen F.C.J.M. (2002) Restoration strategies for river floodplains along large lowland rivers in Europe, Freshwater biology, 47, 889-907. Cals M.J.R and van Drimmelen C. (2000) Space for the river in coherence with landscape planning in the Rhine-Meuse Delta. In: River Restoration in Europe (Eds. H.J. Nijland &M.J.R. Cals), 189-195. RIZA Report 2001.023. Lelystad, The Netherlands. Govi, M. y Turitto, O. (1994) Problemi di riconoscimento delle fasce di pertinenza fluviale. In: Atti del IV Convegno Internazionale di Geoingegneria “Difesa e valorizzazione del suolo e degli acquiferi”, Associazione Mineraria Subalpina, Torino 10-11 marzo 1994, p. 161-172. (in Italien). Gunter-Diringer D. (2000) Evaluation of wetlands and floodplain areas in the Danube River basin. In: River Restoration in Europe (Eds. H.J. Nijland &M.J.R. Cals), pp. 91-94. RIZA Report 2001.023. Lelystad, The Netherlands.

Heiler G., Hein T., Schiemer F. (1995) Hydrological connectivity and flood pulses as the central aspects for the integrity of a river-floodplain system. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management, vol 11, 351-361. Hooijer A (1996) Floodplain hydrology: an ecologically oriented study of the Shannon Callows, Ireland. PhD Theses University of Amsterdam. Febodruk BV, Enschede, The Netherlands. Hughes F.M.R. (2000) Floodplain biodibersity and restoration (FLOBAR): Hydrological and geomorphological mechanisms influencing floodplain diversity and their application to the restoration of European floodplains. In: River Restoration in Europe (Eds. H.J. Nijland &M.J.R. Cals), 255-259. RIZA Report 2001.023. Lelystad, The Netherlands. Klijn F. and Duel H. (2000) Nature rehabilitation along Rhine river branches: dilemmas and strategies for the long term. In: River Restoration in Europe (Eds. H.J. Nijland &M.J.R. Cals), 179-188. RIZA Report 2001.023. Lelystad, The Netherlands. Malavoi, J.R.; Bravard, J.P.; Piégay, H.; Héroin, E. et Ramez, P. (1998) Determination de l’espace de liberté des cours d’eau. Lyon, SDAGE Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse (in French). Marin G., Schneider E. (1997) Ecological restoration in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve/Romania, ICPDD/Umweltstiftung WWF-Deutschland, 120 pp. Morris J., Hess T.M., Gowing D.J.G., Leeds-Harrison P.B., Bannister N, and Vivash R.M.N., Wade M. (2005) A framework for integrating flood defence and biodiversity in washlands in England, Intl. J. River Basin Management, Vol. 3, No.2, 1-11. Nielsen S.A., Refsgaard J.C., Mathur V.K (1991 Conceptual modeling of water loss on floodplains and its application in River Yamuna upstream of Delhi. Nordic Hydrology 22, 265-274. Ollero, A. & Elso, J. (2007) The need for a “fluvial territory” or “room for the river”: living with floods by acceptance of their functions. In: Sustainable flood management: obstacles, challenges and solutions (Eds. C. Baker & P. van Eijk, 59-63, Maastricht, Interreg IIIC Network FLAPP (in Spanish). Ollero, A., Ibisate, A. & Elso, J. (2009) El territorio fluvial: espacio para la restauración. Centro Ibérico de Restauración Fluvial, nota técnica nº 1 (in Spanish). Piégay, H., Barge, O., Bravard, J.P., Landon, N. & Peiry, J.L. (1996) Comment delimiter l’espace de liberté des rivières., Journées de l’Hydraulique: l’eau, l’homme et la nature, 24, 275-284, Congrès de la Société Hydrotechnique de France, Paris, Société Hydrotechnique de France. Piégay, H., Darby, S.E., Mosselman, E. & Surian, N. (2005) A review of techniques available for delimiting the erodible river corridor: a sustainable approach to managing bank erosion. River Research and Applications, 21, 773-789. Plateew M., Geilen (Noel) E.F.M, de Jonge J, Schropp M.H.I (2001). Reconstruction measures in the floodplain of the Rhine and Meuse. In: Guidelines for rehabilitation and management of floodplains-ecology and safety combined (Eds. H.A. Wolters, M. Plateeuw, M.M. Schoor), 53-70. RIZA Report 2001.059, NCR Publication 09-2001, IRMA-SPONGE. Schiemer F. (1999) Conservation of biodiversity in floodplain rivers. Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 15 (Suppl.) (Large Rivers, 11), 423-438. Silva W., Klojn F., Dijkman J. (2001) Room for the Rhine branches in the Netherlands. RIZA report 2001.031/Delft Hydraulics report R3294, 160 pp. Smith A.J.M, Cals M.J.R, Drost H.J. (2000) Evolution of European River basin management. In: River Restoration in Europe (Eds. H.J. Nijland & M.J.R. Cals), 41-48. RIZA Report 2001.023. Lelystad, The Netherlands. Vadineanu A. (1998) Dezvoltarea durabila. Teorie si practica, Editura Universitatii din Bucuresti, 247 pp. (in Romanian). Vis, M., Klijn, F. and De Bruijn, K.M., (2003) Resilience strategy for flood risk management in the Neteherlands. International Journal of River Basin management, 1(1), 33-40. Zockler C., Wenger E., Madgwick J. (2000) Assessment of WWF River and Floodplain Restoration projects in Europe. In: River Restoration in Europe (Eds. H.J. Nijland &M.J.R. Cals), 73-82. RIZA Report 2001.023. Lelystad, The Netherlands.

Other relevant information