Restoring Floodplain Forests

Along the Danube, Slovakia

Project information
  • Trees planted: 58,000
  • Status: In Progress

With our local partner Broz, we are restoring one of the last remnants of Central Europe’s floodplain forests. This project aims to conserve the diversity of fauna and flora that inhabits this unique forest along the Danube river in Slovakia. 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.

Project Timeline

The Ecosystem

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

European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), black stork (Ciconia nigra), stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), large copper (Lycaena dispar).

Tall saplings planted in an open field
Saplings are painted white to protect them from herbivores

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
Slovakia's riparian woodlands are home to thousands of insect species, including the large copper.

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
The floodplain forests an important habitat for the locally endangered black stork

The 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 increased 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 understory layer that hinders the natural regeneration of alluvial forest
Heart Image

the team behind the project

Team Member

Hannah Kirkland, Mossy Earth

Team Member

Adriana Brossmannov√°, ŇĹofia Filagov√° and Andrea Froncov√°, Broz

Team Member

Luk√°Ň° Zima, Forester at Broz

Sources & further reading

Peer Reviewed Research Section
  1. ‚ÄúThis is the potential CO2 captured in trees and soil over a 50 year period in the riparian forests of the Danube‚ÄĚ - Science DirectExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  2. ‚ÄúFloodplain forests, the most endangered forest type in Europe‚Ķ and the clock is ticking‚ÄĚ - WWFExternal link