River landscape-types in Austria

"Leitbilder" (guiding vision) for a sustainable development of river landscapes

(A Research Projekt in the Framework of the Programm 'Austrian Landscape Research' of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (bm:bwk))
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managed by:

Susanne Muhar
Department of Hydrobiology, Fisheries and Aquacultur, BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna

end of project: 2003 05



Current water policy guidelines on the national and EU level reflect a new management approach to rivers, streams and aquatic landscapes as an ecological resource. At the same time, these guidelines confront the aquatic sciences, the authorities and local populations with a range of open questions and new tasks.

Two current legal instruments related to running waters are the central motivation behind the tasks and aims of the present project:

  • The Water Framework Directive (WFD) as the guideline for future water policy of all EU member states. This directive includes wide-ranging regulations designed to protect and improve the ecological integrity of waters. Specific scientific input is required for the implementation of these regulations.
  • The "Gewässerbetreuungskonzept" (GBK) as an Austrian river management instrument that has been frequently applied over the past few years at the national level. Its goal is to develop and implement flood protection as well as ecologically oriented measures in running waters. This concept has been successfully applied in different regions of Austria.
Currently, basic data are missing for ecological evaluations as defined by the WFD (e.g. deliniation of different types of running waters, definition and describtion of "very good" and "good" ecological quality as categories for evaluating ecological integrity).

Moreover, a comprehensive approach to running waters that goes beyond ecological or water management aspects must place greater emphasis on socio-economic considerations in developing the "Leitbild concept" and in testing the "sustainability" of this "Leitbild".

Against this backdrop, the module "A typology of river landscapes in Austria - "Leitbilder" for a sustainable development of river landscapes" focuses on the following topics:

  • Creating an Austrian typology of running waters based on their natural ecological potential and, subsequently, classifying river landscapes as a product of this natural potential and of the human influence in the landscape.
  • Developing "Leitbilder" for river landscapes both via normative scenarios based on ecological and socio-economic criteria as well as via participative processes and their evaluation.
    The focal point is the further development of the "Leitbild approach" both in model form and based on a concrete case study along the River Möll; the latter is closely related with the current "Gewässerbetreuungskonzept Möll" both temporally and in content. On the one hand, the connection and feedback between these two efforts involves a generally applicable model to develop "Leitbilder of river landscapes", whereby the methodological approaches are to be applied to and verified based on the River Möll case study. On the other hand, the results/information and experience gained on the River Möll will be used to formulate future strategies for applying "river landscape Leitbilder"; these, in turn, should be applicable for different river types in Austria.
The following project aims can be defined based on the future implementation of the WFD and on the application of planning instruments for river management:
  • Identifying natural river types nationwide as a reference for general ecological evaluation processes as well as specifically to describe "very good ecological quality" as defined by the Water Framework Directive.
  • Further developing methods for the ecological evaluation of running waters.
  • Applying the normative regulations of the Water Framework Directive to specific river landscapes based on the River Möll case study and reviewing the implementation of this EU directive.
  • Further developing the process of defining "Leitbilder" (linking socio-economical "Leitbilder" with those pertaining to aquatic ecology).
  • Improving instruments for river management by more strongly integrating socio-economic considerations as well as improving the application and implementation of the results of these planning instruments.
  • Deriving technical and organizational recommendations for implementing the results in administrative proceedings, regional processes, regional planning, as well as in the Austrian funding system.
The supplementary module "Anthropogenic uses and impacts in and along the River Möll around 1830 based on two selected river stretches" provides the basis for studying the interrelationships between human uses and river landscapes on the one hand and between these uses and the socio-economic environment of that time period on the other hand. The historical and current situation are then compared in order to demonstrate how the use of river landscapes has changed and to demonstrate the dependence on the socio-economic environment.
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