The IDES project (Improving water quality in the Danube river and its tributaries by integrative floodplain management based on Ecosystem Services) is just entering its second half of the project duration. For this purpose, a conference in Ingolstadt was organized  on 16th and 17th of September 2021. There we reviewed the past work and presented it to other project and associate partners and interested stakeholders.

Despite the fact that IDES project has been running for more than a year, this was the first meeting we managed to hold live (in past, due to Covid-19, this was unfortunately not possible). Nevertheless, due to the current Covid-19 measures, we were still severely limited by both the number of participants and the current measures in force (masks, safety distance,…). The conference was therefore organized as a hybrid event – we, project partners (in a limited number) met live, and for interested stakeholders we broadcasted the event via the online application Zoom. Despite the fact that we have already mastered various online communication applications, this kind of hybrid system is a completely new thing. Despite minor initial technical problems, it proved to be a good compromise in carrying out such events. It should be noted, however, that live meetings, despite technology, still present an added value, as participants have several additional opportunities for networking, communication and discussion at various levels, which plays an important role in quality of project implementation.

The project partners arrived in Ingolstadt mostly on Wednesday afternoon, as we started with the activities the next morning. Thursday morning was reserved for an online meeting with the Joint Secretariat (JS), where we reviewed the activities and finances of the first half of the project and resolved various dilemmas. The lunch break was followed by a presentation of two related projects and a presentation of the activities in the first work package. Here we deal with the evaluation of ecosystem services by individual pilot areas and throughout the Danube. The presentations ended at around 7 pm, followed by a joint dinner.

Friday was reserved for the presentations of pilot areas and activities in them (workshops with stakeholders, which were conducted in May 2021). Pilot areas in IDES project are located in five different countries – Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia and Romania. While in Austria, Serbia and Romania the pilot areas are located on the Danube river, in Slovenia it is on its tributary – the Mura River. The Hungarian partner chose the Tisza River as a pilot area. This was followed by a presentation of activities on the third work package, which will start in October and will be dedicated to strategies for implementing the IDES tool among stakeholders.

Friday afternoon was spent on an excursion to the floodplains of the Danube in the area of ​​Neuburg an der Donau, located a few kilometres west of Ingolstadt. It is also the seat of the Auen Institute, which operates within the Catholic University of Eichstätt – Ingolstadt, which is the lead partner of the IDES project. We visited their headquarters and then continued our journey around the surrounding area, where they presented the technical and sustainable measures that were implemented for the revitalization of floodplains and floodplain forests along the Danube.

Due to the construction of dams and hydroelectric power plants, such areas began to decay, as they were no longer reached by periodic floods due to the regulated riverbed. This has led to the degradation of the (forest) ecosystem itself. With the installation of technical solutions (regulation channels for water discharge) and river channels, they thus re-established the inflow of water into the mentioned areas. A system of such measures is thus a good example of restoring balance in the ecosystem (floodplain forest and floodplains). We finished with the excursion around 7 p.m. This was followed by some informal exchanges of knowledge and meetings regarding further work on the project, and Saturday was dedicated to travel back home.

Author: Miha Varga, SFS, IDES project leader

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