© Wild Wonders of Europe / Smit / naturepl.com
Once a wide, meandering river, the construction of dikes and dams for traditional flood management, shipping routes, hydropower and agriculture have cut off more than 80 percent of former floodplains from the river. When intact, floodplains support rich ecosystems, maintain water quality, absorb excess water and protect populated areas from floods. The loss of the Danube’s floodplains and the presence of large dams have severely impacted the region’s biodiversity. Fish spawning habitats and migration have decreased, with iconic Danube sturgeon only surviving in isolated pockets.