Magdeburger Gewässerschutzseminar : Elbe, neue Horizonte des Flussgebietmanagements - Spindermühle, October 23th-21th, 2002.

Oral presentation : Management options for the improvement of the ecological status of the Elbe. Pusch M, Garcia XF.


In recent years a number of research projects has been conducted dealing with the River Elbe in Germany, especially within the research programme "Elbe ecology" of the German Federal Department for Education and Research (BMBF). These projects yielded a wide array of results, and partially even already good knowledge on the hydrological and ecological status of the Elbe, especially concerning water quality, fish fauna and floodplain ecology.

In a second step, this research programme aims at the formulation of management concepts for a sustainable formation and development and of the Elbe landscape. In order to do so, A) the current ecological status has to be assessed relative to a reference status to be able to B) identify deficits. C) After consideration of utilization demands the D) management options and scenarios in order to achieve the development target can be shown. These elements of a river management are currently also required by the EC Water Framework Directive within a fixed time schedule. Hence, recent information on the Elbe which relate to the management elements A to D are needed and will be considered synoptically below.

Ad A) Assessment relative to a reference status: As there is no European big river left which has a scientifically well documented near-natural morphological status, the reference status for the Elbe has to be composed by partial near-natural aspects of some Elbe sections and other European rivers. For example, the channel of the River Loire has been largely left morphologically unchanged on a width of 800 to 1000 m, as it had not been subjected to river engineering in order to enable modern inland navigation.

Ad B) Deficits of the ecological status: Concerning the river channel, the loss of side-channels with flowing water and of shallow areas of the river bottom has to be specified. Also, the heavy impact of the wave and wake action generated by cargo barges passing by heavily affects present bank habitats (groyne fields).

Ad C) Utilization demands: Recent, well-founded elaborations are available on the barge draught and the length of the navigation season which are maximally achievable by river engineering measures, and also on the economic perspectives of barge navigation on the Elbe.

Ad D) Measures: First alternatives to the very expensive restoration of the conventional groynes are discussed recently, and are partially tested.

It can be concluded that current knowledge is sufficient in order to identify some promising options for the river management of the Elbe. In order to comply with the time schedule of the EC Water Framework Directive an intensification of the dialogue of all parties are essential, and early trend-setting decisions of the politically responsible institutions.