On 2 February 1971, the delegates in Ramsar, a medium-sized Iranian town on the Caspian Sea, decided upon a groundbreaking agreement regarding wetlands, especially in their function as natural habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. One of the occasions was a large-scale and superregional count of waterfowl, the numbers of which indicated a strong decline in species. The Ramsar Convention was intended to issue a call to the countries to counteract the negative development; thus, with its entry into force in 1975, it counts among the oldest international conventions.
The main points of the convention include the conservation of wetlands, the promotion of international collaboration in the protection of wetlands, the promotion of information exchange regarding wetlands conservation and aiding the work of the convention.
Wetlands around power plants
What is less known is that the areas around our 124 hydropower plants in Austria and on the Bavarian Inn river are important wetlands for flora and fauna – and, of that, a total of 30% were placed under nature protection retroactively. Knowing this makes us happy since it shows us that our measures regarding nature conservation, at times quite costly, are successful.
We have compiled a few scientifically researched examples from over the past years for your benefit.
Wetlands near Power Plants Act as Biodiversity Hotbed
The Föderlach biotope near the VERBUND Drau power plant of Rosegg-St. Jakob in Carinthia is the most recent of the nature conservation areas. In 2009, VERBUND expanded it with 10 hectares of shallow-water biotope. In Carinthia, for the first time in more than 100 years, a beaver has been sighted at the 18-hectares of shallow-water Neudenstein biotope near the Drau power plant of Edling. The beaver is also a regular guest at the Danube power plants of Freudenau, Greifenstein and – since 2010 – Melk.
Melk is also the site of what is currently the largest fish bypass, which has been created as part of the Danube-Ybbs integration project. Ecologists at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna are extremely satisfied with the research results.
Our endeavours for the Danube habitat are continuing with the renaturation of the Traisen estuary the Danube, close to the Altenwörth power plant. With EU-funding, an 11-metre-long riparian zone will emerge anew in the coming year in Austria’s largest renaturisation project.
A treasure trove on the Salzach
Ten years after completion, the Salach power plant of Kreuzberg-Maut is home to 24 protected species of flora and fauna that first arrived after its construction. Anyone reading the accompanying research report can scarcely believe that the area was used as a cornfield prior to the power plant construction.
In the past years, ten power plants have been equipped with new fish bypasses on the River Mur. The combination of technical and environmentally friendly buildings facilitates the migration of fish and also forms additional habitat and spawning areas for nase and greyling. The most recent example of the exemplary cooperation between power plant planners and fish ecologists is Leoben power plant, with its fish bypass.
A variety in the high mountains
Wetland habitats are also existent in the high mountains: VERBUND ecologists were more than a little amazed, when they discovered Europe's highest location common toad colony on 2,300 metres above sea level. Of course, the planned rock depository and a construction road had to yield to this find – a small measure which Reisseck II pumped storage power plant will be able to live with.
Further information on the variety of species is available on our website in the environment section. Research results are also available in our written publications.