View of the Life Traisen project area from above. The evening mood prevails. Violet-bluish clouds are reflected in the Traisen.

LIFE+ Traisen:
The success of the project at a glance

The restoration of the Traisen estuary is Austria's largest renaturation project to date and one of the most comprehensive measures in all of Europe. 

The new Traisen river is now itself the fish-passable connection to the Danube. It is free of obstacles and has a natural design. The main aim of the project was to improve the habitat situation in this part of the "Tullnerfelder Donauauen" European nature reserve.

Traisen project area

The LIFE+ project implemented measures in the area between the Danube and the formerly constructed Traisen Canal and created a completely new Traisen river with surrounding riparian zones and a large estuary zone on the Danube over a length of approx. 10 km. Around the Altenwörth power plant, the water of the Traisen was diverted into this new riverbed. The old channel remained in place to provide relief during major floods and as backwaters. The LIFE+ project created the NEW lower course of the Traisen, which is not a revitalization of an old section of the river, but a new creation of dynamic river and floodplain habitat.

The illustration shows the LIFE+ Traisen project area: how a straightened river becomes a flourishing floodplain landscape.

New flowing waterbody

The creation of the new, 10 km-long, meandering Traisen river with dynamic banks and intensive interplay of water and land is complete and should continue developing dynamically and naturally. New running water habitats covering approximately 30 ha (under mean-flow conditions) were created.

Flood zones covering an area of 60 ha were actively created on the new river. They are the location of the priority habitat for the silver willow wetland, which is part of FFH type 91E0*. These riparian forests are typical of the area. According to the experts, the young riparian forests are developing very well and will eventually achieve their typical form. Willows and poplars established themselves independently on the new bank zones and enrich these typical river habitats in the Natura 2000 area by around 5%.

The new 10 km long meandering Traisen river has been completed and will continue to develop dynamically and naturally. The picture shows the full glory from above.

New wetland ponds 

Bodies of standing water have been created along the new Traisen and in the adjacent wetland area. These are large waterbodies, so-called wetland ponds, with natural bank zones as well as amphibian zones with shallow and temporary water areas. Overall, the work led to the enrichment of the variety of waterbodies in the wetland area by 15 hectares.

New still waters have been created along the new Traisen and in the neighboring floodplain. Here, the low sun is gently reflected in the water. The pond is lined with reeds.

Fish-friendly measures

With the new Traisen, the project created a fish-passable network, which nowadays connects the wetland area and its many waterbodies, the Traisen river and the Danube. Fish are able to pass through the new Traisen river unhindered at all times. The associated fish migrations and improvements in fish stocks are also having a lasting impact on the fish fauna in the Danube. 39 autochthonous species of fish, including 11 FFH Annex II species, had already moved into the habitats by 2019. The species migrated not only into the new section of river, but also thrived in the new Traisen.

An underwater camera caught two fish on their way through the Traisen.

Late summer impressions of the new Traisen

Late summer impressions of the new Traisen

The first successes of the renaturation project were already evident in summer 2019. The flora and fauna around the Traisen are developing magnificently.

Meadows and dry areas

The project also resulted in a permanent improvement in the conservation status of typical meadowscapes in the wetland area. These natural meadows, which are designated as dry grasslands, belong to flora-fauna habitat type 6210* and are now available to many rare types of fauna and flora on an area of 30 hectares. 

The project battled unwanted plants, so-called neophytes, on an area of 25 hectares in the new section of river and on the meadows with lasting success. Naturally, only mechanical methods were used. This way, the goldenrod could be almost entirely removed from the meadows.

The LIFE+ Traisen project also led to a lasting improvement in the conservation status of typical meadow landscapes in the floodplain, as can be seen in this picture.

Maintenance and upkeep

As all ecological effects and the natural dynamics also had to be ensured on a permanent basis, agreements were concluded on tolerance and on permanent maintenance measures. Most measures took place on third-party land, so the land owners were compensated for various pecuniary disadvantages. That was the basis for implementing the project. This financing was processed without the utilisation of LIFE monies.

The river landscape will now continue to develop naturally and undisturbed. Nature itself can create new habitats and change old ones. The positive ecological consequences of the new Traisen can be felt far beyond the project’s limits and are sustainably effective.

LIFE+ Traisen project: The river landscape with meadows and shrubs will now continue to develop undisturbed in a natural way.

Wildlife on the Traisen

Just a few years after completion of the project, numerous new inhabitants have appeared along the Traisen. From praying mantises and cranes to white-tailed eagles, many native animal species can be observed.