View of the Traisen. The narrow river runs through a small wood in the sunshine.

Renaturation on the Traisen
creates a Serengeti

08 September 2015

Austria's largest renaturation project to date is currently underway at the mouth of the Traisen. The Traisen, once diverted and straightened for the benefit of the Altenwörth power plant on the Danube, is now being widened over a length of 11 kilometers and transformed into a natural floodplain landscape. This was made possible by funding from the federal government and the state of Lower Austria, via donau - Österreichische Wasserstraßen-Gesellschaft m.b.H., the NÖ Landesfischereiverband and, above all, the EU through funds from the LIFE+ program.

Over a year ago, the first section of the new Traisen was opened to the water. A lot has happened since then: the construction site noise has stopped, gravel banks are greening up and the water is filling with life. The ecologists are particularly pleased with the "Serengeti".

This affectionate and meaningful title refers to a semi-dry calcareous grassland that one would not expect to find in the otherwise wet floodplain of the Traisen. It is not the summer of the century and global warming that have had an impact here, but the desired diversity of the floodplain landscape. The area should be low in nutrients and natural. It provides a habitat for rare treasures in the middle of an otherwise shady riparian forest: native orchids, rare butterflies and insects such as the praying mantis. The not-so-shy sika deer roam through the grass (when they are not being scared away by the ugly clicking of the camera), the heat shimmers in the last days of August and the chirping of the crickets creates an African atmosphere by the Traisen.

Thomas Kaufmann, responsible for the ecological site supervision of the LIFE+ Traisen project, is beaming with the sun. He points out quaking grass and wild basil to us blind city dwellers (we can't think of anything other than "pizza" off the top of our heads). He praises the mighty oak, which is the only large tree in the steppe, as a home for the stag beetle.

With his imaginative presentation, a young alluvial forest grows before our eyes from the timid greenery along the new, meandering Traisen. Willow and poplar shoots have already worked their way up to the banks and where we still have a friendly view of the "rough coniferous trees" lying in the water today, water and forest will reshape the landscape of the Traisen in a few years' time.

The still young alluvial forest developed splendidly. Birds sunbathe in the reeds at a bend in the river.