Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Managing the world’s most international river: the Danube River Basin

Nike Sommerwerk A G H , Jürg Bloesch B , Momir Paunović C , Christian Baumgartner D , Markus Venohr A , Martin Schneider-Jacoby E , Thomas Hein F and Klement Tockner A G
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A IGB, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany.

B IAD, International Association for Danube Research, Stauffacherstrasse 159, 8004 Zürich, Switzerland, and Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.

C Institute for Biological Research, 142 Despota Stefana Boulevard, 11060 Belgrade, Serbia.

D Donauauen National Park GmbH, 2304 Orth an der Donau, Schloss Orth, Austria.

E EuroNatur – European Nature Heritage Fund, Konstanzer Str. 22, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany.

F University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management, Max-Emanuelstrasse 17, 1180 Vienna and WasserCluster Lunz, Dr Carl-Kupelwieser-Prom. 5, 3293 Lunz/See, Austria.

G Institute of Biology, Free University Berlin, Takustrasse 3, 14195 Berlin, Germany.

H Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(7) 736-748
Submitted: 10 September 2009  Accepted: 13 May 2010   Published: 23 July 2010


Transboundary river-basin management is a challenging task emerging from lack of on-site expert knowledge, high administrative and socioeconomic complexity, various stakeholder interests, and difficulties enforcing international and national law. Therefore, an efficient ‘science–policy interface’ is a crucial ingredient for the successful development and implementation of adequate management strategies. The Danube River Basin (DRB) drains areas of 19 countries with different cultural, political, and environmental legacies. The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) has provided the guiding legal instrument for DRB management since 2000, supported by several multilateral agreements. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is responsible for the implementation of the WFD in the DRB. It stimulates management-oriented research and coordinates the various activities of the contracting parties and observers, including those of many NGOs and stakeholders. The development of the first DRB Management Plan in 2009 constituted a milestone of cooperation among scientific, political, and public organisations. Key stressors and pressures have been identified, a new basin-wide monitoring network has been established, and numerous conservation and restoration sites have been designated. A major challenge in DRB management will be to establish synergies among the competing interests of navigation, hydropower production, flood protection and nature conservation. This paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of DRB science–policy interactions and outlines future strategies for sustainable development of the DRB as a template for transboundary river basin management.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, conservation, large river, public participation, restoration, science–policy interaction, transboundary river management.


We would like to thank Birgit Vogel for kindly providing valuable material, and her thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this paper. We are grateful to Dana Bachmann and Dr Slavko Bogdanovic for the clarification of legal terms, and to Liz Perkin for supporting the final stage of manuscript preparation. We gratefully acknowledge the guest editors for the kind invitation to contribute to this special issue. The comments of the editors and two anonymous reviewers helped to substantially improve the manuscript.


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