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Developing MEASURES for reconnecting migratory fish habitats in the Danube basin

May 28, 2021
The Danube at Mitterhaufen, Austria. The MEASURES project aimed to restore ecological river corridors across the Danube basin. Image: MEASURES

In 2019 we featured a major new freshwater project, MEASURES, founded to manage and restore ecological riverine corridors in the Danube River basins. Funded by the EU as part of the Danube Transnational Programme, MEASURES aimed to improve habitat quality and connectivity along the Danube in order to support populations of six threatened sturgeon species, as well as other migratory fish and wider aquatic biodiversity in the basin.

Earlier this month, the project held its final conference, bringing together participants from diverse fields interested in the conservation and restoration of the Danube basin.

“The MEASURES final conference was held to disseminate the key results of the project, and to present linkages with other initiatives dealing with revitalisation and ecological continuity of the Danube and its tributaries,” says project manager Silke Drexler. “Although the conference took place virtually, it was of high interest to a broad group of stakeholders. The participants included scientists, experts from NGOs, practitioners from private companies, and from governmental agencies. The vibrant discussions addressed topics such as eDNA, broodstock collection, science-policy implementation and future projects for a vital eco-corridor along the Danube.”

The MEASURES project had four key areas of activity, each accompanied by a fact-sheet. First, the project created a series of ‘Infosystem Eco-Corridors’, based on the establishment of a network of Danube stakeholders across 8 partner countries. A new MEASURES Information System (MIS) was developed, hosting online information on migratory fish and habitats in the Danube basin, linked to the Freshwater Information Platform and the Danube Future Knowledge Base. (fact-sheet)

Second, project researchers undertook fieldwork and data collection to map potential sturgeon habitats along the Danube and its tributaries. This resulted in a publication, the Danube Migratory Fish Habitat Manual, which detailed key sturgeon habitats in the basin, and the methods used to map them. The habitat mapping activities in MEASURES have already contributed to the latest draft of the Danube River Basin Management Plan (fact-sheet)

Third, the project undertook a series of activities to strengthen populations of migratory fish populations in the Danube basin. These included restocking programmes for Russian sturgeon and sterlet, alongside the development of an eDNA sampling method to monitor their populations (activities featured in a recent issue of the World Wildlife Magazine). Project researchers collected gene stocks of sturgeon populations from broodstock and ex-situ samples for future stocking, which is hoped to be undertaken through a follow-up project, LIFE–Boat 4 Sturgeons. (fact-sheet)

Fourth, MEASURES published a new Strategy for the Danube Ecological Corridor, which built on project findings to outline how migratory fish habitats can be restored and reconnected through the Danube basin. The MEASURES Strategy is designed to help support and improve environmental management plans and legislation at different scales throughout the basin, providing suggestions for specific conservation and restoration activities. Details of the Strategy, and the MEASURES eDNA monitoring methods, will be explored in further blog posts over the coming months. (fact-sheet)

Attendees at the virtual MEASURES final conference.

A policy brief entitled Solutions and Barriers – Conservation of Migratory Fish Species and Their Habitats synthesises these activities, and calls for the establishment of a Regional Water Council on the Mura and Sava rivers in order to better support local, national and international cooperation. The MEASURES website features a wealth of information about the Danube basin and its migratory fish species, including an archive of newsletters, images and a 2021 calendar.

“The MEASURES project involved 24 partners from 13 countries cooperating to secure threatened riverine fish species,” says project co-ordinator Thomas Hein. “Our three year cooperation allowed major steps in gaining new knowledge on migratory fish in the Danube River Basin and transferring these insights into practice. MEASURES is an excellent example of cross-sectoral international collaboration to address an important aspect of freshwater biodiversity.”


MEASURES website
MEASURES Information System (MIS)

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