2 Floodplains under pressure - 2.1 Floodplain characteristics and extent

For the purpose of this report, we have defined the potential floodplain extent as the lateral extent of a flood that has a return period of once every 100 years. As part of the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, a riparian zone local component has been developed. It provides a high resolution geographical database of ecosystems found the riparian zone in Europe[1]. The floodplain area has been selected from this database, and has been used to calculate key statistics for EEA-39. Copernicus is a European system for monitoring the Earth using earth observation satellites and in-situ sensors (Copernicus, 2019).

On average, 8% of the EU is covered by floodplain. Countries with more than 15% floodplain area include Slovakia, Serbia, the Netherlands and Hungary (Figure 2.1). The Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden have less than 25% of their area covered by cropland, grassland and urban ecosystems, whereas in Germany, Denmark, Slovakia, Hungary and the Netherlands, more than 80% of the area is covered by these ecosystem types (

Figure 2.2). More than 25% of the population in Netherlands, Slovakia and Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lichtenstein live in the floodplain (Figure 2.3). On average 11% of Europe’s Natura 2000 area is in floodplains, with Hungary having designated the largest share of the network in the floodplain. Natura 2000 sites are designated for protection of species and habitats listed under the Habitats and Birds Directives.





[1] The riparian zone product provides a detailed land cover dataset of ecosystem types in EEA-39 countries (Copernicus, 2019). Approximately 525.000 km² is mapped, covering rivers of Strahler level 3 to 8 with 100m grid size (GAF, 2015). The floodplain ecosystems are classified using eight MAES ecosystem types (EC, 2014). At level 1, the eight ecosystem types are: urban, croplands, woodland and forest, grassland, heathland and scrub, sparsely vegetated land, and rivers and lakes.


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