Draft key messages

  • Floodplains are an important part of rivers. They are largely in poor condition. Improving their condition is important for achieving objectives of the Water Framework, Floods, Habitats and Birds Directives.
  • Presently, floodplains are recognised in the context of the Water Framework Directive, but they are not systematically assessed as part of river basin management plans, although an ecosystem based perspective suggests this could be highly relevant.
  • A more overarching strategic approach for the protection and restoration of floodplains, also encompassing objectives of the Floods Directive, the Habitat and Birds Directives, the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, the Green Infrastructure initiative, and the EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, could be taken.
  • Natural water retention measures are cost effective and viable alternatives to structural flood protection. In addition, they support multiple ecosystem functions and services needed to achieve the objectives of several EU policies. Such solutions enable achieving multiple environmental policy goals: they enhance the delivery of ecosystem services and in return for this improvement they support the delivery of good ecological status, good conservation status and improved flood risk management.
  • Shifting the management focus towards natural retention measures represents a transition towards ecosystem-based management and needs to be incorporated into river basin and flood risk management plans, conservation plans and climate change adaptation plans. Once implemented, natural water retention measures deliver valuable regulating & maintaining ecosystem services and high quality cultural services.
  • Restoration requires public support, investment and time. EU and national funding instruments are available to support restoration.
  • In spite of the obvious benefits of floodplain protection and restoration, the analysis points to a fragmented management approach that would benefit from some streamlining across Europe, in order to better achieve the value of restoration efforts. Relevant measures for achieving cross-policy objectives can often be the same.
  • As most restoration projects involve using land differently, it is very important to secure citizen engagement in the planning process and to allow enough time to negotiate the best possible solutions. The results are, however, often greatly appreciated by the public because of the recreational qualities achieved.

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