PAS experts on the restoration of the ecosystem of the Oder river

Can we learn from the German experience of restoring river ecosystem in case of the Oder river? Experts from Poland and Germany addressed this issue in an article devoted to the ecological disaster in the Oder. The text was published in “Perspective Daily”.

Out of concern for the future of the Oder, the editors of the German magazine “Perspective Daily” cite the example of one of the German rivers – Emscher – that could be treated as a reference river for the restoration of biodiversity. Experts from both countries were asked for their opinion. On behalf of the Polish Academy of Sciences a comment was made by a hydrologist, Prof. Paweł Rowiński, PAS Vice-President.

Emscher river

Its restoration cost over DEM 9 million and began over 30 years ago. The river was freed from its concrete walls and sealed underground and brought back closer to its naturally meandering course. An underground sewer system and four large sewage treatment plants were built. In addition, natural areas with ponds and water reservoirs were sectioned off in the riverside areas, as well as recreational areas and a network of bike paths were created.

Years later, the river came back to life and again became home to many organisms, including those on the red list of threatened species. According to the authors of the article, more than 1,000 species were observed in this area.

The Oder river crisis

The Oder river, similarly to Emscher in the past, may turn into a canal-like waterway due to human activity. According to experts, excessive regulation of the Oder river, as well as an attempt to transform it into a waterway, not only leads to the reduction of the river’s function to a transportation corridor, but also deprives it of its natural resilience. “If the Oder had been a more natural river, it would have handled the disaster much better,” adds Prof. Paweł Rowiński, Vice-President of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Nature-based solutions

According to Prof. Rowiński, a return to a completely natural Oder is not possible. The size of the river, as well as the degree of its regulation and exploitation (mainly for economic purposes), require the use of innovative solutions that combine solutions close to nature with transformation.

Furthermore, nature-based solutions enable reconnecting rivers with their floodplains. This, in turn, in the context of ongoing climate change, provides additional flood protection in the event of extreme weather events.

The hydrologist also notes that the process of revitalizing a river of this size, due to the cost and the scale of the project, can only be implemented by the state.

The full text of the article (in German) is available on the “Perspective Daily” website.