River conservation in the European
Community, including Scandinavia
T.M. Iversen, B.L. Madsen and J. Bøgestrand
Rivers are an important part of the European landscape and of great significance for European biodiversity. The intensive land use in most of Europe and the intensive use of rivers for a variety of purposes has led to a significant degradation of the rivers all over the region during the last century. The need for river conservation has therefore become more and more evident. It has long since been recognized that the interactions between a river and its valley are of significant importance for the ecological functioning of a river (Hynes, 1975). This chapter will therefore deal with river conservation as the conservation of rivers and their riparian areas.
Conservation can be defined as ‘the prevention of waste, loss or damage, especially the official protection or care of forests, rivers, waterpower, etc.’ (Hornby et al., 1960). Following this definition the chapter will cover the protection of pristine rivers as well as management of impacted rivers in order to improve their ecological quality. As the region contains a wealth of examples of damaged rivers (in terms of water quality and quantity, physical quality), river restoration or rehabilitation will also be included as a necessary measure for significant improvements.
The region includes 17 main countries (Figure 3.1) and a total land area of 3.7 × 106 km2. The countries vary widely in size from Luxembourg (2568 km2) to France (543 965 km2) (Table 3.1). In addition, the region contains eight small countries: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. They have a total area of about 2400 km2, but will not be dealt with further due to lack of information. The region covers about 37 degrees of latitude from Norway in the north to Greece in the south and about 52 degrees of longitude from Iceland in the west to Finland and Greece in the east. In this chapter, the countries of the region will be referred to as Nordic, Western and Southern European countries (Table 3.2) following Kristensen and Hansen (1994).
In the region there are 13 rivers with watersheds >50 000 km2, of which all or most of the watershed is within the region, and another three with the major part of the watershed outside the region (Table 3.3). Of these, five rivers are shared by two to eight countries within the region and eight of these large rivers are transnational. The catchment areas of the main river in each country naturally vary widely (Table 3.4). In four countries the watershed of the main river covers 44–96% of the country. From these data it is obvious that, especially in Western countries, river conservation also demands international cooperation.
Morris and Kronvang (1994) have compiled available estimated total river lengths based on 1:50000 maps (Table 3.1). The region has about 2.4 × 106 km of rivers and about 0.6 km river knT2. Specific river lengths vary from about 0.3 km river km–2 in Spain to about 1 km river km‒2 in France, partly reflecting variations in water flow (see below).
Global Perspectives on River Conservation: Science. Policy and Practice. Edited by P.J. Boon, B.R. Davies and G.E. Petts. © 2000 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.