River conservation in central and eastern
Europe (incorporating the European parts of
the Russian Federation)
P.A. Khaiter, A.M. Nikanorov, M.G. Yereschukova, K. Prach, A. Vadineanu, J. Oldfield and G.E. Petts
The area covered in this chapter includes the countries of central and eastern Europe, the post-Soviet states of Ukraine, the Baltic States, Belarus and Moldova, and the European part of the Russian Federation west of the Ural Mountain chain (Figure 4.1). Until recently these countries were united under communism and many of the attitudes and approaches towards river management and nature conservation were mirrored throughout the region. However, the societal changes that have taken place since the late 1980s have increased the internal heterogeneity. The pace of economic, social and political change has varied substantially from country to country. fürthermore, while many of the countries situated in central and eastern Europe (and the Baltic States) are now lining up to join the European Union, the post-Soviet countries of Russia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine have formed the Commonwealth of Independent States together with the majority of other former Soviet Republics.
The region is characterized by a number of large rivers, many of which flow through more than one country (Table 4.1). The Volga and Danube river basins are the dominant river systems possessing substantial catchment areas and flowing for thousands of kilometres. The Danube catchment area encompasses 13 European countries which presents a serious obstacle to any effective management activity (Margesson, 1997). In contrast, the Volga catchment area lies almost entirely within the borders of the Russian Federation. Approximately 1300 km2 (0.1%) of the Volga Basin is situated within Kazakhstan. The flow regime of these rivers is dominated by the spring-summer snowmelt flood.
Many of the countries of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have a long history of environmental change, although the pace of change was generally more rapid during the 20th century. Ancient human populations prior to the Neolithic Age (ca 6500 BC) tended to use wooded river corridors only as migration route-ways and for fishing. Over time, permanent settlements were established and forests were cleared for agricultural land, but most river floodplains remained forested until the 9th century. During the Middle Ages, large portions of floodplains were converted from woodland to secondary grasslands and used for hay-making and occasional grazing. Large-scale deforestation of the surrounding uplands and mountains led to sedimentation dominated by silt and organic sediments, and to
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.