Large rivers are important lifelines and have been, and continue to be, significantly impacted by human activities worldwide. River channelization, bank stabilization or hydropower development are altering flow and sediment dynamics, nutrient fluxes, and much more, leading to a dramatic loss of habitats and biodiversity, such as for the fauna of the Austrian Danube. This also affects the ecosystem services provided by riverine landscapes and used by humans.

Climate change will further accelerate and intensify these impacts. Therefore, a societal consensus is needed on the extent to which altering ecosystems for “human use” will be accepted while maintaining important ecological functions.

To reverse the negative trend of biodiversity loss and build a broad consensus, a solid basis for decision-making must be established. To do this, the processes and dynamics driving ecosystem change (including interactions with society) must be scientifically understood as comprehensively as possible. The meta-ecosystem concept is a holistic approach that links effects at different spatial scales by analyzing local habitat qualities, connectivity between these spaces and interactions with human activities, and ecosystem services of riverine landscapes together.

The CD-Laboratory focuses on the Austrian Danube and will combine data analyses with field observations and experiments. This will enable sustainable river management of the Danube and the development of ecologically and economically efficient measures to restore key processes of ecosystem functioning.

To trace the impact of human activities on the temporal evolution of the Danube from a pristine system to its current state, available abiotic and biotic data along the Austrian Danube and its main tributaries will be analyzed. Patterns of fish migration within selected sections of the Danube will be monitored as one key element. The studies will include functional and trophic interactions as well and analyze food web relationships in different river reaches. The current and potential ecosystem services of the river, such as flood and nutrient retention, but also availability of areas for recreation and leisure activities, will be systematically investigated. For example, based on fisheries practices, the effects on biotic interactions in the Danube and its tributaries can be illustrated in the CD-Laboratory. Based on models for future scenarios, approaches and options for future river management are tested to improve the multifunctionality of the Danube meta-ecosystem and to preserve and enhance biodiversity.

Christian Doppler Research Association

The Christian Doppler Research Association promotes the cooperation between science and business. Specifically, this takes place in specially established research units with fixed terms, in which application-orientated basic research is pursued: Christian Doppler Laboratories at universities and non-university research institutions, Josef Ressel Centres at universities of applied sciences.

Under the direction of highly qualified scientists, research groups work in close contact with the commercial partners on innovative responses to business-related research issues.

Christian Doppler Laboratories

The CD model enables cooperations between science and business that are meaningful, useful and productive both for the participating partners and for society. The cooperations are generally structured in the following way: The research group elaborates fundamental knowledge that flows into the development of new products and processes at the commercial partner. A brisk exchange of knowledge, experience and questions between the partners prevails throughout the collaboration. This type of research cooperation therefore differs fundamentally from contract research.

CD Laboratories keep the companies up to date with new scientific developments through their integration into the scientific community. They therefore also perform a ‘radar function’ for the commercial partners. In order for this role to function optimally, the scientific freedom available in the CD Laboratories is of decisive importance: it enables the researchers to collaborate actively at the leading edge of research during the entire duration of the CD Laboratory.