LIFE Project: Wild River Landscape of the Tyrolean Lech, Austria

Running waters are key elements of ecological connectivity. They form natural linear elements of a network many kilometres long, and with their associated ecosystems, are important corridors enabling flora and fauna alike to migrate and multiply. Very often, however, they are no longer able to fulfil this natural function in full as the space and dynamics left to most of the rivers are severely limited.

This applies to numerous rivers in the Alpine region. At the same time, flowing waters are highly conducive to cross-border cooperation as they generally flow through several countries and often form natural boundaries which may also constitute national borders. Furthermore, measures adopted along watercourses also contribute to the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) as the restoration of the continuity of watercourses is an integral element of the WFD and a mandatory task for the member states.
Measures relating to flowing waters, especially for their revitalisation, are often very wide-ranging in scope as they involve many actors with very different interests. These measures are also very cost-intensive.

© Andreas Zischg
© Andreas Zischg

In the Lech valley of Tyrol, which is part of the Natura 2000 network, the LIFE Project: Wild River Landscape of the Tyrolean Lech was carried out in 2001-2006. It included protective hydro-engineering, revitalisation and nature conservation measures. The project was aimed, inter alia, at the conservation and restoration of the near-natural dynamic river habitats and the improvement of flood protection. It also aimed to promote significant species of fauna and flora which are sensitive to disturbance and endangered, and to sensitise the public to nature conservation issues. As part of this process, it was essential to bring together as many organisations with highly diverse interests as possible.
A range of measures were implemented as part of the project, the key ones being:

  • River extension and the restoration of near-natural habitats by removing several building constructions.
  • Step-by-step removal of bed load protection at the river feeders to ensure unobstructed bed load transport and thus raise the river bed, the aim being to prevent further deepening of the bed and a drop in groundwater.
  • Through various smaller measures, revitalization of the river’s side waters and linking up to their parent river.
  • For selected target species, preservation and resettlement projects were carried out. The target species included Bilek’s azure damselfly, the German tamarisk (Myricaria germanica), the Lady’s Slipper, Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), a species of grasshopper typical of Northern Alpine regions (Bryodemella tuberculata) and the Bullhead (Cottus gobio).
  • The setting-up of observation platforms and adventure paths, such as the viewing tower as part of the “experience birdlife” path, was intended to encourage a positive drive for environmentally sustainable tourism. At the same time, target species, such as the Lady’s Slipper, were protected through management elements of the project.
  • An information centre acts as a starting point for excursions and events to raise awareness. Information is also provided about the project and the Lech habitat.


The LIFE project has provided the impetus for a range of cooperation measures between various partners on issues such as flood protection, revitalisation and tourism. For example, the Tyrolean Lech Valley Nature Park was established in 2005. What’s more, the INTERREG Pilot Project "Running Waters” took the LIFE project as its starting point. Building on existing structures, targeted measures to take forward the ecological network were carried out, including the development of a conservation strategy for gravel-breeders at Halblech and comprehensive publicity work focussing on the importance of various landscape elements. These include, in particular, the “Aktion Lechfloss 2005” (“Lechfloss 2005” programme). As part of the INTERREG project, proposals were also developed for other transnational watercourses which could be applied to other similar projects as well.

Further information


Revitalisation of flowing waters



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