Due to the exemplary cooperation of the ICPR – Rhine bordering countries, the ecological state of the Rhine and its tributaries has further improved. The balance of the "Rhine 2020" programme adopted in 2001 makes it clear that many goals have been achieved or set in motion.
Alluvial plains of the Rhine are again flooded, oxbow lakes are reconnected to the river and along short stretches the river structures have been ecologically improved. The number of animal and plant species has increased. The salmon and other migratory fish have been able to migrate up the Rhine from the North Sea to south of Strasbourg since 2016.
The connection of the different habitats along the Rhine from Lake Constance to the sea aimed at creating a habitat patch connectivity is successful. In this connection, the ICPR sets definite targets and spatial focal points aimed at linking water protection with nature and flood protection.
In spite of the successes achieved, the ecological functionality of the comprehensive Rhine system is not yet satisfactory. Above all the ecological continuity of the Rhine from the Falls of the Rhine to the sea and of its tributaries must be further improved. Further targets are to increase the structural diversity along the banks of the Rhine and its arms (Balance Rhine 2020) and to extend alluvial areas.
With a view to restoring the ecological continuity of the Rhine and its tributaries, the ICPR has drafted a “Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine” in 2009 which was updated in 2018. Information on the implemented measures for migratory fish in the Rhine catchment can be found in the internationally coordinated management plan 2022-2027 for the international river basin district Rhine.
Such ecological support is required, as numerous river training measures along the Rhine and almost all tributaries have basically modified the hydrological and morphological conditions. For example, cutting off more than 85 per cent of the alluvial areas along the Upper and Lower Rhine has led to great losses of habitats and of animal and plant species typical of the Rhine.
The unachieved goals of the "Rhine 2020" programme require further efforts within the framework of the implementation of the ICPR programme "Rhine 2040", which was adopted at the 16th Conference of Rhine Ministers in 2020.
That the Rhine ecosystem is comparable to a mosaic?
You will not find two locations along the 1233 km of its course which are the same. If you follow the river, the characteristics of the water and the river bed continuously change and so does the dissemination of the many hundreds of animal and plant species indigenous in the Rhine and its tributaries.