Alluvial forests belong to the most species rich and essential habitats in Europe. They are placed under the strict protection of the EU Habitats directive. They play a key role when controlling the structure and function of the entire Rhine ecosystem. They
- filter and clean water,
- recharge groundwater,
- protect against lapping of waves and erosion,
- suck water like swamps,
- break flood crests,
- tolerate long periods of floods running off on the surface (silver willows up to 190 days, English oak up to 97 days a year) and
- Belong to the most valuable, but also the most endangered kinds of habitats in Europe.
That the natural floodplain of the Rhine has been reduced to 15 per cent of its original size?
Originally, there were some 8000 km² of floodplain along the course of the Rhine, 85 per cent were lost due to river straightening and other training measures along the Upper and the Lower Rhine.