A biotope network consists of core areas that serve as a kind of reservoir from which plants and animals can colonise new habitats and of interconnected structures (= steppingstone biotopes or migration corridors).
The aim of the ICPR programme "Rhine 2040" is to preserve, protect or restore Rhine-typical habitats and to substantially improve the biotope network along the Rhine due to the expansion of core areas and the interconnection of suitable sufficiently large steppingstone biotopes.
Maintaining, expanding and restoring the diversity of aquatic, semi-aquatic and associated terrestrial habitats increases the biodiversity of the ecosystem and makes it more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The basis for the activities related to the biotope network is the concept of the "Biotope Network on the Rhine" (2006). The main stream forms the most important connecting main axis for the entire catchment area and ecosystem. The concept defines precise development targets for the different Rhine sections as well as spatial focal points, gives instructions for action in order to reconnect the eight different kinds of habitats and indicates need for action for the entire Rhine in order to restore an extensive habitat patch connectivity. It simultaneously serves water protection, nature protection as well as flood protection.
In 2020, the current state of the biotope network along the Rhine was recorded for the first time, mainly with the help of digital remote sensing (ICPR report no. 284, only available in German, French and Dutch). Based on satellite data from the European Copernicus programme the different groups of biotope types could be classified for most of the Rhine floodplain. In future, the methodology will make it possible to carry out area-wide success monitoring of the biotope network for some types of biotope groups at more regular intervals in a semi-automated and more cost-efficient manner.
Renaturing or restablishing running water bodies means to restore the ecological system consisting of source-brook-river-riverbed-floodplain-groundwater and to remove transverse and longitudinal structures.
At the same time, water retention is improved which also serves the targets of flood prevention.