Reinhard Liepolt Prize for Danube Research

The Reinhard Liepolt Prize for Danube Research 2017 was awarded to two staff members of the Institute for Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management at BOKU, Dr. Rafaela Schinegger (main prize) and Dr. Florian Borgwardt (2nd prize) on December 4th 2018.

Great success during the awarding ceremony of the Reinhard Liepolt Prize for Danube Research 2017. The main prize of the Austrian Committee of the International Association for Danube Research (ÖK-IAD) was awarded to DI Dr. Rafaela Schinegger, Senior Scientist at the Institute of Hydrobiology (IHG) and Water Management for her publication "Configuration of multiple human stressors and their impacts on fish assemblages in Alpine river basins of Austria" in the journal "Science of the Total Environment".

This work addresses multiple human stressors and their impacts on fish assemblages of the Drava and Mura rivers in southern Austria. The impacts of single and multiple human stressors on riverine fish assemblages in these basins were disentangled, based on an extensive dataset. Stressor configuration, i.e. various metrics of multiple stressors belonging to stressor groups hydrology, morphology, connectivity and water quality were investigated for the first time at river basin scale in Austria. As biological response variables, the Fish Index Austria (FIA) and its related single metrics as well as the biological- and total ecological state were investigated. Stressor-response analysis shows divergent results, but a general trend of decreasing ecological integrity with increasing number of stressors and maximum stressor is observed. Fish metrics based on age structure, fish region index and biological status responded best to single stressors and/or their combinations. The knowledge gained in this work provides a basis for advanced investigations in Alpine river basins and beyond, supports WFD implementation and helps prioritizing further actions towards multi-stressor restoration- and management. 

The quote of the distinguished article:

Schinegger, R., Pucher, M., Aschauer, C., & Schmutz, S. (2018). Configuration of multiple human stressors and their impacts on fish assemblages in Alpine river basins of Austria. Science of the Total Environment, 616, 17-28.

The 2nd prize was awarded to DI Dr. Florian Borgwardt (former name Pletterbauer), who was honoured for his dissertation "Climate change effects on fish distributions and fish assemblages in European rivers and streams". This work includes four publications that address large-scale analysis of climate change impacts on riverine fish. The papers include time series analyses including water temperature data for the Danube as well as forecasting approaches to predict changes of species distributions (brown trout, European grayling) and in fish assemblages.

The results of this work are highly relevant, as climate change will affect riverine ecosystems in Austria, in the Danube Basin as well as in Europe. A timely detection and evaluation of anticipated impacts is essential to develop robust management strategies to protect species and their habitats. Here, the analyses of large scales covering large spatial extents supports the detection of important relationships, as the vital role of the alpine area to protect coldwater species.


Pletterbauer, F., Graf, W., Schmutz, S., 2016. Effect of biotic dependencies in species distribution models: The future distribution of Thymallus thymallus under consideration of Allogamus auricollis. Ecol. Modell. 327.

Pletterbauer, F., Melcher, A.H., Ferreira, T., Schmutz, S., 2015. Impact of climate change on the structure of fish assemblages in European rivers. Hydrobiologia 744.

Markovic, D., Scharfenberger, U., Schmutz, S., Pletterbauer, F., Wolter, C., 2013. Variability and alterations of water temperatures across the Elbe and Danube River Basins. Clim. Change 119.

Filipe, A.F., Markovic, D., Pletterbauer, F., Tisseuil, C., De Wever, A., Schmutz, S., Bonada, N., Freyhof, J., 2013. Forecasting fish distribution along stream networks: Brown trout (Salmo trutta) in Europe. Divers. Distrib. 19.