© Kristof Reuther

© Kristof Reuther

MERI, the first CD lab for researching ecosystem processes in the Danube, opens its doors today at 2 pm. Made possible by funding from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digitization and Economic Development (BMDW), a research team here will advance the development of tailored solutions for the preservation and improvement of the Austrian Danube. This is a forward-looking endeavor supported by the Austrian Federal Forests, via donau and Verbund.

"Whether energy production, transport route or recreational area, our Danube fulfills many functions," emphasizes Economics Minister Dr. Margarete Schramböck. "To keep it that way, it must continue to function as a stable ecosystem in the future - and to do so, biodiversity must be preserved. This CD Laboratory is researching the basics for this and will make a significant contribution to preserving the multifunctionality of the Danube."

The ecosystem in the Danube is highly complex and subject to constant change. River regulation or the expansion of hydropower have a wide range of consequences, for example the

changes in nutrient fluxes or aquatic species richness. At the same time, the Danube as a waterway and for the generation of electrical energy provides a significant contribution to societal welfare. In order to better understand the impact of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem services, BOKU researcher Thomas Hein's team is investigating the dynamics of the meta-ecosystem of the Austrian Danube in the MERI (Meta-Ecosystem Dynamics in Riverine Landscapes) CD laboratory.

"This is intended to provide a solid basis for decision-making," says the laboratory head from the Institute of Hydrobiology and Water Management (IHG) at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna. In this way, he said, one can develop sustainable measures that are both ecologically and economically efficient, enable the restoration of a functioning ecosystem and meet the diverse demands of use. This is necessary because previous efforts to rehabilitate the ecology of the Danube have often failed to achieve the desired effect.

Comprehensive data increase efficiency of measures

It will be essential to scientifically record processes and dynamics that drive ecosystem change as comprehensively as possible. Up to now, it has been mainly local measures and their local effects that have been studied. The MERI CD Laboratory, however, is pursuing a holistic approach and assumes that interventions do not only have immediate effects on the spot.

In the seven-year project, the researchers will first systematically analyze the river system itself. The Danube has changed considerably over the past 200 years. In order to understand what influence human activities have had and are having, the team is examining historical, as well as recent biotic and abiotic data. A network analysis on the Danube and its main tributaries will show which nodes were important at which time and why.

The second part of the project focuses on living organisms. Fish will be tagged, their diet analyzed, their movements tracked and populations recorded. By knowing how fish use space, ecological bottlenecks can be deduced and improved, and natural populations can be targeted for support by stocking highly endangered species such as the sterlet.

Ministry of Economics promotes cooperation between science and industry

Finally, after five years, the team will use the models developed for future scenarios to test the possibilities and variants of river management in order to find out which measures make ecological and economic sense at which time and in which place. The results are passed on to partners from the economy, who can implement them directly. The idea of the Christian Doppler Laboratories, where application-oriented basic research is carried out at a high level, lives on. Outstanding researchers cooperate with innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Association is regarded internationally as an example of best practice in promoting this cooperation. Christian Doppler Laboratories are jointly funded by the public sector and the participating companies. The most important public funding body is the Federal Ministry for Digitization and Economic Location (BMDW).


Univ.Prof. Dr. Thomas Hein
Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
Institut für Hydrologie und Gewässermanagement (IHG)
E-Mail: thomas.hein(at)boku.ac.at
Tel.: +43 1 47654 81201, 81229

More information:

Website CD Labor MERI: https://cdl-meri.boku.ac.at/wordpress/

Website IHG BOKU: https://boku.ac.at/wau/ihg

Contact business partners (Pressestellen):

via donau: Christoph Caspar (christoph.caspar(at)viadonau.org)

Verbund: Florian Seidl (florian.seidl(at)verbund.com)

Bundesforste: Andrea Kaltenegger (andrea.kaltenegger(at)bundesforste.at)


© Kristof Reuther