Liberty Island

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Fotó: WWFThe restoration of Liberty-island and its side-branch

Many of us do not realize how much importance and significance rivers’ side-branches have in nature. Their wildlife is much more diverse, than that of the main river branches, and the islands they form provide peaceful resting and feeding places for migratory birds (e.g. black stork, grey heron, little egret). The lower drift of side-branches makes them a perfect spawning ground for fishes, and their banks and islands play an enormous role in cleaning the water of nearby wells.
However, a side-branch of Danube at the protected Liberty-island, next to Mohács, does not get sufficient water supply, because it was cut off from the main channel by a dam. As a result, mud began to be deposited and without water supply it will be completely filled up, which can ultimately threaten the unique ecosystem of the island. Additionally, in the protected area, sylviculture is non-natural and it is feared that clearcutting will devastate the floodplain forests.
Fotó: WWFWe would like to prevent the filling up of this Danube side-branch in order to preserve this unique wetland habitat. We consider the protection of the watersheds also of high importance, as it guarantees good quality drinking water for the cities of Pécs and Mohács. With the confinement of non-native species overgrowing the island and the formation of natural forests, we can preserve the unique diverse wildlife of the island and its side-branch.
We completed a project for the rehabilitation of the side-branch and the protection of the forest on the island, which was financed by the LIFE+ fund of the European Union and run from 1st January 2009 to 31st December 2013. The partners beside the main responsible WWF Hungary were: Duna-Drava National Park Directorate, Lower Danube Water Management Directorate, Transdanubian Regional Waterworks Corporation, Coca-Cola Hungary and the Municipality of Mohács.
As the first step of the 5-year project, the area was purchased for the Duna-Drava National Fotó: WWFPark Directorate (DDNPD). This meant that the area was owned by the state with the DDNPD acting as trustee, and it guaranteed that the island would be not subjected to more harmful human effects. In the next step, the environmental impact assessment of the planned rehabilitation was completed, after which the licensing process began.
In order to improve water supply in the side-branch, the 5-metre-high rock-filled dam was partially opened and the pipes within this dam were re-placed under the side-branch. For guaranteeing good ecological status, the accumulated sludge was dredged from the side-branch helping the exposure of pebbles and improving the quality of drinking water in the nearby wells and that provides spawning sites for fishes.
Another important element of the project was to exchange the non-native forest with a native one and to confine the invasive species, especially the semi-native individuals that were found on the island scattered but overall in a big number.
Our aim was also to present this program as a model project. Therefore, we organized several professional and civil forums, documented the different steps of the restoration with the help of experts, and placed informational boards presenting the project at the entrance of the island and on the main square of Mohács.


More information about Liberty-island (Szabadság-sziget) can be found on the webpage  www.szabadsagsziget.hu

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