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Katharina Bunk

Research for Free Flowing Rivers

Bonus: Behind-the-Sciences Video about Research on the Vjosa

Students for Rivers Camp: at the river – where else. | Image: Balkan River Defence

Students for Rivers Camp 2019 (c) Gabriel Singer Students for Rivers Camp July 2019. | Photo: Gabriel Singer / IGB

Right now, 900 kilometres afar from IGB, the first Students for Rivers Camp is taking place at the Soča in Slovenia. The meeting was organised by the River Intellectuals, a new network that brings together young committed people from science and nature conservation. Together they want to identify the problems caused by the rapid expansion of hydropower in the Balkans with currently 2800 planned plants, scrutinise economic and socio-political motives, and develop possibilities for protective measures.

Among the River Intellectuals, for whom the camp marks its official founding, are the IGB junior researchers Jessica Droujko, David Farò and Helena Hudek. IGB scientist Dr. Gabriel Singer supports “the new, committed generation of freshwater scientists and conservationists with scientific facts and practical nature conservation tips”, as he himself defines his role. “Freshwater scientists should also see themselves as ambassadors for the protection and compatible use of water bodies,” Singer demands, “at least for me our research results leave no other choice”.

Research as the basis for river protection

Since 2018, Gabriel Singer’s research group Fluvial Ecosystem Ecology, together with scientists from Albania, has been actively researching one of the last free-flowing rivers in Europe. The Vjosa, which has its source as Aoos in north-western Greece and flows into the Adriatic Sea in Albania, shows an exceptionally high biodiversity, thanks to the unhindered flow and natural sediment transport. Such untouched rivers are a unique opportunity to understand the functioning of natural river systems and to develop scientifically sound protection measures. For example, the Vjosa could serve as a reference river for the renaturation of heavily modified rivers in the Alps.

And as pictures are worth more than 267 words, the IGB doctoral students Lukas Thuile Bistarelli and Thomas Fuß documented the team’s first expedition to the Vjosa with their video camera. Roll it!

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