Addressing diversity with diversity: Interdisciplinary collaboration in the habitat mosaic of rivers

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The River Rhone in the Forest of Pfyn-Finges. (Photo: Michel Roggo).
The River Rhone in the Forest of Pfyn-Finges. (Photo: Michel Roggo).

Restoration and nature conservation projects have the great potential to restore and maintain important functions of our watercourses for future generations. Researchers from four research institutes of the ETH Domain, in collaboration with the FOEN, have investigated how sediment transport and connectivity affect flood safety and river ecology. They have now compiled the scientific results from the research project "Riverscape" for a diverse audience.

From very wet to very dry - near-natural riverscapes form a diverse mosaic of habitats inhabited by an above-average number of species. Just as diverse are the interests that come together in our densely used landscape during hydraulic engineering interventions such as flood protection or restoration projects. The interdisciplinary research project "Riverscape - Sediment Dynamics and Connectivity" as part of the research programme "Hydraulic Engineering and Ecology" therefore combines engineering and ecological perspectives in the study of diverse riverscapes. The results have now been prepared in several products for a diverse audience.

A volume in the "Environmental Studies" (Umwelt-Wissen) series published by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) clearly summarises the most important research findings. These are supplemented with contributions on implementation from experts in the field. An information flyer for a broad readership and the website with an interactive map allow easy access to the diverse topics. Five short films complete the programme and illustrate the dynamic processes in watercourses.

It was important for the researchers to reach all people involved in water management. In particular, stakeholders without a specific professional background, for example in smaller municipalities, are not necessarily interested in the latest research details. Instead, they require an evaluation of the facts as well as an awareness of the key processes that need to be protected. "On the advice of our practice advisory group, we therefore decided in the project to also develop products for a broader audience for the first time," explains project leader and ecologist Christine Weber for the aquatic research institute Eawag.

Federal Office for the Environment, Publisher (2023). Riverscape - sediment dynamics and connectivity. Practice-oriented research in hydraulic engineering and ecology. Environmental Studies No 2302. Federal Office for the Environment FOEN, Bern.
Programme website «Hydraulic Engineering and Ecology»
Five short films illustrate the dynamic processes in watercourses