River regulation in Central Europe pushed away the endangered sand martin

2009 - 02 - 28
River regulation in Central Europe pushed away the endangered sand martin

River regulation in Central Europe pushes original inhabitants off their banks. An example is the endangered sand martin. They originally nested on river banks regularly deteriorated by spring floods. The birds would dig tunnels in the walls.

However, watercourse regulation gradually took away the birds’ natural nesting grounds. For example, numerous river banks were reinforced with concrete, and their straightening and deepening removed high river banks.

After the regulation of most of the watercourses, sand martins found alternative habitats in sandpits and other mining areas. However, even these alternative habitats do not provide a permanent home to sand martins. Sand martins need a new perpendicular wall every year or two. Otherwise, parasites get into their nesting burrows and reduce their nesting success.

Therefore, conservation organisations care for a number of old, abandoned quarries and tear down their walls with the help of technology. However, this way of saving sand martins is expensive.

“The sand martin example shows the far-reaching consequences of human interventions in nature and indigenous ecosystems. European rivers have undergone significant regulations in recent decades, reducing them to nearly dead and lifeless canals. Therefore, the revitalisation of rivers and the restoration of their original biological diversity are among the main tasks of European nature conservation,” said Director Dalibor Dostal of the European Wildlife conservation organization.

The conservation of rivers and fresh water has been neglected in the long term. “Lakes and rivers cover only one-hundredth of the Earth’s surface, but they are home to a third of all vertebrates,” Dostal pointed out.

Photo: Frank Vassen / Wikimedia

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