Tiroler Lech - Wild river landscape of the Tyrolean Lech

LIFE00 NAT/A/007053

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Reinhard LENTNER
Tel: +43/512 508 3450
Fax: +43/512 508 3455
Email: umweltschutz@tirol.gv.at

Project description:


The Tyrolean river Lech, with its huge banks of gravel and broad zones of lowland riparian forest, is probably the last river in the northern Alps which is still more or less in its natural state. For over 60 km, the highly braided river occupies a gravel bed that is up to 100 m wide in parts. The course of the Lech is constantly changing due to erosion and deposition.

In the past, however, flood disasters and increasing pressure from human activities in the valley necessitated hydrological regulation measures, which in certain sections severely narrowed the riverbed. The construction of debris traps across the streams and growing exploitation of gravel also contributed to a deepening of the riverbed and a lowering of the water table.

The consequent disappearance of floods and of forests which are regularly submerged, was affecting numerous species characteristic for gravel banks, including the German tamarisk (Myricaria germanica), the pink-winged grasshopper (Bryodema tuberculata) and the little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius


A central concern of the LIFE-Nature Project was to restore habitats of free-flowing water wherever the demands of flood protection and the socio-economic conditions would allow it. Thus it planned to considerably widen the bed of the river over 6 km of its length. In the widened sections 35 hectares of new Alpine river habitats (gravel banks) would be created. At the same time, the supply of gravel to the main river channel would be increased by gradually opening the debris traps in the lateral streams. The project was to be accompanied by special measures to protect threatened species of dragonfly and amphibians in the riverside meadows, as well as by forestry compensation payments to foresters to improve conditions for bird species dependent on dead wood, such as the grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus) and the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos). Finally, there would also be a section of the project devoted to visitor management in the Natura 2000 site.


River restoration measures were carried out on River Lech as well as River Vils on a length of 6km. Due to the river-widening projects the River Lech is getting back large parts of its former river bed within the project area. Removal of two gravel barriers in the frame of this project, significantly increased the bed load transport in the River Lech, an important step to stop the river bed erosion in the River Lech which has caused a substantial lowering of ground-water levels. The lowering of the ground-water level is one of the main threats for some of the project's target habitats.

Small restoration measures were also carried out at several brooks and ditches. They aimed to remove fish migration barriers as well as to create a mosaic of habitats of ecological importance. A total of 40 small ponds for amphibians and the highly endangered dragonfly species, Coenagrion hylas, were created or restored. A total of 98 bulbs of existing lamps were replaced by insect-friendly bulbs and in 15 lamps insect-friendly bulbs were installed.

The public awareness-raising work included creative events like school contests, training for nature guides, and a time-lapse movie in addition to more established activities. Good co-operation among the nature conservation administration (beneficiary), the river engineering administration (partner) and an NGO (WWF as partner) was established.


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Freshwater
Industry-Production - Mining - Quarrying
Water - River basin management


land use planning‚  landscape conservation policy‚  renaturation‚  wetlands ecosystem‚  site rehabilitation‚  public awareness campaign‚  hydrographic basin‚  integrated management‚  environmentally friendly product‚  tourist facility‚  policy integration‚  modelling‚  forestry‚  conflict of interests‚  local authority‚  sustainable development‚  development planning‚  forest management‚  touristic zone‚  risk management‚  land purchase‚  informal negotiation‚  restoration measure‚  water resources management‚  mountainous area‚  risk assessment‚  flood protection‚  conflicting use‚  management contract‚  recreational area‚  river management‚  aquatic ecosystem‚  ecological assessment‚  ecotourism‚  environmental impact of agriculture‚  environmental impact of recreation‚  environmental impact of tourism‚  forest ecosystem‚  freshwater ecosystem

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
  • COM(95) 189 - "Communication on the judicious use and conservation of wetlands" (12.12.1995)
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" ...
  • Land & Soil
  • Regulation 1257/1999 - Support for rural development from the European Agricultural Guidance and ...

Target species

 Coenagrion hylas   Cypripedium calceolus   Triturus cristatus 

Target Habitat types

  • 3220 - Alpine rivers and the herbaceous vegetation along their banks
  • 3230 - Alpine rivers and their ligneous vegetation with Myricaria germanica
  • 3240 - Alpine rivers and their ligneous vegetation with Salix elaeagnos
  • 3260 - Water courses of plain to montane levels with the Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation
  • 4070 - Bushes with Pinus mugo and Rhododendron hirsutum (Mugo-Rhododendretum hirsuti)
  • 5130 - Juniperus communis formations on heaths or calcareous grasslands
  • 6210 - Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (* important orchid sites)
  • 91D0 - Bog woodland
  • 91E0 - "Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)"
  • 9410 - Acidophilous Picea forests of the montane to alpine levels (Vaccinio-Piceetea)
  • 9420 - Alpine Larix decidua and/or Pinus cembra forests

Natura 2000 sites

SCI AT3309000 Tiroler Lech



Coordinator Amt der Tiroler Landesregierung, Abteilung Umweltschutz
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The Amt der Tiroler Landesregierung, department of environmental protection is the responsible authority for nature conservation and for the implementation (including site designation procedure) of Natura 2000 in the region of Tirol. In Austria, nature conservation is a regional responsibility and not that of the national administration.
Partners Bundeswasserbauverwaltung (vertreten durch das Amt d. Tiroler LR, Abt. Wasserwirtschaft), Austria Forsttechnischer Dienst für Wildbach- und Lawinenverbauung Tirol, Austria WWF Österreich


Project reference LIFE00 NAT/A/007053
Duration 01-APR-2001 to 31-MAR -2007
Total budget 7,824,717.00 €
EU contribution 3,873,235.00 €
Project location Tirol(Österreich)


Read more:

Brochure Project leaflet (EN) (391 KB)
Brochure "Vogelerlebnispfad Pflach" (825KB)
Brochure Project Leaflet (389KB)
Brochure "Der Fluss der Zeit"(7.8 MB)
Poster Project's poster (1.357 KB)
Video link "Wildflusslandschaft Lech: Steinige Wege zum Gleichgewicht" (20')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version