Danube Wetlands, Vienna, Lower Austria, largest self-contained wetland area in Central Europe; national park since 1996; extends from the Lobau in Vienna to the state border; apart from the Wachau region it is the last stretch in Austria where the River Danube flows freely over a distance of 47 km. Habitat of more than 5,000 animal species and breeding ground for 109 bird species; 63 fish species, 13 classes of amphibia, 9 reptile species (including the endangered European pond tortoise); of 231 species of vertebrates a number are acutely threatened with extinction. The area (9,300 hectares) comprises forested wetlands, meadows, high gravel deposits ("Heisslaends"), the Danube and its tributaries, pools, gravel and sand banks as well as islands. The ecosystem depends on periodic floodings, cyclically rising and falling ground-water levels and constant and undisturbed exchange of water between river and ground-water reservoir. These distinct water movements promote the rich growth of vegetation.
The planned construction of a power station near Hainburg led to what has since been called the "wetland occupation" ( Occupation of Hainburg Au) in December 1984. The ecological commission set up in its wake advocated the creation of a national park. In 1991 the federal authorities and the provinces of Lower Austria and Vienna commissioned the Betriebsgesellschaft Marchfeldkanal to plan the national park. Suggestions for the realisation of the project were presented and the impacts of various forms of power stations on the region were demonstrated. A multi-disciplinary group of scientists declared that a power station was incompatible with the maintenance and the protection of the natural wetlands in the form of a national park.
Literature#E. Wendelberger, Gruene Wildnis am grossen Strom, 1982; H. P. Graner, Nationalpark Donau-March-Thaya-Auen, 1991; Nationalpark Donau-Auen/Betriebsgesellschaft Marchfeldkanal (ed.), final report, 1994; W. Gamerith, D.-A. - Naturreichtum im Nationalpark, 1999.