Cyffka to become new President of International Association for Danube Research

Prof. Dr. Bernd Cyffka, holder of the Professorship of Applied Physical Geography at the KU and head of the Floodplain Institute Neuburg is to become the next President of the International Association for Danube Research (IAD). Founded in 1956, the IAD is the oldest scientific network focussed on the river Danube. Aim of the association is to establish and coordinate research on hydrology, water management and sustainable development of the river Danube. Cyffka has been representing Germany in the IAD since 2015.

The election was held on the occasion of the annual assembly of the organization, which this year took place online and was hosted by the Floodplain Institute of the KU. The approximately 40 lectures under the common title of “Rivers and Floodplains in the Anthropocene - Upcoming Challenges in the Danube River Basin” were all pivoted around the theme of human influence on rivers and floodplains. The Danube measures more than 2 800 kilometers from its source to its mouth at the Black Sea. On its way, it traverses more than ten states, feeding from a total of twenty countries. “That is why it is so essential to look at the Danube from a total perspective. Any change does not only have an impact on the immediate surroundings, but can also be felt downstream,” Professor Cyffka says. Consequently, some of the issues at the heart of the IAD are questions of water quality and flood management, protection of aquatic life and use of hydropower. The Floodplain Institute boast an expertise of many years in this respect: The EU project “Danube Floodplain” pursued an improvement of flood prevention through conservation and renaturation of floodplains. Funded by the EU, an international research team led by the Aueninstitut is currently investigating the impact of intact ecosystems on the water quality of the Danube.

“In our projects as well as the IAD initiatives, the principle of research and government agencies not being able to exist independently of each other holds true. When managing a river, issues of flood control, agriculture, energy generation and biodiversity cannot be planned separately,” Cyffka says. Consequently, a key concern of the IAD is to provide expertise to the relevant agencies. For example, the association has observer status in the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). With the EU Water Framework Directive entering into force in 2000 and the EU Flood Risk Management Directive in 2007, the contracting parties to the ICPDR agreed to use it as a platform for coordinating their international plans required under these directives.

Thus, the IAD, which Cyffka is going to head for six years, has a direct influence on Europe-wide schemes along the Danube. In addition to research, issues of education for sustainable development have also become an additional focus for the IAD. "We, too, want to commit to raising awareness for sustainability issues with coming generations - on the basis of the findings that we have pooled and consolidated in our international network," emphasizes Professor Cyffka.