LIFE+ Project for the Re-establishment of a side channel at the Lower Rhine near Wesel (North Rhine-Westphalia)

The objective of the project is to improve the NATURA 2000 sites “NSG Rheinaue Bislich-Vahnum“ and „Rhein-Fischschutzzonen zwischen Emmerich und Bad Honnef“ as “key elements” of the Special protection area (SPA) and Ramsar site „Unterer Niederrhein“. This shall be achieved by means of re-establishing various, near natural and dynamic river and floodplain structures. Therefore, the re-establishing of a secondary channel to the river Rhine, streaming with the river almost the whole year round is planned in the floodplain of Bislich-Vahnum.
The project aims at revitalising this stretch of the river and the corresponding floodplain, integrating both valuable NATURA 2000 elements of the area, the aquatic habitats and species of the river Rhine and the wetland-habitats in the floodplain forming a part of the SPA "Unterer Niederrhein".
The objectives of the project with regard to the two main habitat elements:


Aquatic habitats and species of the river Rhine

  • Enrichment of the river stretch with natural and dynamic river and bank structures; initiation of a great variety of depth, currents, sediments and sediment dynamics
  • protection of the new river habitats from the negativ impact of the waves / swell caused by passing ships
  • Improvement of the ecological and hydrological connection between the river and its floodplain


Wetland habitats of the floodplain

  • Enrichment of the floodplain with divers, smal-scale waters and bank-structures to improve the habitat for breeding and stationing waders and waterfowl
  • Improvement of the natural hydrologic situation in the floodplain (groundwater table, flooding-parameter and currents)
  • Providing an important and quiet feeding ground for arctic geese and swans als well as breeding ground for the meadow-birds by creating a peninsula within the floodplain, thus making access more difficult and reducing disturbing effects by walkers and their dogs.
  • reduction of the negative impact of predators (natural enemies) on the meadow-bird populations as a positive side effect; the streaming side channel forms a physical barrier for predators.


The project will run until the end of 2019, main construction work is planned in 2016 - 2018. A comprehensive monitoring of flora and fauna will be implemented during the project. Apart of LIFE+ the project is funded by the MUNLV (Ministery of environment and agriculture in Nord-rhine Westphalia), the Kurt-Lange-Foundation and the Michael-Otto-Foundation.