Lafnitz River from above

Image by Martin Wenk

Lafnitz Catchment.

Blue map of Europe with an orange pin on Lafnitz catchment

The Lafnitz, a distinctive lowland river in Austria, originates in the Aurtian state of Styria and spans 114 kilometres before joining the river Rába (Raab in German) in Hungary. Renowned for its natural beauty, particularly in certain sections, the Lafnitz serves as a vital sanctuary for rare bird species like the kingfisher. However, changes in the catchment area, driven by intensified land uses in recent decades, are causing noticeable alterations in the river itself. As human activities reshape the landscape, it is crucial to strike a balance between development and preserving the Lafnitz's unique ecological characteristics for future generations.

Challenges facing the region.

The Lafnitz Valley faces significant challenges due to climate change and changes in land use in the area. These changes impact the ecological balance, population's exposure to natural hazards, and the economic use of the valley areas. On one hand, increasing periods of drought and heat, resulting in water scarcity, pose problems for agricultural uses. On the other, short, intense rainfall leads to increased soil erosion. This rainfall is only partially absorbed by the soil, carrying valuable topsoil away. This not only exacerbates flooding but also leads to sediment deposition in the Lafnitz riverbed. Important gravel banks, vital for aquatic life, are being buried, losing their value as habitats. Furthermore, these deposits narrow the river's cross-section, potentially leading to earlier flooding of surrounding areas. In urban areas, climate change in the Lafnitz Valley is leading to rising temperatures, exacerbated by increasing surface sealing. However, enhancing water retention capacity and planting trees can significantly improve the urban climate. These interconnected issues require collaborative initiatives and measures for resolution.

Flowing Lafnitz river

Image by Martin Wenk

LAND4CLIMATE related actions and expected results.

Areal shot of fields in the Lafnitz

Image by Martin Wenk

The LAND4CLIMATE measures at the Lafnitz focus on finding the best possible measures with private landowners to reduce the negative impacts of climate change. These measures are area-specific and must be aligned with existing uses and compensated accordingly. The set of actions mainly includes adjustments in management practices, creation of landscape structural elements, and modifications (like creating riparian buffer strips or widening areas) near the Lafnitz. In urban areas, the emphasis is on sponge city concepts (urban planning model with a focus on flood control) and sustainable rainwater management, significantly improving the urban climate and retaining water within the city for potential use. LAND4CLIMATE aims to mitigate the adverse effects of flooding, drought, heat, and soil erosion while contributing to a healthy river ecosystem. Water is a key element in all these aspects – it cools, is vital for our agricultural crops, and sustains various species.

How can locals and private landowners get involved?

The participation of the public in LAND4CLIMATE is a crucial component. Private landowners are key players in the LAND4CLIMATE measures at the Lafnitz. Equal footing and fair compensation mechanisms are essential for the success of the project. It is crucial that these measures are planned individually and in collaboration with the landowners.  Any contributions are welcome to the topic of climate change adaptation in the Lafnitz Valley. The local project partners look forward to making contact and working together for a healthy living and economic space. Locals are strongly encouraged to join the efforts. 

Areal shot of fileds and surrounding land use in Lafnitz

Image by Martin Wenk

Local Project Partners