European map of the spatial extent and environmental state of riverine floodplains and deltaic areas
Abstract: Floodplains are low-relief Earth surfaces positioned adjacent to freshwaters and subject to flooding (fringing floodplains of lakes and rivers, internal and river deltas). Similarly, riparian zones are transitional semi-terrestrial areas that extend from the edge of permanent water bodies to the edge of uplands and are influenced by.
Floodplains are distributed worldwide and cover about 2% of the land surface. Floodplains are disturbance-dominated ecosystems tightly linked to fluvial and geomorphic dynamics. As expanding and contracting ecosystems they are among the most complex, dynamic, and diverse ecosystems globally. Because of their unique position at the deepest location in the landscape floodplains integrate and accumulate upstream processes. They offer a remarkably diversity of ecosystem services including flood retention, recharge of ground water, biomass production, nutrient removal, as well as aesthetic and cultural values. Worldwide, floodplains provide about 25% of all continental ecosystem services, more than any other ecosystem type.
Today, about half of the human population of Europe and of Japan live on (former) floodplains. At the same time, floods are among the most costly natural disasters worldwide. Between 1900 and 2004 about 3 billion people were affected by floods, causing 2.9 million human losses, and making more than 130 million people homeless.
Floodplains are among the most threatened ecosystems. In Europe and North America, more than 90% of the former floodplains are functionally extinct or have been converted into cropland and urban areas. Habitat degradation, species invasion, pollution, and climate change are among the most important pressures threatening floodplain ecosystems and their rich biodiversity. Therefore, conserving the remaining intact floodplains as strategic global resources and restoring degraded floodplains posses highest priority for future ecosystem management. However, floodplains designated for restoration and conservation must be large enough to support its native plant and animal assemblages and to perform key ecosystem functions.
Here we present maps of the spatial distribution and environmental state of European floodplains and deltaic areas.
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