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Environ Pollut. 2009 Dec;157(12):3336-46. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2009.06.004. Epub 2009 Jul 14.

How do long-term development and periodical changes of river-floodplain systems affect the fate of contaminants? Results from European rivers.

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  • 1Institute of Soil Research, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Peter-Jordan-Str 82, A-1190 Vienna, Austria.


In many densely populated areas, riverine floodplains have been strongly impacted and degraded by river channelization and flood protection dikes. Floodplains act as buffers for flood water and as filters for nutrients and pollutants carried with river water and sediment from upstream source areas. Based on results of the EU-funded "AquaTerra" project (2004-2009), we analyze changes in the dynamics of European river-floodplain systems over different temporal scales and assess their effects on contaminant behaviour and ecosystem functioning. We find that human-induced changes in the hydrologic regime of rivers have direct and severe consequences on nutrient cycling and contaminant retention in adjacent floodplains. We point out the complex interactions of contaminants with nutrient availability and other physico-chemical characteristics (pH, organic matter) in determining ecotoxicity and habitat quality, and draw conclusions for improved floodplain management.

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