All life on Earth needs water. Water is the worldâ€™s most precious resource. Freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and aquifers house an incredible proportion of the worldâ€™s biodiversity. More than 10% of all known animals and about 50% of all known fish species are found in freshwater habitats. However, these precious ecosystems are increasingly threatened by habitat shrinkage and deterioration, climate change and overexploitation driven by human activities and consumption patterns. Freshwater habitats are in much worse condition than forest, grassland or coastal system habitats. In fact, the Living Planet Index shows an average decline of 84% in monitored freshwater populations from 1970 to 2016. A much faster decline than terrestrial or marine species. The Danube River Basin is a prime example of a vital freshwater system at risk.
The Danube River runs through ten different countries and the Danube River Basin is being shared by 19 countries, making it the most international river basin in the world. It provides drinking water for 20 million people and is home to unique species like the white pelican and sturgeon, many of which are critically endangered. Moreover, Central Eastern Europe (CEE) includes some of the most important wetlands around the globe. For example, the Danube Delta is home to over 320 bird species during the summer. The Danube River is also central to the future 5-country Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve, often referred to as the â€œAmazon of Europe.â€