WWF’s conservation work in Central and Eastern Europe is concentrating on the following areas: conservation and restoration of rivers and their floodplains, the conservation of old growth forests and sustainable management of all forests, ensuring healthy populations of bears, lynxes and wolves, saving critically endangered sturgeons from extinction, and reintroducing bison. All our conservation work is being conducted in close cooperation with local communities and other stakeholders to ensure the rights-based approach and develop ways how our work does not only benefit nature but also people. For long-term sustainability, we are advocating for better enabling conditions such as laws, policies and financial resources that provide incentives for sustainable development and biodiversity protection while preventing damage to nature. We are also promoting measures for climate mitigation and adaptation.
- WWF promotes restoration of the floodplains of the river Tisza.
- The area shaped by the confluence of the rivers Mura, Drava and Danube extends over 1 million ha and is of outstanding ecological value. WWF has been working towards making this the world´s first five-country transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to ensure conservation and sustainable development.
- WWF has been a driver of the Lower Danube Green Corridor Initiative, which has resulted in a string of high profile restoration projects and the protection of 1.4 million ha of valuable river wetland, 400 000 ha under the international Ramsar Convention on better management and restoration of wetlands.
- WWF has been restoring thousands of hectares of wetlands with intensive stakeholder involvement and applying the best available technical solutions. Since recently, the focus has been on demonstrating the special value of nature restoration not only for nature itself but for people and business such as reduced flood risk by re-creating retention areas that absorb water during flood events. A considerable part of theses efforts have been undertaken under the Living Danube Partnership, which involves the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and the Coca-Cola Foundation, the main sponor. The ambitious eight-year partnership has sought to restore vital wetlands, rivers and floodplains along the River Danube and its tributaries, aiming to increase the river capacity by the equivalent of 4,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools (12 million m3) and to restore over 7,422 football pitches worth of wetland habitat (53 km2) by the end of 2021.
- WWF has managed to map and protect 300 000 ha of remaining Old Growth Forests, a true European treasure. More are in the process of being protected.
- WWF is promoting Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) as a means to achieving sustainable forest management, including biodiversity conservation. Today, almost 10 mio ha are under FSC, which has improved access to market and transparency in the sector.
- WWF is combating illegal logging, e.g. by organizing workshops with Interpol for training of stakeholders and customs officials and developing wood traceability systems.
- Forest policies have been strengthened through advocacy work in favour of sustainability, participatory forest management, and integration of biodiversity objectives
- We are exploring ways of making forests resilient to the effects of climate change such as windfalls and bark beetle attacks. We have also embarked on efforts to reduce the demand for firewood, a driver for overexploitation and climate change.
- Much of WWF´s forest work is conducted under the partnership with IKEA, which aims to promote responsible and sustainable forest management practices, climate-resilient forests, and biodiversity rich forest landscapes to provide a full range of ecosystem services and goods for the well-being of local communities.
Sturgeons are among the most threatened species group on earth. One of the very few regions still holding viable, naturally reproducing sturgeon populations, is in the Lower Danube of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. From the former six species in the Lower and Upper Danube now only four are left. WWF is actively addressing major threats to sturgeons:
- Poaching - working with fishing communities on alternative income
- Influencing hydropower, infrastructure and waterway development
- Fighting against pollution, unsustainable dyking, dredging, land use, and alien species
- Strengthening enforcement capacity for fighting illegal caviar trade
- Facilitate stakeholder and network cooperation, engage in the Danube Sturgeon Task Force
Large Carnivores: Bear, Wolf, Lynxes
- WWF advocates for designing rail and road infrastructure in a way that it does not pose an obstacle to large carnivore movement, e.g. by avoiding biodiversity hotspots and designing functioning wildlife bridges and unterpasses.
- It also works towards reducing human-wildlife conflict by helping livestock owners and bee keepers to prevent attacks by wolves, bears and lynxes with the help of fences and dogs.
- WWF has been releasing bison into the forests of the South-Western Carpathians to secure the survival of these mighty animals and to have them play their important role in the natural ecosystem.
- WWF is promoting a phase-out of fossil fuels for example by shifting public finance to renewable energy. It is also advocating for biodiversity safeguards of renewable energy deployment and ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation.
- WWF is a respected and influential observer at the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), which brings 14 countries in the Danube basin together to agree on common approaches to protecting rivers and wetlands and thus implementing the Water Framework Directive, the cornerstone of EU water policy.
- WWF has also observer status at the Carpathian Convention to shape the agenda for sustainable development in the Carpathian Region and strengthen the governance frameworks for our large carnivore and our forest conservation work.
- WWF is supporting the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region – an initiative of the European Commission to foster cooperation and sustainable development within the Danube Region.
- WWF is active in the effort to reduce wildlife crime by working with prosecutors, environmental policy and customs.
- In close coordination with other WWF offices in Europe, WWF-CEE supports the implementation of the European Green Deal, in particular implementation mechanisms of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the Circular economy action plan, and the EU Forest Strategy.
- WWF fights threats to nature stemming from badly designed and placed infrastructure for hydropower generation, inland navigation and flood control by advocating stakeholder involvement models, integrated planning approaches at local, national and EU levels or initiating court cases where needed.
- WWF is promoting nature based climate solutions, e.g. for flood management as alternative to merely building higher, stronger dykes.
- WWF is influencing the way EU funds are being spent in Central and Eastern Europe, as they are among the main drivers for negative developments but can - if spent well - give a boost to nature conservation and sustainable development. This is done through policy work in Brussels and at national level.
- WWF is scoping opportunities to attract private investment in nature.
- WWF is demonstrating in pilot areas that nature is not only good for people but can also be an asset for sustainable development – by identifying green business opportunities and helping entrepreneurs to bring their sustainable products to the markets, such as nature tourism products.