The launch of the “Lebendige Luppe” project in June 2012 signaled the beginning of a promising endeavor for the floodplains of Leipzig and Schkeuditz: the Luppe River’s earlier stream courses will be revitalized and linked to two rivers. In the past, human interventions such as stream and flood control, embankments as well as the drainage of arable land and meadows have caused substantial changes to the wetlands. The construction of the “Neue Luppe” River in the 1930s had particularly negative consequences: former stream courses were destroyed, which deprived the floodplain forest of essential water. As a result, the once regularly flooded riverine landscape has suffered from a marked reduction in ground water and inundation. The habitats are becoming progressively dryer, which poses a threat to the floodplain biodiversity and related ecosystem services.
Sponsorship for this project was made available as part of the “Federal Program for the Biological Diversity”, which was established through the “Federal Agency for Nature Conservation” with money from the “Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety” and additional subsidies from the Conservation Fund of the ‘Saxon Foundation for Nature and Environment”. This funding has provided for the development and conservation of the local floodplains. The purpose of the “Lebendige Luppe” project is to counteract the conditions that have led to a lack of water in the floodplain and to provide these once regularly flooded areas with new and vital lifelines. It is hoped that this work will be a foundation for future, complimentary revitalization projects and measures which will also promote and further the creation of dynamic water systems, typical of floodplains.
In addition to the revitalization of former stream courses, another goal of the project is to spotlight the importance of the floodplain and related eco system services to both people and nature. Healthy, intact floodplains fulfill many important services for the well-being of society, such as mitigation of flood risk, cleaning water by nutrient retention, delivering oxygen or fixating carbon dioxide in productive floodplain forests. Especially in Leipzig, they also enrich the quality of life of the urban population by providing people with an enjoyable place to go for rest, relaxation and recreation.
The idea for the project was inspired by the work of two organizations. On the one hand, there is the “Green Ring of Leipzig”. This cooperative, consisting of 12 communes, has been engaged in revitalizing the former stream courses of the riparian landscape for years and also financed the project’s first planning phases. On the other hand, there is the environmental association NABU (German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) with its department in Saxony, which is responsible for the conservation of oxbow lakes and former loam and gravel pits in the floodplain forest, known as the “Papitzer Lachen”. These water bodies became important habitats for threatened amphibians and will also be protected under the umbrella of the “Living Luppe” project.
The cities of Leipzig and Schkeuditz as well as the NABU Sachsen will implement the plans and work required to create the stream courses. Additional elements of the project, such as public relations and environmental education, are also be done by the NABU Sachsen. Natural scientific monitoring and socio-scientific research are also a part of the project. This research is carried out by scientists from both the University of Leipzig and the “Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research”.
The work and construction planned for the area north of the ‘Neue Luppe’ River was completed at the beginning of 2016. Among other work, a nearly twenty year-old, derelict, water-intake structure along the “Weiße Elster” River was modernized so that needed water could be supplied to the water ponds. Depending on the requirements of the flora and fauna, varying amounts of water pass through the new intake to reach the “Papitzer Lachen” and the surrounding zones of forest and meadows. The planned revitalization of the 16 km long, water course in the area south of the “Neue Luppe” River will take place in several phases. Approval for all phases of the planned construction is being worked out at the moment. The first phase of construction in the ‘Burgaue’ area should be completed by the end of the funded project in 2019.
„Lebendige Luppe“ is the first Saxonian project, which gained sponsorship as part of the “Federal Program for the Biological Diversity”. The “Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety” established this program in 2011 as part of a Coalition Agreement dating back to 2009. The purpose of this program is to sponsor projects, which are intended to achieve the goals of the Federal Strategy on Biological Diversity (www.biologischevielfalt.de).