The Elbe River and its flood plains are of an extraordinary importance to Central Europe. In contrast with other European rivers, most of the Elbe watercourse and the land adjacent to the river has not been heavily affected by human activities.
In 1993, the ICPER submitted a programme called the Priority Ecological Measures for the Protection and the Improvement of the Elbe River Biotop Structures. This programme lists ecological measures implementable in short period of time. The Ecological Study for the Protection and the Development of Elbe’s Aquatic Structures and Riparian Zones, published in 1994, contains proposals on medium-term and long-term measures to protect and improve conditions for the Elbe River ecosystem communities.
The uniqueness of the Elbe landscape is illustrated in the ICPER publication called The Elbe – the Valuable, Natural Gem of Europe (1995, 2000).
The return of salmon to the Elbe River tributaries is a very gratifying fact. This was achieved by constructing new fish passes. In April 1998, a new fish pass was finished at the Geesthacht weir, the only fish migration barrier on the German stretch of the Elbe River, and, in spring of 2002, the newly finished fish pass at the Střekov lock in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, opened the way for the fish farther upstream. These two projects significantly improved the passability on the Elbe River and, at present time, the fish can migrate 780 km upstream. For sustainable downstream and upstream migration of typical aquatic organisms, it it still necessary to restore the river’s linear passability. This passability and the creation of fish spawning grounds at suitable sites will provide the water bodies with their own dynamics.