Severin HOHENSINNER / Bernhard LAGER
(University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria)


Outline: identification of natural and human modifications of the Danube river landscape nearby/within a growing urban agglomeration; reconstruction of river morphological changes and compilation of a GIS-database of historical river engineering measures

Abstract: Currently, a research project aims to accomplish the first interdisciplinary environmental history of the Viennese Danube from 1500 A.D. till around 1900 (ENVIEDAN, FWF-No. P22265-G18, project leader: Verena Winiwarter). That includes the reconstruction of historical river engineering measures to better understand the human caused changes of the river landscape. A comprehensive review of historical records (maps, surveys and written sources) provides the basis for the compilation of a GIS-database. The first work step involves the reconstruction (using ArcGIS 10) of the Viennese river landscape for 8 points in time from around 1660 to 2010. In the next step, the 8 resulting GIS-maps are used as a geographical reference for the location of the historically documented river engineering measures. Until now, almost 350 hydraulic structures/measures have been identified. The written records prior to 1550 and the first maps up to the 1660s allow only a rough geographical location of human interventions. Younger maps and surveys also enable to quantify the dimensions of engineering measures. In the GIS-database, for each hydraulic structure/measure the year of construction, type, function, duration of its existence/functioning and citations of the historical records are added as object attributes. In addition, a second GIS-database for historically recorded Danube floods and thereby flood induced damages will be deployed. The databases will provide useful tools for the interdisciplinary discussion and integration of data from various scientific disciplines (environmental history, fluvial morphology, archaeology, geomorphology, …). Until now, first promising findings with respect to the history of river engineering and the evolution of the river landscape in Vienna underline the practical and scientific benefit of the work.

Keywords: environmental history, river morphology, floodplain, river engineering