The Volga: Management issues in the largest river basin in Europe

Martin Schletterer, S. Shaporenko, V,V, Kuzovlev, A.E. Minin, H. Middelkoop, K. Górski

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The Volga is the longest river in Europe and 16th longest in the world. The riverine landscape of the Volga is of exceptional scientific and economic importance to Russia; the basin contains approximately 40% of the Russian population and relates to 45% of the country's industrial and agricultural produce. The Volga River drains an area of 1.4 million km2, covering various biomes from taiga to semidesert. Anthropogenic impacts in the 20th century include pollution as well as hydropower production and navigation purposes, incurring a cost for its historically important migratory fish (e.g., sturgeons) and related fisheries. River basin management in Russia, since 2006, is based on the water code that determines federal competencies in water management. Extensive water quality monitoring programmes provide feedback to regional managers. Monitoring of biological parameters is spatially limited and should be extended in order to provide sufficient data for informed management. Some initiatives have been implemented in recent decades in order to restore the ecological health of the river and manage fisheries resources (e.g., restocking programmes and the definition of total allowable catches). As recreational fishing is popular but presently unregulated in Russia, we suggest additional monitoring. Finally, the headwaters and lower river floodplain of the Volga have remained as free‐flowing and relatively undisturbed systems. Because reference conditions with low levels of anthropogenic disturbance cannot be found in Central European lowland rivers, both the headwaters and lower Volga floodplains below Volgograd are of great importance on European level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-519
Number of pages10
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2018


  • fisheries management
  • hydromorphology
  • reference for lowland rivers
  • river navigation
  • Russian water code
  • water quality monitoring


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