Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube
A treasure trove for nature and culture
Spanning Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia, the lower courses of the Drava and Mura Rivers and related sections of the Danube are among Europe's most ecologically important riverine areas: sometimes called the "Amazon of Europe". The rivers form a 700 kilometers long “green belt” connecting almost 1,000,000 hectares of highly valuable natural and cultural landscapes from all five countries and shall therefore become a symbol of unity by becoming world´s first five country Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” (TBR MDD).
The “Amazon of Europe” under threat
The distinctive natural values of the Mura, Drava and Danube are at risk. Conflicting management practices such as ongoing and planned channeling of the natural river courses, extraction of gravel and sand from the riverbed and new hydropower dams are threatening the ecological integrity, biodiversity values and natural resources of the area. Contrary to EU environmental laws and international standards, river management in Croatia, Hungary and Serbia is still based on outdated
Following the flawed and outdated practices, more projects are planned to regulate unaltered sections of rivers and to remove gravel and sand from riverbeds. These practices, allegedly contributing to navigation and flood protection, are threatening the ecological values and natural resources of the Mura, Drava and Danube area.
River channeling and extraction of sediments have devastating environmental impacts: they lead to deepening of riverbeds, dry out wetlands and floodplain forests, ruin natural river habitats and threaten endangered species. This is evident in the decline of the sand martin along the Drava. The most affected areas are the natural stretches of the Danube and Drava rivers in the border area between Croatia, Hungary and Serbia impacting the core zone of the Biosphere Reserve. Planned hydropower dams threaten the Mura River in Slovenia and the Drava River in Croatia.
A transboundary biosphere reserve for the benefit of nature and people
Preserving the valuable transboundary ecosystem requires wise conservation efforts. The Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve will combine the cluster of thirteen protected areas along the Mura-Drava-Danube region and jointly manage the shared river ecosystem in a sustainable manner while boosting economic growth and development in the region.
The Biosphere Reserve concept defines about 300,000 hectares of core and buffer zones (existing protected area network) and around 700,000 hectares of transition zones. The core zone is the ecological backbone of the reserve. It primarily covers the river and floodplains areas which are mostly situated within flood control dikes.
The goals and measures in the core zone are pre-dominantly focused on the preservation of natural habitats, species and processes as well as the restoration of already degraded areas.
The buffer zone extends along the rivers outside the inundation zone. It is characterized by a mosaic of cultivated land and village areas and also contains some smaller detached zones like oxbow lakes, fish ponds and small wetlands. Extensive agriculture such as cattle grazing, haymaking, organic production, local products marketing and ecotourism are some of the key activities in this area. The outer transition zone provides regional economical and scientific support to the buffer zone.
In order to preserve the Mura-Drava-Danube area, WWF, EuroNatur and their partners and alliances have endeavoured to form a Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” (TBR MDD).