Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube


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 kilometre long "green belt" connecting more than 800,000 hectares of highly valuable natural and cultural landscapes from all five countries, and as such, become a symbol of their unity: the area will soon be protected as the "Mura-Drava-Danube" UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (TBR MDD).
Despite numerous man-made changes in the past, this stunning river landscape hosts amazing biological diversity and is a hot spot of rare natural habitats such as large floodplain forests, river islands, gravel and sand banks, side branches and oxbows. These habitats are home to the highest density of white-tailed eagle breeding pairs in Continental Europe, as well as other endangered species such as the little tern, black stork, beaver, otter and the nearly extinct ship sturgeon. Every year, more than 250,000 migratory waterfowls use the rivers to rest and to feed.
A coherent network of more than 10 protected areas along the rivers highlight their ecological values, including the world famous "Kopački Rit" Nature Park in the Danube-Drava confluence, the "Mura-Drava" Regional Park in Croatia, the "Gornje Podunavlje" Special Nature Reserve in Serbia and the "Danube-Drava" National Park in Hungary, along with Natura 2000 Sites in Slovenia and Austria.
In addition to high degrees of biodiversity, the river and floodplain areas are vital to the people who live there. Local fishermen rely on fish populations for their livelihoods. The extensive floodplains lower flood related risks, guarantee favourable groundwater conditions and the self-purification of water. This is essential for drinking water supplies, forests and agriculture. People also find recreation on the rivers in the form of trekking, swimming, fishing or canoeing.
The area's cultural heritage is evidence of a vibrant past with a mixture of peoples and cultures from East and West. The former presence of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires is evident in the architecture of many old cities in the region. Croatians, Hungarians, Serbs and even some Austrian, German or Czech descendants can still be found in many villages in the Croatian region of Baranja or Vojvodina in Serbia.

Fotó: WWFA 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 Fotó: WWFcontributing 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).

Further Information.


Photos Environmental education in the MecsekForest trips 2015WWF Green Generation volunteer day


Would you like to get the latest news about WWF Hungary's conservation work? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

  • E-mail address:


Please give us your phone number so we can notify you about our latest news, success stories and giveaways.

Follow us on Facebook!