Danube, Drava, and Mura Rivers: The “Amazon of Europe”
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: the so-called “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 the world’s first five country Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” (TBR MDD) as well as Europe’s largest river protected area.
Despite numerous man-made changes in the past, this stunning river landscape hosts an amazing biological diversity and is a hotspot of rare natural species and habitats. A coherent network of 12 major protected areas along the rivers highlight their ecological values.
On March 2011, WWF brokered a commitment by the Ministers responsible for environment and nature conservation of Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia to jointly establish the reserve. Whereas UNESCO officially approved the Croatian-Hungarian part of the Biosphere Reserve, Serbia, Austria and Slovenia are still in the designation process.
Despite outstanding natural features and protection status the Mura-Drava-Danube area is suffering from an ongoing degradation. A century of river channelling, the construction of dikes, the extraction of gravel and sand, as well as the construction of hydropower plants led to a loss of up to 80% of the former floodplain areas and the alteration of about 1,100 km of natural river banks and associated stretches. The situation can only improve if the characteristic natural conditions are restored. A potential study, conducted by WWF, shows that about 650 km of river banks and 120 side arms could be restored as well as 165,000 ha of new floodplains created. A series of EU Life funded restoration projects have already been implemented or are are under implementation.
KeywordsMura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve TBR MDD Amazon of Europe River restoration
- Mohl A. Conserving the Amazon of Europe: Mura-Drava Danube Rivers at a crossroad between protection and destruction. Vienna: WWF and Euronatur Foundation; 2014.Google Scholar
- Schwarz U, Mohl A. Lifeline Drava-Mura 2009–2020. A plan for conserving and restoring the Drava and Mura Rivers for nature and People. Vienna: WWF and Euronatur Foundation; 2009.Google Scholar
- Tucker GM, Kettunen M, McConville AJ, Cottee-Jones E. Valuing and conserving ecosystem services: a scoping case study in the Danube basin. Report prepared for WWF. London: Institute for European Environmental Policy; 2010.Google Scholar
- WWF. Assessment of the River and floodplain restoration potential in the transboundary UNESCO biosphere reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube”. Vienna: WWF; 2013.Google Scholar
- WWF/EuroNatur. “Amazon of Europe” Bike Trail; From the Alps to the Pannonian plain along the largest natural river system in Central Europe. Vienna; Implementation concept: 2016. http://www.amazon-of-europe.com/en/aoe-bike-trail/