5-country biosphere reserve

Trans-boundary protection of Danube, Drava and Mura

When the Iron Curtain disappeared EuroNatur was quick to take the initiative and started ambitious projects to save the unique Drava river landscape. In May of 1993 EuroNatur organised  the first international nature conservation conference on the future of the Drava. It took place in Kaposovar and politicians and nature conservation experts from Croatia, Austria, Serbia, Slovenia and Hungary took part. The goal was to preserve river reaches of the Drava with its tributary Mura which were still largely in their natural state. It was at this conference that the idea of a biosphere reserve across national borders was born.

To use and to protect
Biosphere reserves are designated by UNESCO and combine strictly protected elements of  natural landscape with natural-and-cultural landscapes which have been moulded through centuries of human habitation and use. With its precious natural resources and in view of the extent to which this large area has kept its traditional, natural and cultural landscape the region along the Drava and Mura rivers down to the confluence with the Danube fully qualifies for the designation biosphere reserve.

In collaboration with many other national and local nature conservation organisations EuroNatur  has been working for many years now for the establishment of a Danube-Drava-Mura trans-boundary biosphere reserve. With huge buffer zones included, the total area is to cover 630 000 hectares or 2432 square miles.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partners undertaking?

  • Since 1990 EuroNatur and its partner organisations, based along the river-ecosystem of the Drava and Mura, have been fighting to gain protected status for the ecologically most valuable areas.
  • In 1999 EuroNatur submitted the application for the Danube-Drava-Mura Biosphere Reserve to UNESCO and published the first map of the future protected area.                                           
  • Together with the WWF, EuroNatur published the Study ”Lifeline Drava-Mura 2009-2020”. It describes  strategies and measures for the renaturation of the river landscape (with the goal of restoring it to its original state.)  
  • Again in cooperation with WWF, EuroNatur has produced an overview map to be the basis for further negotiations on designations of protected areas and on the establishment of the trans-boundary biosphere reserve.
  • EuroNatur and its partners pursue intensive lobbying and public relations work for the project. There is much explaining and persuading to be done. The idea of establishing a biosphere reserve needs to be whole-heartedly adopted by political decision makers and also by the local population.  


What we have been able to achieve so far – a selection of important successes

  • In the spring of 2006 Croatia designated gravel, sand and mud banks of rivers as biotopes to be protected – following EU law. And in addition the removal of gravel and sand from natural rivers, wetlands and islands was banned.
  • In Austria, Slovenia and Hungary the areas of the potential Danube-Drava-Mura biosphere reserve have in the meantime been designated a Natura 2000 area.  In Serbia protected areas cover the important reaches of the Danube.
  • At the beginning of 2008, the Croatian Ministry of Culture placed the Croatian sections of the river landscape of Danube, Drava and Mura under provisional protection as a regional park covering roughly 145 00 hectares or 56 square miles. Taking this step is a key element  in the process of establishing the trans-boundary biosphere reserve.
  • In September 2009 the Prime Ministers of Hungary and Croatia signed a joint declaration of intent to create a trans-boundary Danube-Drava-Mura biosphere reserve. The new wetland area protected in Hungary and Croatia is huge, covering 400 000 hectares or 1544 square miles: compared with the other areas to be protected this represents much the largest single piece of the total area planned for the 5-Country-Biosphere-Reserve planned. (See Map, pdf-file 378 Kb)  
  • On 25th March 2011 The Environment Ministers of Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding : this commits the partners to the goal of creating  the world's first UNESCO biosphere reserve, an ecosystem that extends across the borders of five different countries.
  • Finally, on 11th July 2012, UNESCO officially recognized the Croatian-Hungarian part of the 5-country-biosphere reserve on Mura, Drava and Danube. With these valuable reaches of the unique river and wetland landscape between Hungary and Croatia now under protection, the recognition of largest part of the projected 5-country-Biosphere-Reserve is achieved.

Partners: WWF Austria, Drava Liga, Croatian Association for Bird and Nature Protection, DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia)

Sponsors: individual sponsors, MAVA Foundation

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Study ”Lifeline Drava-Mura 2009-2020”

Download (6 MB)

Map "Transboundary river system of the Mura, Drava and Danube"

Download (378 KB)

Press release 28. March 2011 "Hope for Europe's Amazonas?"

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