Europe's biggest river protected area close to realization | WWF
Europe's biggest river protected area close to realization

Posted on 30 July 2018

Five-country Biosphere Reserve is extended by the Slovenian Mura
During the yearly conference on 25th of July in Palembang, Indonesia, the International Coordinating Council (ICC) of the MAB UNESCO approved 29.000 hectares of valuable floodplain area along the Slovenian Mura as a Biosphere Reserve. This is the next link in the action chain to establish the 5-country Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube”, the “Amazon of Europe”, after Hungary and Croatia (2012) and Serbia (2017) achieving UNESCO designation. Currently, 850.000 hectares of natural and cultural landscape along the rivers Mura, Drava and Danube are protected by UNESCO across four countries.  Soon, the Biosphere Reserve will cross the fifth national border: as a next step, the Austrian Mura between Spielfeld and Bad Radkersburg shall complete the protected area.

"The approval by UNESCO is a big milestone in the international protection of the unique Mura floodplains of the transboundary nature paradise/largest natural river system in central Europe  . It marks a starting point for the sustainable development of the Mura region, where municipalities are actively involved and should benefit economically as well. No to nature destructive projects such as the planned Slovenian Mura power plant at Hrastje Mota - Yes to the commitment of local people for an intact environment! ", comments Arno Mohl, programme leader Mura-Drava-Danube at WWF Austria the decision of the MAB ICC. The Biosphere Reserve is a big recognition for the 13 municipalities along the Mura, the Slovenian Ministry for Environment and the Slovenian Institute for Nature Conservation who have been supporting the process for years.
 
WWF congratulates the involved institutions for their big efforts in making this happen and expresses its continued support and cooperation in the realization of the benefits of the new Biosphere Reserve for nature and people of the region.

The new Mura Biosphere Reserve in Slovenia runs along approximately 100 kilometres of the Mura, reaching from the Austrian-Slovenian border stretch to the Croatian-Hungarian border. The area is also already protected under Natura 2000. This species-rich river landscape hosts Slovenia's largest floodplain forests, where important numbers of Black Stork are breeding. It is also the most important river for fish in the country: migrating species like the Danube salmon and the sterlet are not blocked by dams, but can swim freely to the Danube via the Drava. In 2016, the Slovenian Environment Ministry nominated this valuable natural area as a Biosphere Reserve with UNESCO, which was now approved.

In parallel to the step-by-step completion of the 5-country biosphere reserve designation, concrete projects for nature and people are already being implemented in the area. These value around fourteen million Euro in total and are co-financed by the European Union. The protected area administrations of the Mura-Drava-Danube region have been cooperating since 2017 within the initiative "coop MDD" to jointly elaborate common goals and transboundary nature protection measures. In June this year the "Amazon of Europe - Biketrail" project has started. By 2021 it should be possible for sports- and nature enthusiasts to book cycling tours including excursions to local natural and cultural sights along all three rivers and services such as luggage transport. Additionally river revitalizations are implemented to create new natural habitats and space for people to truly experience the river landscape.
 
Together with partners in all involved countries, WWF has been working for several years towards the establishment of a 5-country Biosphere Reserve along Mura, Drava and Danube, which reaches from Spielfeld in Austria to Bačka Palanka in Serbia. As early as 2011 the Environment Ministers of the five countries Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia signed a declaration and committed themselves to the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. 700 kilometres of river corridor and about one million hectares of floodplains shall be protected in a transboundary effort. Plans for hydropower plants or river regulations, however, contradict those international plans on a regular basis.
Reka Mura, Slovenija
© Aleksander Koren

Related links