Newly announced biosphere reserve will span five countries
A recently announced UNESCO biosphere reserve will span five countries, making it the first of its kind in the world.
As the world faces climatic and natural crises, the Mura-Drava-Danube reserve represents a historic step towards a new era for people and nature in Europe as well as an international model of regional conservation, climate resilience and sustainable development.
Stretching across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, the biosphere reserve covers 700 km of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers and a total area of nearly one million hectares in it called “the Amazon of Europe”, which makes it the largest protected riparian area on the continent.
La Mura is one of the three great rivers that make up the new biosphere reserve (Arno Mohl / WWF).
“This historic cross-border designation is a powerful demonstration of a shared green vision that builds and strengthens both regional cooperation and unity in Europe,” said Andrea Johanides, CEO of WWF Austria. “This is an important step forward in protecting the region’s natural and cultural treasures and is a shining example of how protected areas can benefit communities and wildlife – and bring countries together.
With its floodplain forests, gravel and sand banks, islands, backwaters and riparian meadows, the new Mura-Drava-Danube reserve is home to impressive biodiversity and the livelihoods of 900,000 people.
Boasting the highest density of breeding white-tailed eagles in continental Europe, the region is home to critically endangered otters, Eurasian beavers and sturgeons. It is also an important stopover for more than 250,000 migratory birds each year.
“Five countries have agreed to jointly protect one of the most unique river corridors in Europe. These healthy freshwater habitats play an important role in adapting to climate change and their preservation will help the region prepare for change. climate – the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, “said Katalin Sipos, CEO of WWF Hungary.
Common tern nesting on the banks of the Drava River (Goran Šafarek / WWF).
The biosphere reserve represents an important contribution to the European Green Deal as well as to the implementation of the new EU biodiversity strategy. It is also an international demonstration of how the protection of unique natural spaces must be integrated into sustainable development.
“In the face of the climate crisis and the vast extinction of species, it becomes a question of survival to protect our remaining wild areas for the benefit of man and nature,” said Natasha Kalauz, CEO of WWF Adria. “The proclamation by UNESCO of this area as a biosphere reserve is an important step towards a green and sustainable future where there is no room for harmful practices such as new hydroelectric projects or the extraction of sediments. We see this European Amazon as a great example of how people and nature can thrive together. “
Along with the designation of the reserve, other EU co-funded projects for nature and people are already being implemented in the region at a combined cost of around € 20 million, including river restoration , sustainable business practices and enhanced cross-border cooperation. on the conservation and management of the area.
The new biosphere reserve is the result of years of dedicated work by the authorities of the five countries with the considerable support of WWF, the Mava Foundation, the UNESCO committees on man and the biosphere and many local partners of conservation.
“For over 20 years, WWF has invested heavily to better protect the natural values of these rivers and we are very proud of this designation, which will preserve these unique Mura-Drava-Danube rivers for us and future generations. said Arno Mohl, WWF Mura-Drava-Danube program manager and activist for the protection of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers from the start.
“However, it is important to stress that it is only if these rivers are allowed to continue to flow freely and thus can continue to support the unique nature and life of the local communities that depend on them, that the biosphere reserve will truly enter. in history as a model of success, ”added Mohl.