Stretching across Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia and home to 900,000 people, Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve became the first to span five countries in 2021.
Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve reflects the will of its inhabitants to cooperate in the interests of the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. The biosphere reserve provides a tool for harmonized management of Europe’s largest coherent and dynamic river ecosystem. It combines 13 major protected areas along the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers, including 225,000 ha of Natura 2000 sites. This ecosystem has been subjected to different and even conflicting management and land use practices in countries situated on the border where the political systems of East and West once met which are characterized by diverse cultures, languages and pasts.
One of the biosphere reserve’s long-term goals is to manage this vast territory on the basis of good practices and sound experience and knowledge, through stakeholder participation and transboundary cooperation. The aim is to create a model of international cooperation for river basin management, while building bridges between people and nature.
Steps have been taken to preserve the floodplain forest and restore the river to create new natural habitats and recreational areas. Several projects have been initiated to retore natural river dynamics, in particular, by improving connectivity within the ecosystem and involving a range of local, regional, national and international stakeholders in cross-sectoral cooperation. Activities include a transboundary status assessment of the fish population, monitoring of river birds and related data exchange, a projection of the effects of climate change on the territory and an assessment of human-made structures and sediments.
This approach has fostered a broad common understanding of river ecosystems and natural values, along with a high level of scientific and technical cooperation.