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 more than 800,000 hectares of highly valuable natural and cultural landscapes from all five countries and shall therefore become a symbol of unity between them: The area shall soon be protected as a Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” (TBR MDD)
Despite numerous man-made changes in the past, this stunning river landscape hosts an amazing biological diversity
and is a hot spot of rare natural habitats such as large floodplain forests, river islands, gravel and sand banks, side branches and oxbows. These habitats are home to the highest density of breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in Continental Europe and other endangered species such as the little tern, black stork, beaver, otter and the nearly extinct ship sturgeon. Every year, more than 250,000 migratory waterfowls use the rivers to rest and to feed.
A coherent network of more than 10 protected areas along the rivers highlight their ecological values including the world famous “Kopački Rit” Nature Park in the Danube-Drava confluence, the “Mura-Drava” Regional Park in Croatia, the “Gornje Podunavlje” Special Nature Reserve in Serbia and the “Danube-Drava” National Park in Hungary as well as Natura 2000 Sites in Slovenia and Austria.
In addition to high levels of biodiversity, the river and floodplain areas are vital to the people
who live there. Local fishermen rely upon the fish populations for their livelihoods. The extensive floodplains lower the risks from floods, secure favorable groundwater conditions and self-purification of water. This is essential for drinking water, forests and agriculture. People also find recreation on the rivers by walking, swimming, fishing or canoeing.
The area’s cultural heritage
is evidence of a vibrant past with various peoples and cultures from east and west. The presence of the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empires are visible in the architecture of many old cities in the region. Croatians, Hungarians, Serbs and even some Austrian, German or Czech offspring can still be found in many villages in the Croatian Baranja or Serbian Vojvodina.