With the world facing climate and nature crises, UNESCO’s designation of the Mura-Drava-Danube as the world’s first ‘5-country biosphere reserve’ represents a historic step towards a new era for people and nature in Europe as well as an international model for regional conservation, climate resilience, and sustainable development.
Stretching across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia, the biosphere reserve covers 700km of the Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers and a total area of almost 1 million hectares in the so-called ‘Amazon of Europe’ – making it the largest riverine protected area on the continent. With its rare floodplain forests, gravel and sandbanks, islands, oxbows, and riverine meadows, the new Mura-Drava-Danube reserve sustains extraordinary biodiversity as well as the livelihoods of 900,000 people.
Boasting continental Europe’s highest density of breeding white-tailed eagles, the region is home to otters, beavers, and critically endangered sturgeons. It is also an important stopover site for more than 250,000 migratory birds every year.
The biosphere reserve’s spectacular, pristine landscapes also lure increasing numbers of visitors to this Amazon of Europe, highlighting the potential for the development of sustainable nature-based tourism. Meanwhile, its intact floodplains ensure clean drinking water supplies and help protect communities from floods – an increasing concern in the era of climate change.
The biosphere reserve represents an important contribution to the European Green Deal as well as contributing to the implementation of the EU’s new biodiversity strategy. It is also an international demonstration of how the protection of unique natural areas must be integrated with sustainable development.