River ecosystems are extremely threatened in Europe. The Drava in the project area, along with the connected Mura and Danube reaches, is one of Europe's most important examples. The creation of a Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve "Mura-Drava-Danube" in Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Serbia is a central part of Europe's largest river protection initiative.
The LIFE project is the first inter-sectorial cooperation and integrated management initiative focusing on Croatian rivers. It aims to implement EU Directives (e.g. Water Framework, Floods, Birds and Habitats) to solve river ecosystem problems. Its specific aims are to: Increase pristine, dynamic river habitats – Dynamic river habitats (gravel, sand and steep banks) are extremely rare along the Drava, but are key for many habitat types and species; Preserve and create new floodplain waters and improve water level dynamics – Floodplain waters are the most threatened parts of the Drava river ecosystem due to riverbed deepening and disconnection from the main river by bank revetments and groynes. Actions will focus on the ‘re-dynamisation’ of the side-arms to benefit habitats and species; Reduce human disturbance of birds – Visitor guidance to avoid negative impacts of uncontrolled human activities is key for the preservation of typical riverine bird species; Increase awareness of Natura 2000 – Natura 2000 sites have just been established along the Drava and in Croatia, but there’s a lack of awareness, which the project will address, to ensure local support; Introduce inter-sectoral river management cooperation in Croatia; and Increase cross-border cooperation along the Drava.
Expected results: 40.8 ha land acquired for river restoration; 13 ha new dynamic river zone with gravel, sand and muddy banks and succession stages of floodplain forests (91E0*); 1 000 m dynamic river banks restored/preserved; 11.9 km side-arms restored and 2.6 km newly created; 306 ha floodplain forest (91E0*) improved; Increased breeding populations of gravel/sand breeding birds e.g. little tern (Sterna albifrons)and sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos); Reduction of human disturbance of black stork (Ciconia nigra); Establishment of awareness raising instruments: a new information centre, six info points, a nature educational corner, two monitoring towers, Drava rangers, a toolkit, and other information and educational material; Synergies among water management, nature conservation and NGOs visible due to successful restoration actions; International Drava symposium; Three excursions to other LIFE projects abroad; and Three transnational conservation actions.