Restoring the ‘Amazon of Europe’

The largest restoration project to date in the UNESCO Five-country Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube meanders along the European Green Belt and involves 17 institutions and organizations in 5 countries, including public administrations for nature conservation, water, forest and regional management, as well as universities and NGOs.

Kopački Rit nature park © G. Egger
Wild river landscape of the Mura on the Slovenian-Croatian border section © A. Mohl/WWF

In mid-October 2023, the EU co-funded project LIFE RESTORE for MDD was launched, which aims to restore the UNESCO Five-country Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube (TBR MDD). This area, known as the ‘Amazon of Europe’, covers Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, and are all part of the European Green Belt in Central Europe. With its extensive floodplain forests - the largest in the entire Danube River Basin – the TBR MDD supports Europe's most dense population of breeding white-tailed eagles, the endangered black stork and more than 250,000 migratory birds each year. The floodplains also provide clean drinking water and protect local communities from flooding.

However, these floodplain forests are in a poor state of conservation, mainly due to river straightening, intensive forestry, the spread of invasive species, gene pool depletion and a lack of cross-border cooperation. The LIFE RESTORE for MDD project, led by WWF Austria and involving 17 institutions from all five countries, including public administrations, universities and NGOs, aims to rejuvenate the river ecosystem and its floodplain forests. 

Over five years, the project will restore 29 sites, establish 2,472 hectares of resilient floodplain forests, reconnect 54,230 metres of river branches and distribute 966,000 m³ of sediment to create new gravel and sand banks. These efforts will enhance habitats for rare species, improve forest health and increase resilience to drought.

In line with the EU Nature Restoration Law, this project is an example of international cooperation and reinforces the EU's commitment to reverse biodiversity loss and combat climate change through large-scale restoration.

The LIFE RESTORE for MDD project was launched on 1 October 2023 and will run until 30 September 2028. With a total budget of €20,024,000, this initiative is a joint effort between Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia. It focuses on the conservation and restoration of floodplain forests along the Mura-Drava-Danube rivers. The project covers 17 Natura 2000 sites and other protected areas, totalling 210,000 hectares. Key activities include reconnecting river branches, widening riverbeds and converting poplar plantations into natural floodplain forests, supported by extensive communication, environmental education and ongoing monitoring. Thereby, the project also contributes to the strengthening the green infrastructure and collaborate across borders along the European Green Belt. 


For more information, please contact: 

WWF-Austria, Jasmin Maier: