DRAVA LIFE press conference/Konferencija za medije

Partners introduced results of the completed project activities

First DRAVA LIFE project press conference was held in the Congress Hall of Park Boutique Hotel in Varaždin in order to present the completed project activities and announce the upcoming plans for the next period.

The Drava river is part of the future transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube, and has a great potential for revitalization and renewal. New practices within the DRAVA LIFE project which will change the water regulation and nature preservation of the area have been introduced to the public. Numerous experiences across Europe had shown that revitalization of rivers and their flooded areas is one of the most acceptable ways of improving ecosystems and prevent floods.

The main purpose of DRAVA LIFE project is to improve the ecosystem of the Drava river in Croatia by implementation of various activities for river restoration, establishment of transboundary cooperation, reducing human impact on river birds and generally raising awareness about importance of this area known as „Amazon of Europe“. The purpose of the project is to use DRAVA LIFE project as an example for the best practice of river restoration in Croatia and the Balkan region.

„The total value of DRAVA LIFE project is 4,6 million euros, with 60% of the fund coming from the European Union, which makes it the biggest project funded by the European LIFE program in Croatia. Leading partner in the project are Croatian waters and other partners are NGO Green Osijek, WWF Austria, Public institution for the management of protected areas and Natura 2000 network of Virovitičko-podravska county, Public institution for the management of protected areas of the Koprivničko-križevačka county“ and Public institution for the management of protected areas of the Varaždin county, said coordinator od the project and representative of NGO Green Osijek Jasmin Sadiković.

There are numerous embankements for flood protection built along the Drava river (mostly built in the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies of the last century) providing greater security and floods protection in many populated areas on both sides of the river. Construction of additional river chanels will increase resistance to floods on critical areas of the river.

„The leading partner of the DRAVA LIFE project are Croatian waters with their team of ten people. We are responsible for conducting tehnical activities including designing and preparation of the needed documentation, monitoring, land purchase on two locations and performing the most important activity – revitalization of Drava River on seven different locations. The river revitalization that will be performed at those locations is made up of works on the expansion of the river basin and present side-arms, as well as works on initial channels which will create new river bodies, new side-arms with more water that will start expected erosion“, said Zdenko Kereša project manager and representative of Croatian waters.

The erosion will allow for creation of additional habitats for birds, fish, plants and endangered flora and fauna in general, which will improve biodiversity of Drava river. The whole Drava in Croatia is, because of its natural value, part of the European ecological network Natura 2000, regional park Mura-Drava and the planned Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube. Drava river still has gravel bars and steep river banks, the most endangered river habitats that are home for endangered bird species such as the sand martin and the little tern, whose number countinuously decreases.

„WWF recognized Drava river as a significant nature area 20 years ago. Despite various anthropogenic influences Drava river is still home for many plant and animal species. This year we are especially focused on renewal of those habitats and activities that will contribute to the increase of number of birds and plants. For that reason, WWF and BIOM declared 2018 as the Year of the Tern. Two weeks ago we reintroduced two plant species (German tamarisk and Dwarf cattail) which had vanished from their natural habitats because of human activities“, said Branka Španiček from WWF Adria.

The DRAVA LIFE project area covers a length of 310 km, and includes 4 Natura 2000 sites in an area of 67.800 hectares from Dubrava Križovljanska (rkm 322,8) to Osijek (rkm 15). Except for the part between Osijek to the confluence with the Danube (Kopački Rit Nature Park), the whole length of the Croatian Drava is included in the project. There are three public institutions for managing protected nature areas covering this area.

„Activities of Public Institution in Varaždin county include the production and installation of informative-educational points in areas along the Drava River in the county. Those informative-educational info points along the Drava will increase awareness about the project and affect the local population and visitors. The info points will be installed by the end of this year. Local population, tourists and cyclists on the existing bicycle route Mura-Drava bike trail will have most benefits from this activity“, concluded Alenka Car, representative of the Public institution for management of protected natural values in Varaždin county.

River ecosystems are one of the most vulnerable types of ecosystems in Europe. Freshwater species necrose faster than any other species. As many as 81 percent disappeared in the last 50 years, mainly because of construction of river dams that are interfering with the free flowing rivers. The DRAVA LIFE project tries to restore the ecosystem of one of the last semi-natural rivers in central and eastern Europe – the Drava. The mentioned actions will greatly benefit a numerous of endangered habitats and species in Natura 2000 area. The construction of 22 hydropower plants in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia damages Drava river in great measure and leaves just a small part of the free flowing Drava untouched, the greatest part of it remaining in Croatia.

Workshop Noskovacka Dubrava/Radionica u Noskovačkoj Dubravi
Workshop Noskovacka Dubrava/Radionica u Noskovačkoj Dubravi

DRAVA LIFE workshop for elaboration of visitor guidance plan

Within the Drava LIFE project WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) organized a two-day workshop and field trip in Noskovačka Dubrava, Croatia.The workshop was second in a row of three planned to elaborate a Visitor Guidance Plan for the project area involving four Natura 2000 protected areas in Croatia, that will integrate into the five-country Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. Experts from nature conservation and tourism sector, regional development agencies along the Drava, as well as NGO representatives and project partners of Drava LIFE have attended the workshop held at the Informative and education center The Drava story in Noskovačka Dubrava, Croatia. International experts of the Austrian integrative landscape planning office Revital moderated the workshop together with WWF project partners.

Working group debates on proposed maps/Grupa debatira o predloženim kartama

Working group debates on proposed maps/Grupa debatira o predloženim kartama

The participants (partners and experts) elaborated in separate small groups their view on zonation of the Drava sections in Croatia from Dubrava Križovljanska to the Danube confluence into visitor and nature zones. The zonation was based on outcomes of the first workshop on the same topic in November 2017, during which an inventory and mapping of existing ecological sensitivities and existing recreational and educational uses along the Drava was done. The maps of the first workshop had been digitized and prepared as working material for the current workshop.

On the second day the participants made a guided cycling tour. The tour started at the educational centre at Noskovačka Dubrava, led upstream of the Drava to the swimming area close to the village of Sopje and returned inland through the villages of Sopje and Noskovci. During the tour it was possible to see the existing bike route, recreational areas (including picnic areas, landing stages, huts, etc.) bike stations, etc. and to discuss possible actions, problems of illegal huts as well as planned projects along the route.

Results of this workshop will be further processed and serve for preparation and continuation of the Guidance Plan process later during the year in an upcoming international workshop aimed for finalization of the Plan.

Workshop and field trip in Noskovačka Dubrava, Croatia

Workshop and field trip in Noskovačka Dubrava, Croatia/Radionica i i terenski obilazak rijeke Drave u Noskovačkoj Dubravi

workshop and field trip in Noskovačka Dubrava, Croatia.

Workshop and field trip in Noskovačka Dubrava, Croatia/Radionica i i terenski obilazak rijeke Drave u Noskovačkoj Dubravi

Reintrodukcija riječnih biljaka uz Dravu/Reintroduction of riverine plants within the Drava Life project
Reintrodukcija riječnih biljaka uz Dravu/Reintroduction of riverine plants within the Drava Life project

First reintroduction and repopulation of riverine plants in Croatia

Legrad, Croatia – On Friday March 30, 2018, WWF has implemented the first reintroduction of two extinct riverine plants in Croatia on 3 sites along the Drava River in Koprivnica-Križevci County. This activity was done within the DRAVA LIFE project, funded through the LIFE program of the European Union.

The reintroduction is a process of returning the plant species to the area in nature where those species disappeared, but the conditions for their survival are still remaining. Both the german tamarisk (Myricaria germanica) and the dwarf cattail (Typha minima) are pioneer species that grow on new habitats such as sandbanks and river banks in freshwater ecosystems. Both plants` could be found on this kind of habitats along the Drava river in Croatia until the recent past, but today they are almost extinct from the area due to river regulation activities from the past.

reintrodukcija_kebraa_na_rijeci_dravi_2 Repopulation of German Tamarisk








“Appropriate habitats for these two species on the Drava river are still here, but these species have disappeared from them due to various anthropogenic influences and changes in the morphodynamics of the river. These species are considered to be indicators of the river that has natural hydromorphological dynamics and a shape of the riverbed that changes. Drava river is still one of them”, said Branka Španiček, DRAVA LIFE project officer in WWF Adria.

The german tamarisk and dwarf cattail are considered to be one of the most important indicators of healthy and natural rivers. Human impacts on rivers (e.g. channelization, construction of hydropower plants as well as gravel and sand extraction) alter vital hydro-morphological processes, reduce river gravel dynamics and affect natural floods, all being essential features for these natural ecosystems to develop and persist. Gravel and sand bars as pioneer habitat types have become very rare in Europe and they are among the most endangered ecosystems. Therefore, they are declared as priority habitats within the European Habitat Directive in the European Union.

The german tamarisk until recently could be found on only two sites at the confluence of the Drava and Mura, on two gravel pits and along the drainage channel near the hydropower plant Donja Dubrava. It is a statutorily protected species in Croatia and listed by the IUCN as critically endangered. Only 26 seedlings found in two gravel pits of German tamarisk were repopulated to 3 previously chosen locations near Legrad in Koprivnica-Križevci county.

Sadnja Patuljastog rogoza

Ušće Mure u Dravu








“Unfortunately just few young seedlings with well-developed root system have been found on those locations. Mostly adult plants of German tamarisk were dug out and planted on 3 different locations which are most suitable for their survival. Adult plants are still less susceptible to dryness and mechanical disruption than juvenile plants and therefore can be planted in various microhabitats. This method was chosen because it was verified and proven as the most successful method in the reintroduction of riverine plants in Austria, Germany and Switzerland”, said dr. Dragica Purger, a botanist and expert associate in the DRAVA LIFE project for the plants reintroduction and repopulation activity.

The dwarf cattail is on the European Bern Convention list for the Protection of Wild Species and Natural Habitats. The existence of dwarf cattail in Croatia could not been confirmed, and this species is unfortunately considered to be extinct from the territory of Croatia due to the human activities. Several hundreds of adult plants of dwarf cattail with developed roots system have been reintroducted to sand banks along the Drava river near Legrad as well. The plants were brought from Carinthia in Austria, from the Upper Drava ecosystem. Expert Dr. Gregory Egger has accompanied the removal and safe transport of the plants.

If the action turns out successful, German tamarisks and dwarf cattails will once again become indicators of an intact and healthy free flowing river and their reintroduction aims to directly improve the biodiversity of flora and fauna and the natural values ​​of Drava river’s ecosystem.

The event of reintroduction and repopulation of riverine plants was also supported by Ivan Sabolić, Mayor of Legrad and Marina Mihalec, Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Đelekovec, who both helped plant a mother plant on an island in the Drava. Partners in the Drava life project from Croatian Waters, WWF, Public Institutions for the Management of Protected Areas of Nature in Koprivnica-Križevci County conducted the reintroduction together, with support from local fishermen and Rafting club Zeus.

German tamarisk/Kebrač Patuljasti rogoz/Dwarf cattail

Mala čigra/Little tern

2018 – Year of the Tern

Zagreb, Croatia – Non-governmental organizations WWF Adria and Biom proclaimed 2018 as Year of the Tern. Both organizations, WWF and Biom, will carry out separate project activities in parallel throughout the year to protect terns and raise awareness on the importance of preserving their habitats along the Drava river. Activities within the DRAVA LIFE project WWF is a part of and of the Interreg Project Conserving populations of terns in the Sava and Drava basin BIOM is involved with, include actions for conservation of these birds habitat.

Terns are birds that can be found in almost all parts of the world, on seashores as well as on river banks, except the northern regions covered by eternal ice. Most of them are migratory birds that spend their winters in warmer southern regions. They are social and can be seen in smaller or larger flocks, nesting in colonies or individually on gravel islands, rock cliffs, sandy beaches, riverbeds, wetlands, while some of them also nest on trees. Their aerodynamic body allows them to swiftly dive through the air when hunting.

The little tern (Sternula albifrons) is the smallest species in the family of terns. It measures between 20 and 28 centimeters and weighs about 25 grams. Apart from its size and white head, it can be recognized by its yellow beak and orange legs. The common tern (Sterna hirundo) is larger, sized between 31-35 cm and weighing around 110-150 grams. Unlike little terns, common terns have red feet and a red beak with dark top and no white forehead. Both tern species are migratory birds that spend the winter season in Africa. They feed on fish, crabs, insects and molluscs.

Little terns have become extremely rare in Croatia. “Due to the constant disturbance, disappearance of suitable habitats and regulation of the river in the past, there are only four pairs of little tern left on the Drava river. In order to increase the number of pairs and to educate the local population, six information panels about the little tern were set up last year along the Drava river in Koprivnica-Križevci County. This is probably the only habitat for little terns on Drava in Croatia”, says Branka Španiček, project officer at WWF Adria.

Common tern/Crvenokljuna čigra












The nesting population of common terns is estimated to have 400 to 700 pairs in Croatia. Largest colonies are found on the Rakitje and Ormož lakes. “Measures undertaken on natural watercourses such as extraction of gravel out of the river bed, river bank regulation, construction of dams and hydropower plants, water pollution and various sports and recreation activities represent threats which endanger common terns. These activities endanger the success of their nesting. Terns are very often not able to find an adequate place for nesting in the area they inhabit due to the disturbing factors and large fluctuations of water level. Additional disadvantage is the fact that they are subject to predators such as mammals (rats, foxes and otters) and other birds (gulls and crows). This year Biom will protect a colony of common terns from predators on the lake Ormož for the first time by placing an electric fence“, says Biljana Ječmenica, expert associate for protection of nature at the environmental organization Biom.

Beside the need to protect the last nesting pairs of little and common terns and to prevent disturbance of the birds especially during the nesting season from mid-April to late July it is also necessary to restore river dynamics and to allow rivers to create new gravel and sand banks, the usual nesting habitats for these birds. Both projects therefore focus on jointly addressing these threats for both birds and their habitats.