1. Integrated river (basin) management

Integrated river basin management (IRBM) is an inter-sectoral process of river management that incorporates conservation, as well as the management and use of natural resources (i.e. water, land, fish and other resources) within a river basin. The main goal of IRBM is to maximise the social and economic benefits derived from water resources in an equitable manner, while preserving and restoring freshwater ecosystems.

The 7 key elements of IRBM are:

  • a long-term vision for the river basin agreed on by all the major stakeholders;
  • integration of policies, decisions and costs across sectoral interests, including through poverty reduction strategies;
  • strategic decision-making at the river basin scale;
  • effective timing;
  • active participation of all relevant stakeholders who need to be well-informed about all decisions regarding the planning of management decisions and activities
  • adequate investments by governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations;
  • a solid foundation of knowledge of the river basin and the natural and socio-economic influences.

For more information visit: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/rivers/irbm/

2. River restoration

River restoration refers to a large variety of ecological, physical, spatial and management measures and practices. These are aimed at restoring the river system’s natural state and function to support biodiversity, recreation, flood management and landscape development.

By restoring natural conditions, river restoration improves the resilience of river systems and provides the framework for their sustainable, multifunctional use. River restoration is an integral part of sustainable water management, as well as IRBM and it directly supports the goals of the Water Framework Directive, Flood Directive, as well as national and regional water management policies.

River restoration involves a wide range of stakeholders, ranging from the public and private sector to policy makers, practitioners, scientists and non-government organisations, as well as to all citizens groups that are potentially impacted. Active participation of various stakeholders and their involvement in the process increases their support for restoration efforts.

For more information visit: http://www.ecrr.org/RiverRestoration/Whatisriverrestoration/tabid/2614/Default.aspx

3. LIFE programme

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, the updating and the development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with European added value.

The LIFE programme began in 1992 and to date there have been four complete phases of the programme (LIFE I: 1992-1995, LIFE II: 1996-1999, LIFE III: 2000-2006 and LIFE+: 2007-2013). During this period, LIFE has co-financed some 3954 projects across the EU, contributing approximately €3.1 billion to the protection of the environment.

The European Commission (DG Environment and DG Climate Action) manages the LIFE programme. The Commission has delegated the implementation of many components of the LIFE programme to the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).

For more information visit: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/about/index.htm#life2014

4. NATURA 2000

NATURA 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world that covers more than 18 % of the EU’s land area and almost 6 % of its marine territory. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under both, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

It represents a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. It stretches across all 28 EU countries, both on land and at sea.

Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves from which all human activities are excluded. While it includes strictly protected nature reserves, most of the land remains privately owned. The approach to conservation and sustainable use of the Natura 2000 areas is much wider, largely centred around people working with nature rather than against it. Member States are responsible to ensure that the sites are managed in a sustainable manner, both ecologically and economically.

Natura 2000 in Croatia covers more than 52% of the territory (land and marine territory). It consists of 781 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 38 Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

For more information visit: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/index_en.htm


5. Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube

The Drava River is the central part of one of Europe´s largest and best preserved riverine ecosystems, known as the “Amazon of Europe”. The proposed 5-country Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” connects the free flowing stretches of the Drava and Mura with the extensive river and floodplains areas of the Danube. Together, the rivers form an approx. 700 km, free-flowing and about 1300 km² long river system that stretches across five countries: Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia. This river system is currently the focus of one the largest river conservation initiatives in Europe.

In 2011, the ministers responsible for environment and nature protection of Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia agreed on the establishment of the Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” (TBR MDD). In 2012, the UNESCO MAB Committee in Paris officially approved the Croatian-Hungarian part of the TBR MDD. These 630,000 ha cover some 60% of the future 5-country area.

Biosphere reserves are internationally recognized by UNESCO, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states they are located in. The establishment of biosphere reserves started with the UNESCO “Man and the Biosphere” (MAB) Programme in 1970. Currently, there are 621 biosphere reserves in 117 countries, only twelve are bilateral and one is trilateral.

Biosphere reserves fulfil three main functions:

  • maintaining ecosystems;
  • developing the region in socio-economic and ecologically sustainable terms;
  • encouraging education, research and environmental monitoring.

Once established, the 5-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube” will:

  • include a coherent network of 13 protected areas along the rivers, including the world famous Nature Park Kopački rit;
  • become Europe’s largest riverine protected area and the world’s first penta-lateral UNESCO Biosphere Reserve;
  • represent an innovative cross-sector cooperation and harmonised sustainable regional development that also supports cross-border reconciliation (WWF, 2010).

For more information visit: http://www.amazon-of-europe.com/en/biosphere-reserve/


6. Drava river birds

Most river birds, which depend on highly dynamic habitats (e.g. steep banks, gravel and sand banks) along the Drava and adjacent river stretches of Mura and Danube, are critically endangered. There are only 2-3 colonies of little terns (Sterna albifrons) and common terns (Sterna hirundo) left along the Drava. In the last 30 years, there has also been a considerable decline of sand martins (Riparia riparia), i.e. their population has fallen from approximately 30.000 breeding pairs in the 1980s to only 2000-3000 breeding pairs today. Therefore, a species protection plan is urgently needed. Within the DRAVA LIFE project, an action plan for the protection of endangered river birds will be developed.

  • The action plan will especially emphasise the importance and measures to preserve little terns (Sterna albifrons) and common terns (Sterna hirundo). The project area between Donja Dubrava (rkm 240) and Ferdinandovac (rkm 185) is the only breeding area of the little tern along the Drava and, next to the Sava, in overall continental Croatia. It regularly nests together with common terns. The habitats of these two bird species declined by more than 90% over the last 100 years. Amongst the main causes for this development are river bed deepening and river regulation, as well as human disturbances (e.g. angling and canoeing) which threaten the last tern colonies.
  • Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

The Drava hosts 77% of the whole breeding population of the common sandpiper in Croatia. The sandpiper breeds, feeds and rests along the river banks and floodplain waters, but due to the degradation of side-arm systems and dynamic habitats on the main river, the species and its whole population is threatened in the long run.

  • Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

There are only about 50 kingfisher breeding pairs along the Drava River. The population considerably declined over the last decades due to the loss of steep banks over the last 100 years (approx. 80% of this habitat has been lost).

  • Sand martin (Riparia riparia)

The sand martin is a common bird on the Drava which breeds in steep sandy natural banks which are in a continuous process of erosion. It is estimated that there were some 30.000 breeding pairs on the Drava in the 1980s, but that number decreased to merely 3.000 to 4.000 pairs in recent years. The key reason for this decline is the loss of suitable steep banks due to river regulation and the building of bank revetments.

During the project period, the implementation of several restoration measures will not only have a positive impact on above mentioned river bird species, but they will also improve habitat conditions for several other bird species like the little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius), the bee-eater (Merops apiaster) and other species.

7. Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being. They directly or indirectly support our survival and quality of life.

There are four types of ecosystem services:

  • provisioning services are products obtained from ecosystems such as food, fresh water, wood, fibre, genetic resources and medicines
  • regulating services are benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes such as climate regulation, natural hazard regulation, water purification and waste management, pollination or pest control
  • habitat services highlight the importance of ecosystems to provide habitats for migratory species and to maintain the viability of gene-pools
  • cultural services include non-material benefits that people obtain from ecosystems such as spiritual enrichment, intellectual development, recreation and aesthetic values.

For more information visit: http://biodiversity.europa.eu/topics/ecosystem-services

8. Awareness raising activities within the DRAVA LIFE project

 “An educated public can be one of the most powerful weapons in the world’s battle against harm to the environment. The ways that the public can assist in enforcement efforts are as numerous as the potential approaches for increasing public awareness” (UNEP, Public Environmental Awareness and Education).

In order to engage and educate a wider public on river restoration, endangered species and NATURA 2000, DRAVA LIFE project partners will produce and organise several awareness raising and communication activities:

  • A series of short videos and longer video documentaries, highlighting the main issues related to the Drava and the project will be presented to the public.
  • Project partners will organise several guided excursions for different target groups (pupils and students, interested citizens, county officials, associations, universities, national and international experts) to the project areas.
  • “River experience days” with guided tours to the project areas will allow a wide range of people to participate in some of the project activities, such as planting German tamarisks.
  • A travelling exhibition on the project’s main topics will be presented along the Drava River corridor, as well as at various events within the project region. “Schools in Nature Programme” toolkits will be developed to create new educational programmes. The programme will use primary school methodology and will focus on NATURA 2000 habitats and species along the Drava River.
  • Establish network of educational points along the Mura-Drava bike trail in Varaždin County.
  • Drava Water School – new visitor centre for children where they can learn about the Drava River, its hydro-morphology and endangered species living along the Drava.
  • Educational path and educational “corner” in Legrad and Noskovačka Dubrava (Informative Educational Centre).

In addition, training for specialized eco-tourism guides (Riverwatch network of NGOs, tourist guides, tourist organizations, and tourist agencies) will be organized on the restoration sites. The goal is to secure an environmentally sustainable use of NATURA 2000 and the project restoration sites.

In 2020, when the project ends, an International Drava Symposium “Drava River Action” for all Drava basin states (Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia) will be organised. It will reflect on the achievements in the last decade, the 10 objectives which have been agreed on at the first international Drava conference “Drava River Vision” in Maribor 2008. Back then, the needs and next joint steps for the sustainable management of the Drava river basin were defined. The conference’s aim is to strengthen the transboundary cooperation and promote concrete joint actions for the Drava as a model for integrated river management.