UNESCO has designated a 4,876-square-mile area around the Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers the first biosphere reserve to span five countries. 

Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, and Slovenia have been campaigning for recognition of a biosphere reserve – dubbed the “Amazon of Europe” – for years. Europe has degraded up to 90% of its flood plains, according to river experts at the World Wildlife Fund. The reserve’s status will help efforts to restore Mura, Drava, and Danube flood plains, and ensure the well-being of the region’s forests, riverbanks, and backwaters. While the reserve includes towns and agricultural development, it also houses several important species, including the continent’s densest population of breeding white-tailed eagles.

“The five countries involved prove that nature conservation can overcome country borders for the benefit of everyone,” said WWF project coordinator Arno Mohl. “In the context of the current climate crisis and massive species extinction, protecting the last natural areas has become a matter of our survival.”