Austria names Upper Drava River as Ramsar Site

Austria names Upper Drava River as Ramsar Site

10 July 2014
Austria

Austria has designated as a Ramsar Site the Upper Drava River (Obere Drau; 1,029 ha; 46°45‘N 13°17’E). According to the summary of the Ramsar Information Sheet finalized by the Secretariat’s Laura Máiz-Tomé, the Site is the last free-flowing stretch (of around 68 km) of the inner Alpine mountain river Drau (Drava in English) and its neighbouring alluvial area in the Carinthia region. The river flows in a landscape characterized by Austria’s largest alluvial forest of grey alder (Alnus incana), with permanent freshwater wetlands alongside seasonally flooded agricultural land.

The Site supports threatened species of waterbirds such as the little bittern (Ixobrychis minutus) and the ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and endangered species of amphibians and mammals including bats and the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), which are important to the biological diversity of the Alpine biogeographic region. The permanent freshwater marshes are also an important spawning and feeding ground for several fish species such as spined loach (Cobitis taenia) and different species of crayfish.

The alluvial lands play an important role in water retention and flood mitigation. Human activities include agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing, and recreational activities such as biking, hiking, canoeing and camping. In the past, various ecologically important habitats were lost due to modifications in the river course accompanied by draining to reduce floods and create areas for settlement and intensive agriculture. More recently, however, two EU-LIFE conservation projects and several habitat-improving measures have been implemented, and the Site once again supports regionally extinct species such as the German tamarisk (Myricaria germanica), the dwarf bulrush (Typha minima) and the Ukrainian brook lamprey (Eudontomyzon mariae).