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New 2019 Unesco Heritage Biospheres - Lower Mura Valley Biosphere Reserve, Austria

Located in the southeast of Austria and bordering the Slovenian Mura River Biosphere Reserve, the Unteres Murtal Biosphere Reserves encompasses 13,000 ha. The area is of natural-historical and cross-border importance due to its location along the border with Slovenia and its participation in the European Green Belt. Next to the Danube floodplains, the area is Austria’s second largest alluvial forest on a large river. The river landscapes and the accompanying floodplain forests are not yet represented among the ecosystem types in Austria’s biosphere reserves.

Ecological Characteristics

The natural area is known as the "Lower Mura Valley" and is part of the southeastern foreland of the province of Styria. A characteristic feature of the region is the former strong volcanic activity. This volcanism, which is part of a volcanic arc stretching from Slovenia to the Carpathian Arc, is attributed to two temporally, chemically and genetically different periods and is traced back to subsurface expansion tectonics. In the Styrian volcanic region, rock deposits from the last 16 million years are accessible.

The Mura river forms the border with Slovenia over a length of approx. 40 km and shapes the landscape together with the adjoining floodplain forests. In interaction between the different abiotic and biotic factors it forms a mosaic of different and valuable land use patterns and habitats. While waterbased sites such as alluvial forests, swamps, ponds and wet meadows can be found mainly along the Mur and its tributaries, agricultural and forestry areas and settlements characterise the more favourable sites for human use. 

The area is characterized by a high biodiversity, especially with regard to water-bound fauna and flora. The reserve is home to almost 50 fish species, 14 of which are of European importance, and a large number of amphibians and bird species, many of which are also of European importance and can often be found on the IUCN Red List. Some of the animals to be found include the otter (Lutra lutra), Danube salmon (Hucho hucho) and kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).

Socio-Economic Characteristics

The municipalities of the biosphere reserve – Murfeld, Mureck, Halbenrain and Bad Radkersburg – have a combined population of 10,099 (as of 2018, Statistics Austria). The majority of the inhabitants live in the larger settlement areas such as Mureck or Bad Radkersburg.

In addition to the agricultural and craft sectors, nature and health tourism are particularly well developed. Numerous facilities and offers combine the strengths of the area with the needs of those seeking recreation. The majority of the population is German-speaking and belongs to the Roman Catholic religious community.


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