Region

Into nature

Rivers form the landscape and provide the region’s green backbone. The Danube connects the two urban centers of Vienna and Bratislava, while the river March marks the border between Austria and Slovakia. Along the river banks, the landscape is characterized by alluvial woodlands and meadows. These areas offer enormous biodiversity.

Compared to their former size, these natural territories have shrunk considerably. The interests of agriculture, forestry, flood protection, hunting, fishery and the growth of the metropolitan areas are pitted against the concern for the protection of these natural and cultural landscapes. The reconciliation of these interests lies at the very core of conserving nature successfully.

The Morava-Thaya wetlands form part of the Natura 2000 nature protection areas, the region’s inclusion in the Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetland areas setting an important precedent. A trilateral Ramsar platform between Slovakia, Austria, and the Czech Republic has become a firm institution promoting exchange between ministries, conservation and water authorities, as well as public sector initiatives. As a result of this communication, important project ideas and partnerships have developed.

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Part of the Ramsar SK-AT Project was to develop a joint management strategy in compliance with the “wise-use” principle, that is, use of valuable wetland areas with an eye to the future. In order to guarantee sustainable success it is not only essential that expert dialogue continues, but also that neighboring communities understand and promote the reasons behind the shift in nature management. Various pilot projects have contributed to improving our understanding of relationships in nature as well as the important role people play in the protection of valuable natural habitats. Both residents and visitors are highly recommended to take part in a guided tour of the area – dates and further information can be found online.

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Ramsar EcoNaTour promotes the same cause. By opening the region to gentle tourism, local inhabitants will also profit from conservation. Besides riparian landscapes and wet meadows, very special dry habitats characterized by sand dunes can be found along the Morava River. Information concerning these landscapes will be available as of 2015 in a windmill pertaining to the Lassee community in Marchfeld. 

The Storchenhaus (storks’ house) in Marchegg is already open to visitors: Adorned by the romantic Marchegg castle, the Storchenhaus is close to WWF’s stork reserve and houses over 300 breeding pairs. This center is a rich source of information and offers visitors the opportunity to take part in excursions around the area. 

Further north along the Morava River, in the village of Malé Leváre, an educational nature trail is being developed; information on the natural habitats’ characteristic features will be provided in two languages.

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Further north along the Morava River, in the village of Malé Leváre, an educational nature trail is being developed; information on the natural habitats’ characteristic features will be provided in two languages.

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The course of the river Morava has been greatly altered by humans. In particular during the years 1936 to 1964, the river meanders were regulated via channelization and a large percentage of today’s dams were constructed. This form of river engineering was mainly meant to provide protection from floods as well as a clearly defined borderline and resulted in a considerable modification of the river’s dynamics and its adjacent habitats. The project MoRe tackles the planned renaturation of a 15 km segment of the river between the confluence of the Morava and the Thaya (69 km) and the town of Sierndorf/March or Malé Leváre.

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Human impact on nature also makes life hard for the wetland’s bird population. In the Danube-Morava-Thaya area, raptors, storks and owls have thus become vulnerable species. In the CORO-SKAT project, the associations Birdlife Austria, Raptor Protection Slovakia and the Auring bird tagging station conduct bird population surveys as well as protection and rescue operations. A booklet provides valuable information on these cute yet majestic creatures. The project Website documents where tagged imperial eagles get to and what happens to them.

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However, a visit to the site can also be very informative. The Auring bird ringing station in Hohenau is a must-see for any bird enthusiast. The birds are tagged and recorded in a database to provide a better understanding of their migratory paths.

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Preserving biodiversity takes more than just isolated protection areas: densely populated regions, traffic routes and intensively used agricultural areas form obstacles to migrating animals that are insurmountable or at least extremely difficult to overcome. A large-scale network of green corridors is necessary to allow for these natural migration paths and thus contribute to the preservation of species.

The project AKK (Alpine-Carpathian-Corridor) is a cooperation of universities, nature protection agencies, motorway companies, NGOs and UNEP Vienna. It maps the basic information–especially the bottlenecks–for ideally located wildlife crossings over the highways A4 in Austria and D2 in Slovakia and makes proposals for a reduction in land use at critical traffic spots.

The Slovak and Austrian project partners' willingness to improve such a corridor network was expressed in the form of a joint statement, while the first concrete steps were taken to implement it: Two wildlife crossings have already been constructed, one of them across the S4 close to Pöttsching and the other one across the A4 close to Arbesthal. A third crossing is currently being built at Müllendorf across the A3 highway. Further steps are summarized in the corridor’s action plan.

In the course of the Bicycle route AKK the project was introduced in an entertaining way and in a brisk pace.

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When returning to Vienna from the regional cycling experience, around the outskirts of the Lobau region, it becomes clear how close the big city really is to the Danubian riparian woods. As one enters the city, the transition from natural habitats to settlement areas is very subtle. The same applies for the Bratislava city forests. Urban areas are often subjected to many demands. These include development projects directed towards city expansion, the desire to have green areas close to settlements, and the protection of valuable natural habitats. UrbANNAtur’s activities are directed at this type of big-city situation. The planning and implementation of these transition areas have become a focus of pilot projects conducted by Bratislava (Mestské lesy v Bratislave) and Vienna (MA 49 – Forstamt und Landwirtschaftsbetrieb). Multilingual information on these areas provides an ecological background for any visitor interested in their recreational use in harmony with nature.

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