LiveDrava - Riparian Ecosystem Restoration of the Lower Drava River in Slovenia

National Id
Site name
Lower Drava River, encompassing Natura 2000 site Drava and Ormož Basin Nature Reserve
Even though the natural dynamic of the Drava River was heavily altered after the construction of three hydro-power plants, some natural characteristics of this lowland river were still preserved. Due to large area of Drava River with its river branches, dry grasslands in the middle of a flooded forest, gravel bars, diverse river banks and other natural specificities with some artificial water bodies, such as accumulation lakes, are making this riparian ecosystem home to numerous (Natura 2000) species. Abandoned wastewater basins of Sugar Factory in Ormož (TSO d.d.) were restored as a semi-natural wetland with a constant supply of water which happened to be one of the key wetlands in Slovenia for a safe migration route of waterbirds.
Specificities: Due to 3 hydro-power plants, natural dynamic of Drava River was heavily altered, and in Ormož wastewater basins of a Sugar Factory were abandoned.
Challenges: To preserve and enlarge populations of Natura 2000 species, to improve and restore habitat types with unfavourable conservation status.
Reviewed by
Benoît Fribourg-blanc
The in-depth description of the case study
Location description
Alluvial plain called “Dravska ravan” in NE Slovenia between Maribor and Središče ob Dravi, encompassing Lake Ptuj and Ormož Basin Nature Reserve., SI
Vzhodna Slovenija
RBD code
Data provider
Damijan DENAC, director DOPPS
Climate zone
cool temperate moist
Mean annual rainfall
300 - 600 mm
Mean rainfall
Mean rainfall unit
Case Study Info
Light or indepth?
Average slope range
Monitoring requirements
monitor changes in species abundance and composition
Monitoring impacts effects
Monitoring parameters
Complete monitoring was established in the very beginning for all target species, to be able to quantify the conservation effects.
Different types of bird indicators/specific monitoring were carried out in the project. Monitoring of waterbirds at Lake Ptuj and Lake Ormož was carried out by regular total counts during entire project period in 10-day intervals. Monitoring of all qualifying species for SPA Drava at Ormož Basins NR was carried out using mapping method annually between 2013-2017. Monitoring of the breeding numbers of Common Tern and Black-headed Gull was carried out during two visits (first in April - gulls, second in May - terns) in the managed breeding colonies every year. Monitoring of breeding riverbed birds was done using rubber boat without use of engine. Two to three counts were carried out every year in the riverbed of Drava River between Maribor and Zavrč. For this purpose entire section was divided into 3 sectors. Upon our request Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) issued us a permission (no. 35601-53/2013 – 4, dated 18th Apr 2013) for the performance of ecological study on Little Ringed Plover. In the study, capture-recapture, colour ringing and placing of geolocators was done. Field work was carried out between early April and early August in years 2014, 2015, 2016. In total, 177 nests were found (most in early stage of incubation or during egg-laying) and their fate followed in 4-day intervals until hatching or failure. Beetle monitoring revealed that all together more than 170 beetle taxa were recorded in the area, among them 87 saproxylic. Besides Cucujus cinnaberinus, six additional important nature-conservation species were found in the dry part of the Ormož Basins Nature Reserve. One specie was recorded for the first time for Slovene beetle fauna - Acupalpus interstitialis.
After the abolition of illegal hunting at Lake Ormož, the populations of overwintering waterbirds significantly recovered. In the autumns and winters (Sep-Jan) of 2012/2013-2014/2015, only 2,300-4,300 waterbirds were recorded on the lake on average, whereas in the first season after the hunting abolition (2015/2016), this number rose to 7 300 waterbirds, with the highest numbers in November even exceeding 10,000 individuals.
As a result of island’s management, 118 pairs of Common Tern bred at Lake Ptuj in 2017, which is the largest number in the last 14 years. Black-headed Gull increased even more. In 2017 its population at SPA Drava was 853 breeding pairs – all at the Lake Ptuj on the managed island. Manual creation of breeding walls at the riverbanks significantly helped populations of Sand Martin and Kingfisher. With this management together with side arms restorations 5 new breeding pairs (BP) of Kingfisher was established which is increase of SPA population by 25%. Besides Kingfisher, Sand Martin benefited from the management, too. Efforts yielded an average of 574 BP of Sand Martins (in the 2013-2017 period), which is a threefold increase of the SPA population compared to the long-term average of 194 pairs in the 2000-2012 period.
Removal of woody vegetation from overgrown gravel bars resulted in an average 17 (35%) more breeding pairs of Little Ringed Plover and 6 (15%) of Common Sandpiper. Disturbances like illegal driving at the gravel bars were prevented at 7 sites. Ditches and road barriers were used and informative boards always placed to explain the meaning of the action. That way the disturbances were reduced for the first time ever on the SPA Drava and resulted in 4 (8%) new BP of Little Ringed Plover and 1 (2.5%) of Common Sandpiper.
In Ormož Basin Nature Reserve, during the spring migration, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff were again present after several years of non-appearance, indicating the area started functioning as the stopover site for shorebirds again. Breeding of Ferruginous duck, Garganey and Shoveler is expected in the future. Little Grebe, Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover were already confirmed as breeders. White-tailed Eagle is regularly present at the area. Occurrence of all species is a direct result of the restoration. Water beetles were not directly targeted species for the basins, however monitoring revealed that the basins became the most important site for water beetles in Slovenia, holding at the moment largest number of endangered species! In restored river branch, species Graphoderus billineatus was not confirmed yet, but for the first time in the area the plant species Water Violet Hottonia palustris was found, which is promising for the beetle as it is ecologically connected to this plant species. Quantitative data for the saproxylic beetles cannot be evaluated yet, but both species Hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita) and Cucujus cinnaberinus were found at the project area.
Fish monitoring revealed that the ecological conditions for the fish species improved after the carried out restoration of the three river branches. The Bitterling population became more stable and less vulnerable. The preservation of cut-off channels, side arms and deep sections of the Drava is crucial for the successful conservation of Bitterlings, Spined Loach and Asp. Sampling proved the presence of the majority of expected species, but for the first time at Drava River the Golden Spined Loach (Sabanejewia balcanica) was found. It is listed among Anex II species of Habitat Directive.
The results of the socio-economic study indicate an increase in the social acceptance of project activities, which confirms that communication and educational activities have had a positive effect in the adoption of NATURA 2000 area as an opportunity zone, and was not perceived as an obstacle. The results of all included target groups showed an increased awareness of the term Natura 2000 and an increased knowledge regarding the protected areas. A socio-economic study made at the beginning and at the end of the project proved that the project significantly improved the public's knowledge of the Natura 2000 network, LIVEDRAVA project, Ormož Basins as an important bird area and DOPPS, as well as support to the Ormož Basins NR.

Performance impact estimation method
Edge of Field/Plot
Project scale
Project scale specification
Alluvial plain in lower Drava
Application scale
Field Scale
Installation date
10 years
Design contractual arrangement
Arrangement type Responsibility Role Comments Name
Design consultation activity
Activity stage Key issues Name Comments
Design land use change
Land use change type
Design authority
Authority type Role Responsibility Name Comments
Key lessons
Riparian ecosystem of the Drava River has been degraded in the past, with populations of riparian ecosystem and qualifying Natura 2000 species either decreasing or disappearing. DOPPS have been active in the area ever since the establishment in 1979. Several threats or larger problems contributing to the degradation have been recognized and placed at the centre of our nature conservation actions within the project. During the implementation of the project we attempted to demonstrate the importance of ecosystem services provided to mankind free of charge, too. Project LIVEDRAVA is finished but nature conservation and striving for public welfare along Drava River continue.
Financing mechanism
Financing mechanism type
Financing difficulties
Financing difficulties information
Continuation of the work after end of the Life project.
financing funding solutions
New life project, nature reserve with governemental decree, subsidies, participation from visitors of the site
Many such areas exist along most of EU rivers and could deserve similar management approach to increase local diversity, especially of endangered species.
Guidelines for sustainable water management of Drava River were presented and available to relevant expert audience, and we strongly believe they will serve as model for similar initiatives in Slovenia and throughout the EU. Therefore, we argue that strong added value of the entire project is corroborated through high replication potential of these Guidelines and their orientation towards the implementation of EU policies. Achievement of policy uptake were presented in details at the LIFE conference in Zagreb on 2nd Feb 2018 organized by Ministry of Environment and energy of Croatia under LIFE14 CAP/HR/14 project.
Success factor(s)
Success factor type Success factor role Comments
Financing type Comments
EU-funds: LIFE+
First project was financed by this and follow up projects are or will be.
Barrier type Barrier role Comments
Lacking financing sources
main barrier
conservation of species and renaturation is not a priority, and therefore financing is not easily available.
Driver type Driver role Comments
Financing share
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Policy target
Target purpose
Policy pressure
Pressure directive Relevant pressure
Policy area
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Policy impact
Impact directive Relevant impact
Policy wider plan
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Policy requirement directive
Requirement directive Specification


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