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MUR - River management of the central (inner) river Mur

LIFE03 NAT/A/000011

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Reinhold TURK
Tel: +43 316 8772031

Project description:


Located in the Alpine part of the Mur river valley, the LIFE project area covers typical river floodplain habitats, such as running and standing water, inland marshes, wet grassland and floodplain forests. Around 75% of the river flowing through the project area can be classified as ‘typical riverine landscape’ and holds strong ecological value in Austria.

However, due to river engineering measures (such as flood protection) and intensified farming around the river banks (including silage grassland production systems), parts of the river system show an obvious loss of structure. In such places, natural river dynamics are limited and only narrow strips of riparian vegetation connect the remaining floodplain forest complexes. Continuation of such habitat degration is considered to threaten the ecoloigucal vale of surviving riverine habitats.


The overall objective of this LIFE project was to maintain, improve and regenerate the characteristic river landscape of the Upper River Mur in the long term ,as a prerequisite for maintaining rare and endangered species of fauna and flora. Obstacles to migrating fish, in particular the Danube salmon (Hucho hucho) and the bullhead (Cottus gobio), were to be removed from the river Mur and its tributaries. A fish bypass would be built near Murau and this would allow free fish migration over a river length of more than 90 kilometres.

Engineering work were planned to reinstate and enhance river dynamics, thereby creating characteristic sediment bars, slips, undercut banks and islets. Alluvial forests with alder and ash (priority Annex I habitat), and the Alpine form with Salix eleagnos, would be maintained and regenerated. Furthermore, remnants of typical floodplain water bodies would be re-connected to the river and new pools were proposed for amphibians, like the crested newt and the yellow-bellied toad.

The project was designed to be implemented by an innovative partnership between regional water and conservation authorities, a municipality, local angling bodies and landowners.


The project was able to achieve nearly all of its objectives. Former river features, such as side arm meanders, have been re-connected to the River Mur over a total length of 4.6 km and these provide important new spawning and wintering grounds for endangered fish species, such as the Danube salmon. Habitats for amphibians have been restored by creating new ponds, artificial bank protections have been partially removed on a length of 4.7 km and the hydro power plant at Murau is now fish passable. Some 20.8 ha of alluvial forest have been protected and allochthonous trees were removed on 6.6 ha to foster the development of autochthonous forests.

It was not possible to finalise in full the river restoration measures planned at the Gestütthof site, nor the monitoring of the water course connection but additional habitat enhancement work was possible at the mouth of the Lobwingbach tributary. Here, river obstacles were removed and the water course is now passable by migratory fish species, which spawn in the upper parts of the brook.

An active and successful public awareness campaign included providing boat tours of the works for local landowners and other stakeholders to explain the LIFE project activities and gain support for the conservation measures. Other information events including school projects that involved high-ranking national and regional politicians.

This project is a good example to demonstrate the new “river policy” in Austria that adopts ‘river restoration’ approaches, rather than ‘river engineering’ techniques. Such methodologies and policy principles fit well with European Water Framework Directive and the beneficiary and participates applying similar holistic methods during future river management works.

An important policy issue that was highlighted by the project is the need to reconcile key needs for nature conservation with demands for renewable energy generation from small hydro power plants.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report(see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Freshwater
Water - River basin management
Biodiversity issues - Ecological coherence


animal corridor‚  aquatic ecosystem‚  environmental impact of agriculture‚  forest ecosystem‚  freshwater ecosystem‚  grassland ecosystem‚  landscape conservation policy‚  reforestation‚  renaturation‚  wetlands ecosystem‚  site rehabilitation‚  hydrographic basin‚  integrated management‚  public-private partnership‚  local authority‚  social participation‚  environmental impact assessment‚  forest management‚  land purchase‚  restoration measure‚  water resources management‚  flood protection‚  river management

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
  • COM(95) 189 - "Communication on the judicious use and conservation of wetlands" (12.12.1995)
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" ...

Target species

 Cottus gobio   Hucho hucho   

Target Habitat types

  • 91E0 - "Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)"
  • 3240 - Alpine rivers and their ligneous vegetation with Salix elaeagnos

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Amt der Steiermärkischen Landesregierung- Abteilung 19- 13C Naturschutz
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The beneficiary of this Austrian LIFE project is the regional government of Steiermark.
Partners Murauer Stadtwerke, Austria Fürstlich Schwarzenbergische Familienstiftung, Austria Gemeinschaft der Murfischereiberechtigten Thalheim-Knittelfeld, Austria Fischereiberechtigte Elisabeth von Pezold, Austria Grazer Sportanglerverein, Austria Pranck'sche Forst- und Gutsverwaltung, Austria


Project reference LIFE03 NAT/A/000011
Duration 01-AUG-2003 to 31-JUL -2007
Total budget 2,125,000.00 €
EU contribution 1,062,500.00 €
Project location Steiermark(Österreich)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website (DE)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (DE/EN)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version