The Sava River

The Sava River is the second largest tributary to the Danube River and is of biological significance due to its outstanding biological and landscape diversity. It hosts the largest complex of alluvial floodplain wetlands in the Danube basin and the largest lowland forests. The Sava is a unique example of a river where the floodplains are still intact, supporting both flood alleviation and biodiversity. The total length of the Sava from its source to the Danube is 950 km. The Sava River springs in Slovenia and runs through Croatia for 510 km constituting the border with Slovenia for 2 km, and with Bosnia and Herzegovina for 311 km and discharges into the Danube in Serbia. The most important landscape characteristics are found in the central Sava basin with a mosaic of natural floodplains and cultural landscapes formed by traditional land-use patterns typical to the river valleys of Central Europe in the past. The Sava River is considered by nature conservationists and scientists to be one of the “crown jewels” of European nature and has been selected as a focal region in the Pan European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) of the Council of Europe.

Donors and Partners

The project is financially supported by the LIFE III programme and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The international project applicant responsible for executing the project is the IUCN Regional Office for Europe. Throughout the project, the IUCN and Wageningen International are jointly responsible for project management, while the partner institutions from the Sava countries—the Centre for Ecology and Natural Resources of the Faculty of Science in Sarajevo, the Agricultural Institute of Republic of Srpska, the State Institute for Nature Protection of Croatia, the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia—will provide important expert input to the project through their participation in project working groups and training sessions. Additional expert contribution is provided by the Institute for Nature Conservation of the Republic of Slovenia.

The Project

The Sava LIFE project ended on 31 December 2009.

To secure the integration of the protection of ecological values along the Sava into the management of the Sava River, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Wageningen International, with technical support from Orbicon, have jointly initiated the project Protection of Biodiversity of the Sava River Basin Floodplains to support the Sava Basin countries in identifying, designating and managing biological and landscape diversity along the Sava River and in supporting the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. The proposed project will demonstrate innovative protection and management schemes that seek to combine viable land use practices, biodiversity protection and management, and flood management.


The overall objective of the project is to protect and manage the unique landscape and biodiversity along the Sava River by supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia to: identify, protect and manage floodplain areas of importance for the landscape and biodiversity by applying the criteria of the Birds and Habitats Directives; design a coherent transboundary ecological network of core areas, buffer zones and corridors; introduce land use practices that support the protection of the landscape and biodiversity; and raise awareness on the need to protect and manage the unique landscape and biodiversity along the Sava through transboundary co-operation.

The immediate objectives are to:
•  support transboundary co-operation and agreement between the Sava countries to designate and manage an ecological network of protected areas, buffer zones and corridors for habitat types and species of European importance;
•  protect global significant biodiversity; and
•  support rural development through stimulating sustainable land use practises and rural tourism.