Agriculture Minister Totschnig and BFW Director Mayer outline results of the Austrian Forest Inventory: increase in deciduous and mixed forests and biodiversity.
Vienna (OTS) – “In every good company, inventories are taken regularly. The Federal Forest Research Center has been conducting an inventory of one of our most important resources – the Austrian forest – since 1961. The results for the period 2016 to 2021 are positive despite the challenges of climate change: in the last ten years, Austria’s forest area has increased by six hectares per day – that’s nine times the area of a soccer field,” emphasized Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig at the joint presentation of the results of the Austrian Forest Inventory with Peter Mayer, Head of the Federal Forest Research Center.
Thus, the forest area in Austria continues to increase and amounts to more than four million hectares, which corresponds to 47.9 percent of the national territory. The most forested province is Styria with 62 percent, followed by Carinthia with 61 percent, Salzburg 52 percent and Upper Austria 42 percent. “Our forest areas are increasing, especially in the mountainous regions in western Austria. They are either being afforested or forests are being created naturally. Climate change is causing the forest line to rise, but this is happening very slowly,” BFW head Peter Mayer elaborates.
“In Austria, more wood is growing back than is being used. This is also a good balance and corresponds to the principle of sustainable forest management. At the same time, sustainable use contributes to the goals of the bioeconomy, while dependence on fossil raw materials can be reduced,” says Totschnig. According to the forest inventory, 89 percent of the increment is currently harvested. To ensure that this remains the case, sustainable active management of the forest is enshrined in the Austrian Forest Act. The timber stock continues to increase, reaching a peak of 1.2 billion solid cubic meters of stock in the total forest. One indicator of improved biodiversity in the forest is deadwood, which has increased by 18 percent. As decomposition gradually continues, deadwood serves as ideal nesting, development, feeding or overwintering habitat for a wide range of animals and plants.
At the same time, natural forest inhabitants also influence the forest ecosystem: “Cloven-hoofed game such as deer and elk also feed on young forest trees. However, the population of cloven-hoofed game has been steadily increasing for many decades and is too high for the healthy development of forest regeneration,” Mayer said, pointing out that the existing regeneration on an area of 420,000 hectares of forest is damaged by browsing. Here, a reduction to half of this area is necessary in the next few years to reverse the trend, he said. “This regeneration deficit is a major problem, especially in the protection forest. It requires joint efforts from the hunting side but also from the forestry side to solve this, which is what the Austrian Forestry and Hunting Dialogue is committed to,” Mayer said.
The forest inventory also shows that the trend towards more hardwood continues, thus improving climate fitness and biodiversity in the forest. Conifer pure stands have decreased by six percent over the past decade, and mixed hardwood stands have increased by the same percentage. Hardwood pure stands have also increased significantly (eight percent).
“In order for our forests to continue to be a habitat for plants and animals, a recreational area for us humans and an economic area with thousands of jobs, we must make them climate-proof! With the Austrian Forest Fund, we have implemented the right instrument for this. With 350 million euros, it is the largest support package ever for our forests. With ten measures, we are supporting forest managers in reforestation, bark beetle damage or the establishment of climate-smart forests,” says Totschnig. “It is purposeful for a climate-smart forest to rely on a mixture of hardwood and softwood species. BFW has developed a new, innovative advisory tool for designing a climate-smart forest: the tree species traffic light. It provides information on those tree species that are the best choice for the forest of the future in different climate scenarios in different regions,” explains Peter Mayer.
The forest inventory has been carried out since 1961 and is the largest survey of the Austrian forest. For this purpose, surveys are carried out by experts on more than 11,000 sample areas. State-of-the-art techniques such as satellite and digital aerial photography are used. The results and details of the forest inventory are available on the new website [www.waldinventur.at] (http://www.waldinventur.at/). More information on the Austrian Forest Fund is available at [www.waldfonds.at] (http://www.waldfonds.at/).
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