Protective forests act as a natural, economical and lastingly effective infrastructure protecting against avalanches, rockfall or mudflows. Moreover, protective forests could prevent erosion, ensure the quality of our drinking water and reduce the risk of floods.
In many parts of Austria permanent settlement and a safe use of infrastructure such as roads or trains are only made possible by the protective function of forests.
What are protective forests?
Almost half of Austria is covered with forests, that are almost 4 million hectares! The forest characterizes our landscape while also fulfilling many functions and requirements for our society. Forests provide us with the valuable resource of timber, they store CO2, provide habitats for many animals, clean the air and filter our water. In mountainous regions forests provide protection against natural hazards.
The forest is more than the sum of its trees as it provides valuable ecosystem services for the society.
Facts and Figures
With mountain areas accounting for two thirds of its national territory, Austria is among the most mountainous countries of Europe. In the alpine landscape protective forests play a significant role as a safeguard for human living and settlement areas. Monitoring, facts and figures describing the condition of forests and their protective function are particularly important for useful and targeted measures.
© BMLRT/Alexander Haiden
Living with natural hazards - how can forests protect us?
Natural events like avalanches, floods and mudflows have always occurred in the Alps and mountainous regions. Human settlements and infrastructure require appropriate behaviour and sustainable measures such as a special forest management, hazard zone planning, and technical measures.
Since 2018 the experience in handling avalanches in Austria and Switzerland has been honored as immaterial UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
Tree species in Protective Forests
Depending on altitude, soil type, nutrient supply or climatic conditions different tree species do grow in a Protective Forest as in any other forest. However, since different requirements are needed depending on the natural hazard, the Protective Forest must contain appropriate tree species - in accordance to the prevalent process. Currently the choice of tree species is particularly challenging in the face of changing climatic conditions.
© Land Tirol
Exchange, dialogue and international network
Joint approaches are required to find effective answers to the challenges in protective forests. The dialogue with local, regional, national and international stakeholders is important to implement measures jointly.
The services that forests provide as well as the challenges are similar across national borders and international, therefore an exchange of knowledge, data or experience are important parts of Austria’s protective forest policy.
Official launch of the publication "The protective functions of forests in a changing climate"
Launched at the 33rd session of the Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds (WPMMW), this publication describes the role and importance of protective forests in over 12 European countries. The "green protective infrastructure" is not only an essential pillar of natural hazard management in Austria or in the Alps, protective forests also serve as a control against erosion as well as against numerous natural hazard processes in other mountainous countries.
more about this topicfilter options
Information on the austrian forest
Almost half of Austria's national territory is covered by forests. Forests offer us recreation, they provide us with the environmentally friendly raw material wood, they protect us from natural hazards such as avalanches, they contribute to climate protection through their CO2 storage and they produce the purest spring water through their filter function.more