Protective forest cover in Austria

Based on scientifically defined criteria the map of protective forests presents for the first time the potential protective forest scenery in the entire federal territory of Austria and is intended to raise awareness of the "green" protective infrastructure. As an important tool for planning, it not only serves the integral management of natural hazards, moreover it should draw attention to the protective function especially in forest management. 

The basis for planning ahead and taking measures in protective forests in order to sustainably secure their protective effect requires spatial geo-information. The Protective Forest Map serves as a service tool for forest owners, for authorities, in natural hazard management and, above all, for communication and raising awareness of this important function of the Austrian forest.

Successful completion of the evaluation phase of the protective forest map

After intensive expert evaluation and the contribution of local expertise the map of protective forests is now available in an improved form. Due to the review, the scenery of potential protective forest areas now shows a significantly increased quality and can be directly accessed online in a Web-based-GIS application. No login is required.

The map shows following three categories:

  • Forest with object-protective function
  • Forest with object-protective and/or site-protective function
  • Forest without primary protective function

The open source map, called “Basemap” is displayed in the background (data source).

Data basis

The map of protective forests is based on areal geodata that automatically identifies natural hazard processes such as rockfall, avalanches and near-surface landslides by means of disposition and range modeling in a geoinformation system. This information combined with the forested area and potentially endangered objects, such as settlements, roads or other important infrastructures, shows potential forest areas with an object-protective function. In addition, the category forest with object and/or site protective function shows potential forest areas that have the criteria for site protection according to the Forest Act 1975. These are mainly forests whose location is at risk from erosive forces of wind, water or gravity. Also included in this category are those areas that have a significantly positive, i.e. mitigating, effect on water processes such as mudflows or floods that carry debris. Windbreaks that protect agricultural land from wind erosion, for example, are also included in this category.

Due to the detailed evaluation and the contribution of local expertise from the responsible provincial forestry services, district forestry departments and the Torrent and Avalanche Control authorities, the automatically generated map was intensively checked for plausibility and, if necessary, adapted to current local conditions. The present map of protective forests thus combines a clearly defined scientific methodology with local knowledge and experience in the field.

Facts

The map explicitly visualizes the protective function. This form of representation does not currently depict the possibility of funding or special treatment. There is no legal binding. It is pointed out that the so called "determination process for protective forest" (according to § 23 Forest Act 1975) are exclusively done by the responsible authorities (provincial forestry directorates, district forestry departments).

Protective forest management

Within the milestone "Geoinformation" of the action program "Forest protects us!", strategic and future-oriented aspects for a sustainable protective forest policy will be initiated. In the future - starting 2022 - a risk-related assessment will be made on the basis of the protective forest map. Thus, important areas will be determined and subsequently prioritized. The planning will be continuously adapted to natural and social changes and the measures will be adjusted accordingly. The information gained from the prioritization can subsequently be used by the forestry authorities of the federal states for the preparation of their so-called "state protective forest concepts".

published at 03.01.2022, Wildbach- und Lawinenverbauung und Schutzwaldpolitik (Abteilung III/4)