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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Austria

Nature protection and biodiversity (Austria)

Why should we care about this issue

Topic
Nature and biodiversity Nature and biodiversity
more info
Environment Agency Austria
Organisation name
Environment Agency Austria
Reporting country
Austria
Organisation website
Organisation website
Contact link
Contact link
Last updated
21 Dec 2010
Content license
CC By 2.5
Content provider
Environment Agency Austria
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 21 Dec 2010 original

Figures

Within the Austrian territory of 83,858 km2 the Alpine, Continental and Pannonic biogeographic regions meet another. 32% of the area of the Alps lies in Austria, the largest percentage of any of the Alpine countries.

The wide range of landscapes and climates provides scope for a huge diversity of different habitats and a large number of species. Farmland and forests account for 77% of the land area. The close interaction between farming and nature and the smallscale nature of the farming combine to produce traditional forms of management which often encourage biodiversity. Biodiversity and the cultivated landscape are closely interwoven in Austria. 

Links & References

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 21 Dec 2010 original

Figures

Figure 1: Conservation status of species and habitats in the Alpine (ALP) and Continental (CON) biogeographical regions of Austria.

None
Data source
http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/uploads/pics/nature_fig1.jpg
Figure 1: Conservation status of species and habitats in the Alpine (ALP) and Continental (CON) biogeographical regions of Austria.
Fullscreen image Original link

Figure 2: Population trend of selected bird species in Austria, 1998 - 2008 (Fiala 2009b)

None
Data source
http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/uploads/pics/nature_fig2_01.jpg
Figure  2: Population trend of selected bird species in Austria, 1998 - 2008 (Fiala 2009b)
Fullscreen image Original link

Austria has an impressive species diversity: there are around 45,000 animal species (Zulka 2005) and 2,950 ferns and flowering plants. Of these, 581 animal species and 167 plant species are found only in Austria (Rabitsch & Essl 2009). Many species are at risk, however. Their often close connection with particular biotope types is the key to explaining the extent and causes of the threat.  

Plant groups (selected)

Total number of species in Austria

Number of species by threat category  

Number and percentage of extinct and threatened species

 

 

Extinct  (Cat. 0)

Critical (Cat. 1)

Endangered and vulnerable (Cat. 2 and 3)

Early warning list (Cat. 4)

 

Ferns and flowering plants

2,950

36

172

813

166

1,187 (40 %)

Mosses, liverworts and hornworts

1,018

40

34

204

154

432 (42 %)

Lichens

2,100

95

57

386

735

1,273 (61 %)

Updated Red Lists of Austria's endangered animals are available for 19 groups of animals (see Table 2).

Animal groups (selected)

Total number of species in Austria

Number of species by threat category

Number and percentage of extinct and threatened species

 

 

Extinct  (Cat. RE Regionally Extinct und EX Extinct)

Critically endangered (Cat. CR)

Endangered and vulnerable (Cat. EN and VU)

Early warning list (Cat. NT Near Threatened)

 

Mammals

101

4

4

23

14

45 (45 %)

Birds 

242

21

33

33

52

139 (57 %)

Reptiles 

14

 

3

6

5

14 (100 %)

Amphibians 

20

 

1

11

8

20 (100 %)

Fish 

84

7

6

33

9

55 (65 %)

Grasshoppers 

126

5

10

38

19

72 (57 %)

Cicadas 

626

2

88

144

64

298 (48 %)

Minute moss beetles 

54

2

7

  12

7

  28 (52 %)

Riffle beetles 

21

1

3

2

2

8 (38 %)

Butterflies 

215

5

12

46

48

111 (52 %)

Moths (various families)

800

35

65

133

93

326 (41 %)

Caddis flies 

308

1

9

146

32

188 (61 %)

Lacewing flies 

121

1

10

19

21

51 (42 %)

Scorpion flies 

10

2

1

  1

 

  4 (40 %)

Crayfish 

7

 

2

2

 

4 (57 %)

Scorpions 

3

 

1

2

 

3 (100 %)

Harvestmen

62

 

6

29

7

42 (68 %)

Snails 

455

11

67

91

54

223 (49 %)

Molluscs 

35

 

4

9

4

17 (49 %)

Austria has a list of 488 biotope types, the vast majority of which involve forests, waterbodies or grassland. 383 have been assessed for their threat level. Biotope types heavily influenced by manmade factors, such as roads and reservoirs, were not assessed (Essl & Egger 2010).

Main groups

Total number in Austria (incl. biotope types which are not at risk or were not assessed)

Number of biotypes by threat category

Number and percentage of destroyed and endangered biotope types

 

 

Completely destroyed (Cat. 0)

At immediate risk (Cat. 1)

Heavily endangered and endangered (Cat 2 and 3)

Presumed endangered and early warning stage (Cat. P and E)

 

Water system

 92

 3

 15

52

 0

70 (76 %)

Moors, marshes and spring vegetation

24

 

3

17

 

20 (83 %)

Grassland

61

 

4

51

 

55 (90 %)

Alpine meadows, cushion vegetation, meadow fragments and snow beds

15

 

 

1

2

3 (20 %)

Arable land and ruderal sites

26

 

2

17

 

19 (73 %)

Tall forb communities

18

 

 

6

 

6 (33 %)

Dwarf scrub heaths

12

 

 

3

 

3 (25 %)

Open scrubland, brushwood

48

 

3

24

 

27 (56 %)

Woods, forests, preforests

93

 

5

48

 

53 (57 %)

Geomorphological biotope types

 45

 2

 1

 19

 4

26 (58 %)

Settlement biotope types

 54

 0

 0

 8

 0

8 (15 %)

Conservation status of species and habitats of European importance

 

The conservation status of around 18% of the 66 habitat types and 11% of the 172 species found in Austria is favourable. For 70% of the habitat types and 85% of the species it is unfavourable. The remaining habitats and species could not be assessed due to lack of data.

Bird species as indicators of habitat quality

 

To determine the status of habitats, an Ecosystems project, commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (Ministry of Life), proposed that groups of bird species should be used as an indicator of habitat quality (Holzner et al. 2006). Birds are suitable for mapping the biodiversity of other groups of organisms and respond quickly to environmental changes.

 

 

The common buzzard population appears to fluctuate around an average value and may be considered as stable. The skylark population has slightly declined since 1998. The numbers of winter wren and coal tit are also declining.

 

Links & References

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 21 Dec 2010 original

Figures

Figure 3: Percentage of sealed land 1995-2009 (Fiala 2009a).

None
Data source
http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/uploads/pics/nature_fig3_02.jpg
Figure 3: Percentage of sealed land 1995-2009 (Fiala 2009a).
Fullscreen image Original link

Species and habitat diversity are under threat from habitat loss and landscape dissection caused by human settlements, infrastructure, business parks and industrial estates. In Austria, a further 12 hectares are taken every day for settlement and transport, while the total area of land taken by development (including sports facilities, quarries etc.) is 22 hectares (average for the years 20062009). Source: www.umweltbundesamt.at/flaechenverbrauch.

 

Since 1995, the area of sealed land nationwide has increased by more than 170% (see Figure 3). Sealed land accounts for more than 6% of the permanent residential space (which covers only around 37% of Austrias total area), and is steadily increasing (Fiala 2009a).

 

Habitat changes, such as the lack of extensive forms of use, e.g. mowing or grazing, are contributing to the loss of nearnatural habitats. For example, the number of upland pastures and forage areas is falling slightly (Fiala 2009a). Overall, the management of upland pastures is stable, however the situation varies locally (Fiala 2009a). The total amount of subsidised mountain meadows, which are expensive and unprofitable to manage, increased slightly to 103% between 2007 and 2008 (Fiala 2009a). Further subsidies will be needed, however, if these speciesrich mountain meadows are to continue to be managed.

 

 

Many biotope types are threatened by overfertilisation or diffuse discharges of nutrients (see the Red List of biotope types, Table 3). The discharges are both of atmospheric origin and from fertilised agricultural land nearby (Essl & Egger, 2010).

Links & References

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 21 Dec 2010 original

Figures

Figure 4: Change in flora on Alpine peaks (Fiala 2009a).

None
Data source
http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/uploads/pics/nature_fig4_03.jpg
Figure 4: Change in flora on Alpine peaks (Fiala 2009a).
Fullscreen image Original link

Land use changes

 

Although the environment is generally regarded as important in Austria, species and habitat diversity is still under threat, whether from more intensive and new forms of use or from discontinued use. Reforestation in the Alps, for instance, is having just as negative an effect on species diversity as is the increase in land sealing in towns and cities (Borsdorf 2005).

 

Agriculture which encourages sustainable development will come under increasing pressure in future from the conditions created by the need to be more competitive. For example, compulsory setaside, which was introduced by the EU in 1992, was suspended in 2008 because of the boom in demand and finally abandoned altogether. Experts think that this will affect biological diversity in future, since many species in cultivated landscapes are heavily dependent on fallow land. The huge increase in the demand for land, for the production of biofuels, for instance, makes it unlikely that sufficient fallow areas will remain.

 

Climate change

 

Climate change will further alter biodiversity in central Europe. Global warming may cause a shift in the regions where species occur and even the disappearance of coldloving species, such as certain fish, for example. In Austria, Alpine species are expected to come under increasing threat. On all mountain peaks surveyed in Austria there has been an increase in species (Fiala 2009a). Species which occur sporadically have been particularly badly affected by climate change.

Nonnative species

 

Nonnative species can present a threat to native biological diversity through competition, predation pressure and the transfer of diseases. The number of nonnative species is set to increase further, with 17 invasive nonnative plant species and 46 nonnative animal species already established (Essl & Rabitsch 2004). The complex effects of biological invasions are hard to predict, not least because of their interactions with other factors such as land use and climate change.

 

Links & References

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 21 Dec 2010 original

Figures

Figure 5: Areas covered by special OEPUL measures, 1998-2007 (Fiala 2009b).

None
Data source
http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/uploads/pics/nature_fig5_05.jpg
Figure 5: Areas covered by special OEPUL measures, 1998-2007 (Fiala 2009b).
Fullscreen image Original link

Austria has ratified all the relevant international conventions on nature and landscape conservation. A national strategy has been developed to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Download

 

 

Conservation areas

Around 27% of the territory of Austria is protected under nature conservation legislation: 16% is strictly protected as Natura 2000 sites, national parks or nature conservation areas, while 11% comprises less strictly protected sites, such as landscape conservation areas.

 

Site category

 

Number

 

Km2

 

% of national territory

 

National parks

 

6

 

2353

 

2.8 %

 

Natura 2000 sites

 

159

 

11,557

 

13.8 %

 

Nature conservation areas

 

442

 

2,992

 

3.6 %

 

Landscape conservation areas

 

247

 

12,696

 

15.1 %

 

Nature and landscape conservation areas

 

4

 

506

 

0.6 %

 

Protected parts of landscapes

 

347

 

86

 

0.1 %

 

Nature parks

 

48

 

4,143

 

4.9 %

 

Ramsar sites

 

19

 

1,380

 

1.6 %

 

Biosphere parks

 

6

 

1,525

 

1.8 %

 

Other conservation areas (excl. nature reserves)

 

40

 

1,507

 

1.8 %

     Any overlapping conservation areas in different categories are not included in the table.

    Legally registered Natura 2000 sites; Austria has, however, nominated a total of 218 Natura 2000 sites.

 

 

Management plans have been established or are being developed for a majority of Natura 2000 sites with a view to conserving and improving their habitats and species. Various management measures financed through the EU's LIFENature programme (now LIFE) have been put in place at some of the Natura 2000 sites (www.lifenatur.at). Farmers are granted compensation payments for specific services contracted with nature reserve authorities (Nouak & Obermayr 2005).

 

 

Habitat and species conservation programmes

 

A large number of species and habitat conservation programmes are being carried out in Austria. The species and habitats concerned have been prioritised using Red List criteria for targeting in the future. A priority list for vertebrates has already been published (NATURSCHUTZBUND sterreich 2008).

Download  (.pdf,   ) 

 

 

These lists form the basis for conservation projects which are being carried out as part of the national 2010 biodiversity campaign vielfaltleben (www.vielfaltleben.at). For particularly rare species, such as the wildcat, the alpine longhorn beetle and the sea eagle, conservation projects were started or stepped up in 2009. The population of European otters has been increased through conservation programmes, while the situation of the great bustard and the roller has been stabilised (Kollar 2001).

 

Austrian Rural Development Programme

 

The Austrian AgriEnvironmental Programme (PUL) plays a major role in conserving biodiversity. Agrienvironmental measures and ecological forestry measures promote management methods which protect biodiversity. There is support for measures to conserve a diverse cultivated landscape across some 10% of the land in agricultural use (Fiala 2009b).

Natural Forest Reserve Programme

This programme allows the state to make private contracts with forestry owners. The aim is to develop a representative network with all of Austria's forest associations. There are currently 200 natural forest reserves.

 


Publicity 

A lot of initiatives and projects are carried out in order to raise greater public awareness of biodiversity issues, e.g. brochures, excursions and press releases.

 

In 2009 the Ministry of Life launched the biodiversity campaign 'vielfaltleben' (www.vielfaltleben.at). This is Austria's biggest species conservation campaign to date and is designed to bring about major improvements in the situations of the most endangered animal and plant species and biotope types. Conservation projects are being carried out in selected regions and habitats.

 

Increasing awareness of biodiversity and nature conservation is seen as an important factor. The monitoring of selected plant species by farmers plays a major role in promoting this. (http://www.oekl.at/stories/storyReader$698)

Links & References

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Phone: +45 3336 7100