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Austria - Main Details

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity

Overview

Landlocked country in Central Europe. Capital: Vienna. Language: German (regional: Croatian, Hungarian, Slovenian). Member of the European Union since 1995. Inhabitants: 2005: 8.233 Million (1995: 7.948 Million; 1975: 7.579 Million).

Austria covers 83.870,9 km² and the land is distributed as follows: 10% Alps; 47,2% forest cover (39.600 km²) according to the Austrian Forest Inventory 2000/02 (about 43% forest cover according to Statistik Austria); 34% agricultural areas, vineyards, gardens, green areas (no application of gene technology and GMOs in agriculture - this Austrian position is guided by the precautionary principle - and pure agricultural land use covers 23.880 km² out of which 15% (3.610 km²) are under organic farming); 40% permanent settlement area (area used by humans except forests, alps, lakes, etc.). For more information, see: http://bfw.ac.at/ Waldinventur; http://www.statistik.at/ Statistical Yearbook 2007; http://www.gruener-bericht.at/

Austria is rich in species and landscapes. Austria houses about 45,000 animal species, of which almost 37,000 are insects, and nearly 3,000 are vascular plant species (Geiser 1998). 38% of mammals, birds and fishes are either extinct or threatened to a varying degree (Zulka 2005; 2007). 64,3% of reptiles and 60% of amphibians are listed as “Vulnerable”, “Endangered” or “Critically Endangered” (Gollmann 2007).

Austria is characterized by a high diversity of landscapes ranging from pannonian plains to high alpine regions, from wetlands to forest areas. Austria’s biodiversity has been shaped by human intervention throughout the ages, especially through agriculture and forestry, hunting and fishing. Among the main causes of biodiversity loss are habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation, in particular the sealing and fragmentation of landscapes by settlements and transport infrastructure. Additional threats are the abandoning of traditional forms of land use and land use intensification.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

About 35% of the territory is classified as protected under various protection categories (http://www.umweltbundesamt.at) (36.4% according to WRI, 2003). About 3.6% of the territory is under strict protection through the nature reserve designation. Categories of protected areas include “protected landscapes” (15.4% of the territory), “nature parks” (4.39%), and “nature monuments” (2%). Six National Parks cover 2.9% of the territory and are all recognized by the World Conservation Union - IUCN. As a member of the EU, Austria takes part in NATURA 2000, the European network of protected sites. Austria has designated 214 NATURA 2000 sites, covering about 16% of the territory. Many of these NATURA 2000 sites are nature reserves as well. There are also 19 Ramsar sites covering 1.6% of the territory, Biosphere reserves covering 1.8%, Biogenetic reserves totaling 2.1%, three European Diploma sites and one Wilderness area. There are also fifteen lakes protected under the Austrian Act on the Protection of Lakes.

Percentage of Forest Cover

47.2% forest cover (39,600 km²) according to the Austrian Forest Inventory 2000/02 (about 43 % forest cover according to Statistik Austria). The Austrian Natural Forest Reserve Programme was launched in 1995. Up to now 188 reserves (8,479 ha) have been established on a voluntary basis by means of contracts between the country and forest owners. An extension of this programme is under consideration.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The Austrian National Biodiversity Strategy contains objectives concerning the preservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of biological diversity, the conservation of species and landscapes, research and monitoring, the tourism/mining/industry/energy sectors, transportation, development cooperation, indigenous people and the ecological approach. The Strategy focuses on the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and the preservation of stable breeding populations. The Revised Austrian Biodiversity Strategy is available since 2005 (German only, still not online). The goal to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 constitutes the overall objective of the Strategy. The implementation of the strategy follows the principles of the ecosystem approach of the CBD. There are, however, no quantifiable goals or objectives established in this strategy yet. The National Action Plan on Invasive Alien Species was adopted in 2004 (see below).
 

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

The network of protected areas, with all its different categories and the Natura 2000 sites, ensures that relevant ecological regions are protected. National targets for specific programs of work concerning agriculture, inland waters, forest and mountains have been established and incorporated into relevant plans, including the Austrian National Biodiversity Strategy. Targets have been established in the Strategy for the preservation of agricultural and mountain genetic resources which is closely connected with its economic use.

In 2004 the first National Action Plan on Invasive Alien Species (IAS) was adopted. It includes objectives and measures for priority areas (education and awareness-raising, capacity building, research and monitoring, legal and organisational implementation), identifies the main actors and time lines for implementation as well as lists of invasive, potentially invasive, economically problematic and health-affecting neobiota. A national focal point on IAS has been established to serve as "coordinator" in the implementation of this Action Plan as well as for information exchange on IAS related issues, in particular with neighbouring countries. For certain invasive alien species management plans are established, for example the Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), Ambrosia artemisiifolia or Robinia pseudoacacia.

Within the Austrian MOBI-e project a concept for a national biodiversity monitoring system has been developed. The 47 indicators chosen cover a wide range of issues, such as forests, cultural landscape, alps, settlements, waters and the cross section matters species and habitats, nature protection, soil, genetics, fragmentation and awareness. At present there are efforts under way to implement the indicators. Due to the wide range it is necessary to coordinate a great number of units in public administration (federation and provinces) who need to commission various groups carrying out the monitoring. For more information, see: http://www.umweltnet.at/article/articleview/48562/1/6914/ (German only)

The Austrian Sustainable Development Strategy includes targets regarding the areas of particular importance to biodiversity, the conservation of species diversity, the promotion of sustainable use and consumption, and biodiversity challenge due to climate change and pollution.

In autumn 2006 the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management together with Naturschutzbund and Oesterreichische Bundesforste AG (Austrian Federal Forests) launched an awareness raising campaign to protect the 111 most important Austrian animals as key species of the relatively high biodiversity in Austria. See: http://www.naturschutzbund.at "ueberleben" (survival). Moreover, the Austrian Federal Forests, as the largest natural landscape managers of the country (they manage 10% of the surface: forests, meadows, wetlands and their fauna), have a great responsibility for preserving biological diversity. In order to work towards the objectives of the Convention on Biodiversity and the “2010 target”, they have developed a 5-year Biodiversity Programme in addition to the nature conservation programmes that they have been implementing for many years. Thereby, the focus of the Austrian Federal Forests is on supporting a wide variety of projects on their forest surfaces, awareness-building measures for employees and for the public, sustainable utilisation of the potentials offered by biological diversity, implementation of special nature conservation projects for threatened species and types of landscape, collaboration with stakeholder groups, especially environmental NGOs, and measurability of the projects. As a tool for measurement, the Austrian Federal Forests have developed the Sustainability Balanced Scorecard (SBSC - management instrument to illustrate and control the area’s economy, man/society, and nature) with special biodiversity indicators. Until the year 2010, the status of biological diversity is to be maintained or improved. The current status is measured by the indicators in the SBSC. In the SBSC, the indicators are broken down into these areas: nature conservation, forestry, hunting, fishery, and natural space management. Examples of the indicators are the share of dead wood in the forest, afforestation in terms of numbers per species of tree and shrub planted, the presentation of game ecology concepts taking corridors and networking possibilities into account, and the kilometre/hectare count. http://www.bundesforste.at/

National Biodiversity Commission: In June 1996 the National Biodiversity Commission was entrusted by the Federal Ministry of Environment, Youth and Family to coordinate and harmonize the numerous activities and programs as well as to promote the flow and exchange of information. This Commission is composed of representatives from administrative departments (Federal Ministries and Provincial authorities), unions and management, science and NGOs. In addition to publishing the First Austrian National Report in 1997, this Commission is also responsible for the Strategy and its evaluation/updating.

For more information, visit the CHM at: http://www.biodiv.at

Initiatives in Protected Areas

Same as for 8j. The Austrian Development Cooperation supports indigenous and local community-based organizations in developing countries (Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nepal and others) by assessing local knowledge and integrated rural development programs as well as supporting local planning activities. Participation, capacity building and empowerment are the underlying principles of the Austrian Development Cooperation Act. Universities are active on these issues too, for example in Costa Rica and Uganda.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

The Austrian Development Cooperation supports indigenous and local community-based organizations in developing countries (Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nepal and others) by assessing local knowledge and integrated rural development programs as well as supporting local planning activities. Participation, capacity building and empowerment are the underlying principles of the Austrian Development Cooperation Act. Universities are active on these issues too, for example in Costa Rica and Uganda.

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