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Austria - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Austria is a landlocked country covering 83.870,9 km² with its landmass distributed among the following eco-regions: alpine (10%); forest (49%); agricultural areas (34%); and 40% permanent settlement areas. Of the forest cover, about two-thirds is natural, semi-natural or has been slightly changed and, of the agricultural areas, 15% is under organic farming.

Within these eco-regions, Austria is home to a diverse array of landscapes and wildlife. It houses about 45,000 animal species, of which almost 37,000 are insects, and nearly 3,000 species of vascular plant.

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, 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.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Some of the main pressures driving biodiversity loss in Austria are: fragmentation caused by roads and railways which impact on both landscape and ecosystems; eutrophication, which threatens most habitats types; abandonment of extensive, traditional forms of land use and subsequent succession of industrial extensive agriculture; application of diffuse chemical inputs; land clearance; reforestation; intensification of land use; land development, as well as interventions on wetlands such as river regulation, drainage and energy use. In terms of species loss, on the Red List of Threatened Biotope Types, around three-quarters of the evaluated 488 biotope types have been assigned to a threat category.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Completed in 1998, Austria first Biodiversity Strategy focused on objectives concerning the preservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of biological diversity, conservation of species and landscapes, research and monitoring, the tourism/mining/industry/energy sectors, transportation, development cooperation, indigenous people and the ecological approach. Other areas focused on included the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and the preservation of stable breeding populations. Completed in 2005, the overall objective of the revised Biodiversity Strategy (available online in German only) was to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and apply the principles of the Ecosystem Approach in implementing actions (no quantifiable goals or objectives were established for this Strategy).

Austria is currently in the process of further revising and updating its Strategy, in line with the EU 2020 Biodiversity Targets, Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with the intention to finalize this second revision in 2014.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

To achieve its targets, Austria has set up a number of action plans to safeguard biodiversity including: the Action Plan on Invasive Alien Species; Action Plan on Species Protection; Natura 2000 Network of Protected Areas; 19 designated Ramsar Sites; Programme for Natural Forest Reserves; National River Basin Management Plan; Reintroduction of the Bearded Vulture, Salmo trutta marmoratus, Strix uralensis; Other reintroductions include Pulsatilla oenipontana (University of Innsbruck), Coleanthus subtilis, Elatine hexandra, Isolepis setacea, Eleocharis ovatus, Scirpus radicans, Lindernia procumbens, Limosella aquatic, Cyperus flavescens, Cyperus fuscus, Typha minima as well as Coleanthus subtilis and Limosella aquatic; 24 species protection projects carried out within the Austrian National Biodiversity Campaign “vielfaltleben”; Transboundary LIFE Project “Great Bustard” (Otis tarda) with Hungary and Slovakia; and numerous species protection projects carried out by the Nature Conservation Authorities of the Provinces (e.g. bats, roller and other birds, various amphibians, various invertebrates).

For Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, 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 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (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.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main legislative instruments designed to protect biodiversity in Austria include: the Austrian Law on Plant Protection (1995); Flurverfassungsgrundsatzgesetz (BGBl.Nr. 103/1951 i.d.g.F.); as well as cadastral laws of the Provinces. Land reform is under Federal jurisdiction in the framework legislation and under Provincial jurisdiction as far as implementing regulations and enforcement are concerned (Art.12, Abs. 1Z.3 B-VG).

In addition, the implementation of international obligations (UN Forest Processes, Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe and EU Forest Strategy, as well as other EU legislation) have to be ensured to the extent possible under the Constitution.

Deepening on the availability of financial resources, a review of the naturalness of Austria’s forests has also been started (“Hemerobiestudie”).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Based on the current legal position, all Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) facilities in Austria now require licensing according to the respective material laws. Nonetheless, certain adaptations of the legal framework remain necessary. These include regular reviews and updates (at ca. ten-year intervals) of the licensing guidelines by the responsible agencies. This will ensure that facilities remain up-to-date and that the environment (and therefore, indirectly, biodiversity) is better protected. A review of Red Lists older than 10 years has also been started.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme