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Forester Martin Bertsch calipers the diameter of a spruce

Silent Heroes: Results of the last Austrian Forest Inventory 2016-2021

10/5/2022

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Picture of Marie Woida

Marie Woida

Forester Martin Bertsch calipers the diameter of a spruce

The results of the last National Forest Inventory in Austria are phenomenal! The efforts of the forestry industry are obvious and should be honoured.

  • Forest area increases to 47 percent

  • More and more deciduous wood in forests

  • The wood stock is increasing, less harvesting than growing

  • More dead wood remains in the forest

In recent times, forests and forestry have been the subject of public discourses. During the hot periods of recent years, some forests have lost vitality and there has been an increase of media coverarge about calamities such as bark beetle invasions, forest fires and storm damage. Therefore, criticism of forestry has become louder and louder. But it is very important to differ forest regions and news about calamities, as most of the forests have a positive development.

At the same time, the performance of forestry remains unnoticed and is taken for granted. Most of the work is done behind the scenes, and the National Forest Inventory of Austria shows for example that foresters work every day to create and maintain a stock-rich, resilient and diverse forest; they act as silent heroes in the forest.

The National Forest Inventory shows that forest area in Austria is steadily increasing. There are 4.02 million hectares are covered with forests, that is 47 percent of the total state area and every day 6 hectares are added. With that Austria has one of the highest percentages of forest cover in Europe.

The composition of the forests is also changing. Monoculture coniferous stands are continuously being converted into deciduous and mixed stands. Over the last decade, six percent of pure coniferous stands have been transformed into mixed deciduous forests. In addition, deciduous pure stands have increased by eight percent. This development is by no means natural. Conversion of forests is explicitly driven by foresters. If no actions were taken, the existing coniferous areas would be rejuvenated, and the entry of hardwoods would only be gradual. With selective use, light is created in the forest stand and the growth of mixed tree species is enabled and accelerated.

Another reason to celebrate is the current peak of the timber stock. The Austrian Forest contains 1.1 billion cubic meters of wood and the stock is increasing, 26 million cubic meters are added every year and only 89 percent of it is used annually. It can be said that one cubic meter of wood grows every second in Austria.

At the same time, the proportion of deadwood has increased by 18 percent according to the National Forest Inventory. Accordingly, old trees are more often left in the stand and transferred to the natural decay phase. This creates additional habitat for numerous species of animals, plants and fungi and benefit the forest's interior climate. This provides the forest with stability,resilience and diversity.

The National Forest Inventory shows that forestry strives for a natural and ecologically valuable forest, expands the forest in Austria and at the same time provides the naturally renewable raw material wood for the processes in the wood value chain. This service of foresters to the forest itself and to society deserves greater attention.

All results of the Austrian National Forest Inventory can be viewed on the website of the Bundesforschungszentrums für Wald.

Read more: Check out how climate change affects European forests. And learn more about Tree.ly here.