The Wienerwald: the Viennese forest, a UNESCO biosphere reserve

Contrary to what you might think, Vienna has a green lung made up of woods, vineyards and meadows to the west of the city. It extends from the outlying districts of the city to the countryside of Lower Austria. We are talking about the Vienna Woods, one of the 727 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the world, but the only one, at least among the European ones, located on the edge of a metropolis. It covers an area of approximately 105,000 hectares and extends over seven of the 23 Viennese municipal districts, and over 51 municipalities in the Lower Austria region.

It is a territory where man and nature coexist and benefit from each other. The intertwining of forests and settlement areas, as well as the contrasts between rural areas and the metropolis, produce special natural conditions and at the same time represent a great challenge. The goal is to protect natural habitats and plant and animal species by creating the conditions for responsible development.
More than 60% of the area is covered by forests, the effect of which on the climate, air and water balance is fundamental for the entire metropolitan area. The Viennese Wood in all seasons is a recreational area much loved by residents, a destination for trips and excursions in all seasons: in spring, when primroses appear and the forest smells of wild garlic; in summer, when it becomes an oasis of coolness, where you can find refuge from the heat of the city; in autumn, when the foliage transforms the green of the leaves into yellow and red. But even in winter, with bare trees, its landscapes have an irresistible charm.

Image by Katharina Jankele from Pixabay

In addition to forests, meadows and vineyards characterize the landscape. There are 33 forest associations and 23 open grasslands, in which very specific animals and plants live. In dry meadows, for example, pulsatilla and yellow hadonide can be found. Siberian iris and marsh gentian grow in wet meadows.
With a variety of 70 plant species and 560 animal species per hectare, lean lawns not only display unexpected richness, but are also particularly beautiful thanks to showy blooms.
Then there are small peat bog meadows, now rarefied, habitat of orchids, amphibians, dragonflies, cicadas and many other insects. In the eyes of hikers and nature lovers, the colorful meadows of the Viennese Wood are the original image of “unspoiled nature”, but all these meadows and pastures exist only thanks to centuries of cultivation by man.
With the disappearance of agricultural use, the meadow would return to the state of forest, through various evolutionary stages.
Finally there are the vineyards: the wine-growing landscapes have motivated the designation of the Wienerwald as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
On the sunny slopes of the Viennese Wood, viticulture draws the landscape, together with fruit trees, hedges, and stone walls, the latter also surprising natural habitats.

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