World Wetlands Day 2004 -- Austria

02/02/2004

Austria designated five new Ramsar sites for World Wetlands Day

The Governments of Austria and some of its provinces have taken the opportunity of World Wetlands Day to name five new Wetlands of International Importance, four of them mires in the hills above Salzburg and the fifth a limestone mountain national park in Upper Austria. Here are site summaries prepared by Ramsar's Estelle Gironnet, with captions by Andreas Gärtner.

Mires of Pass Thurn. 02/02/04; Salzburg; 190 ha; 47°19'N 012°26'E; Nature monument. A complex of 13 peatlands (40 ha) on the southeastern slopes of the Pass Thurn mountain (between 1160-1600m), showing all typical features of mires of the Central Alps. The changing steepness of the slopes results in a very diverse pattern of different hydrological conditions - fens with mesotrophic calcareous water on the upper slopes turn into subneutral transitional mires or even acid bogs. The plant communities of the mires and marginal forests are endangered, and Dactylorhiza traunsteineri, a rare orchid, has one of the biggest populations in these mires. Noteworthy for the biogeographical region of the Alps is the occurrence of the boreal species Betula nana (Dwarf Birch). The mires of Pass Thurn are near-natural except for one site, the Wasenmoos, from which peat was cut chiefly for use as litter for stock-breeding in the valley; restoration work was undertaken there in autumn 2002. Ramsar site no. 1367.

Mires of the Sauerfelder Wald. 02/02/04; Salzburg; 119 ha; 47°07'N 013°54'E. A mountain range south of the Überling, with mires that are less numerous than in the Überling, but very different, thus adding importantly to the wetland diversity of the region. The subalpine continental climate is similar to boreal conditions. The hydrogenetic mire types are percolating mires, flush fens, spring fens and bogs. In most cases, the vegetation indicates acid conditions. Outstanding is the prevailing spruce-peatmoss community (Pino mugo-Sphagnetum magellanici, facies of Picea abis) of the bog, rare in the Alps and only known from very few other places. Remarkable for the biogeographical region of the Alps is the occurrence of the boreal species Betula nana (Dwarf Birch), Vaccinium microcarpum (a cranberry species), as well as the Empetro hermaphroditi-Sphagnetum fusci (Crowberry-Brown peatmoss community). The mires of the Sauerfelder Wald are all natural, not even affected by grazing; their only use is for hunting. The Ramsar Site should be extended over the whole mountain range in the next few years. Ramsar site no. 1368.

Mires of the Schwarzenberg. 02/02/04; Salzburg; 267 ha; 47°05'N 013°47'E. In the subalpine continental climate similar to the boreal, the plateau summit of the Schwarzenberg (1730m) has offered ideal conditions for the development of a natural mire complex of about 80 ha showing typical features of both boreal and alpine peatlands. Paludification mires, spring fens, percolation mires, Aapa mires and bogs present a high biodiversity of plant communities. Boreal vegetation such as the Dwarf Birch (Betula nana), bog cranberry species (Vaccinium microcarpum, Vaccinium oxycoccos) and the Crowberry-Brown Peatmoss (Empetro hermaphroditi-Sphagnetum fusci) are frequent occurrences, as is typical peatland vegetation like Carex pauciflora, Drosera rotundifolia, Menyanthes trifoliata and numerous Sphagnum species. The management authority (Austrian Federal Forestry) intends that there will be no peat extraction, no drainage of mires, no building of forestry roads affecting them, but a non-intensive forestry in the marginal forests and the preclusion of grazing and trampling of the mires. Ramsar site no. 1369.

Mires of the Überling. 02/02/04; Salzburg; 265 ha; 47°10'N 013°53'E; Natura 2000. The largest peatland concentration in the Alps, with 117ha of mires which present all typical features of mire types representative the boreal zone. Many of these peatlands belong to the boreal Aapa mire type, unique in the Alps, but also spring fens and terrestrialisation mires. One lake, Gstreikel Moos, remains almost covered by the biggest floating mat in the Alps. A large number of plant communities associated with boreal conditions add an important value to the biodiversity of the region, including Dwarf Birch (Betula nana), cranberry species (Vaccinium microcarpum, Vaccinium oxycoccos), Chickweed Wintergreen (Trientalis europaea) and Crowberry-Brown Peatmoss (Empetro hermaphroditi-Sphagnetum fusci). The mires are all natural or near-natural except for one bog-site, the "Moor SE Überlinghütte", which was drained in the 19th century for pasture. In a joint project of the landowners and NGOs, a rehabilitation project financed by the Austrian Federal Forestry was begun in 2000. In the next few years the Ramsar Site should be extended over the whole mountain range of the Überling and cattle grazing should be completely removed from the mires. Ramsar Site no. 1370.

Nationalpark Kalkalpen. 02/02/04; OberÖsterreich; 18,532 ha; 47°35'N 014°25'E; Important Bird Area; Natura 2000 site; National Park. Part of the northern limestone alps, the greatest part of the site is karstified and has a tight network of gorges and canyons, a total of 470 km of natural, pure brooks and some 800 springs which represent hotspots of biodiversity. More than 300 different species of fauna have been described in these springs and among them, new ones such as the molluscs Belgrandiella aulaei and Bythiospeun nocki (family Hydrobiidae). The area, the largest forested reserve in Austria, presents the rare forest associations Alnion glutinoso-incanae, Tilio-Acerion and Cephalanthero-Fagion, hosts the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and the lynx (Lynx lynx), and is an important place for birds (22 listed in the European Birds Directive), autochthonous stocks of brown trout (Salmo trutta), amphibians and insects. Although forestry activities have influenced the area, since 1997 it is under a strict management plan which prohibits any economic use. The National Park administration runs a water analysis laboratory and has developed a karst research programme including the monitoring of springs and meteorology. Ramsar site no. 1371.

"One example for management activities: On an alpine meadow, where the water gets into the carst-system (the rocks) itself we had problems with microbiological pollution. The water was polluted by faecal germs coming from the cattle there, and therefore in the spring on the basement of the mountain we measured high amounts of these germs. We solved the problem by building a fence on the alpine meadow around the wet areas and the sinks where the water enters the carst system. The difference inside and outside of the fence can easily be recognized." "One of our springs (maulaufloch) during a strong rainfall 1999.

Usually the spring is not very spectacular, only a little amount of water comes out from a small cave about 2m above the river and the second higher cave which can be seen on the photo is dry."

Sengsengebirge Nord

"The most important type of wetlands here is the carstified area, where you find the water beneath the surface in the rock itself. The mountains have a lack of water, and on the basement of the mountains a lot of big springs can be found. Usually the water stays only for a very short period in the carst system (sometime only hours) and the springs have a short time of reaction on rainfall." -- Dipl.Ing. Andreas Gärtner, Nationalpark O.ö. Kalkalpen GmbH

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
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2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,342

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